Finding The Perfect Dress
When a woman walks down the aisle at her wedding, she isn’t thinking about the stress that went into finding the perfect dress—let alone the intense, complex systems needed to get that dress into her hands. And, thanks to Scott Strahler, it should all be a little bit easier to reach that bliss.
The vice president of IT infrastructure, security, and operations helps provide the technological underpinnings for the hundreds of David’s Bridal stores spread across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Puerto Rico. Although he may not be suggesting gowns or helping choose veils, Strahler plays an essential role in the journey that each David’s Bridal customer takes—and, as he’s quick to point out, that journey stretches far beyond a wedding. “We’re really dressing women of all ages throughout their life’s special occasions,” he says. “We start with the prom as a teenager, and then as a bridesmaid for her friends, and then certainly as she becomes a bride. Beyond that, we’re here for social occasions where she wants to look her best, whether it be a night out, a cruise, or a dinner party. And then we’re even there later, as she becomes the mother of the bride or the mother of the groom. She wants to always look her best, and we want to help her do that.”
A big part of building that positive relationship with customers has been the organization’s development of apps that make the whole process of finding the perfect dress that much easier. The David’s Bridal Dress Finder tool, for example, helps brides-to-be sort through the thousands of dress options that the organization offers, narrowing down their choices through selecting favorites, choosing styles, and the like. They can also then schedule an appointment in-store, at which point David’s Bridal stylists can access their favorite selections in order to make the in-store purchasing process smoother. In addition, the David’s Bridal app can be used to browse and purchase everything from bridesmaid dresses to invitations and table decor.
Although he was not the principal behind developing the app, Strahler is thrilled by what it has come to offer to David’s Bridal’s customers. “One of the things that sets us apart from our competitors is our broad selection of product,” he explains. “We’ve got a vast selection of different designers and styles, and that’s probably one of the biggest challenges that a new bride has: that overwhelming feeling of, ‘Where do I start?’ The app is really meant to give her that jumping off point of narrowing down her selection based on some of her personal preferences and style.” In addition to the app, the organization constantly updates social media and online presence from Pinterest to YouTube and everything in between, finding every opportunity to reach out to brides to help them through the difficult process.
Additionally, Strahler works to provide the underlying technical components that make these decisions easier for customers, including the infrastructure, networking, telecom, end-user systems, and apps that support stores, the contact center, distribution centers, and corporate office associates. No matter how technical each of his many projects may get, Strahler keeps in mind that it’s all done to aid those once-in-a-lifetime purchases.
Staying Relevant In The Technology and Retail Industries
Strahler has now spent fifteen years with David’s Bridal, though most of his career has been spent supporting retail operations, including a long tenure with supermarket chain Genuardi’s. As the years have passed, Strahler has gotten more insight into the rapidly changing world of technology and the constant evolution of what retail customers have come to expect. “As young women move up into the bridal age, technology is so ingrained in their life, and if you can’t interact with them through technology, then they’re not interested in doing business with you,” Strahler says. “It needs to always be quick and easy, otherwise they move right on to the next company who can deliver it quickly and easily. It’s a challenge to stay ahead of that, but we’ve managed to continue to innovate.”
Just as much as David’s Bridal makes sure to keep on-trend, stylish dresses in its stores, Strahler works to make the stores themselves cutting-edge. Strahler’s team is currently rolling out a pilot project for a new point-of-sale system where individual stores’ registers are being replaced by tablets that are held by stylists. “We’re going to have twenty-plus tablets in each store,” Strahler says. “The challenge and focus of my team is preparing to support a large fleet of mobile devices and all the applications that are going to come along with that. One of the ways we’re doing that is revamping our IT help desk, from how we operate to the technology we use to keep our associates’ systems operational.”
In addition, David’s Bridal needs to train its many employees—including a large proportion of seasonal hires—on how to use this new system, primarily through video training. “Our learning and development team has done a tremendous job creating great training content for our associates,” he says. “This has been a huge success in preparing our staff to be experts in the industry and provide superior customer service for our brides.”
With added mobile capabilities, however comes the larger need for information security, something that become a major focus of Strahler’s work. “We’ve taken a very strong stance and made major investments to make sure that we’re really protecting that key and critical data,” Strahler says, referring to both customer and employee information. “Our customers need to trust in us, so that’s a critical function for the organization.”
Innovation Through Collaboration
Just as important as instilling trust in those customers, however, is ensuring that the company’s many employees carry that same trust and feel that they’re being supported. Accordingly, Strahler’s steady hand and collaborative style have led to great successes and team members who feel empowered. “I am strategically focused on how we can improve through technology,” he says. “I tend to keep very close track of technology trends and then work with my team and other departments to identify where we might be able to leverage those trends to move things forward for the company and better the experience for our associates and our customers.”
That same collaborative approach informs Strahler’s innovative relationship with the company’s technology vendors. He is always working to find win-win solutions, even if they turn out to be more creative or experimental than other technology leaders might theorize. For example, during the current rollout of the tablets, Strahler has negotiated per-location licensing for various tablet applications—rather than on a per-user or per-device licensing—that will still give the vendors plenty of business but deliver a better budgeted deal for David’s Bridal. “While I always want a fair price, I am not going to squeeze them for every penny because I recognize that our vendors will only continue to be in business if they continue to make a profit,” Strahler explains. “I want them to continue to invest in innovating the product that our business is now relying on to meet our goals.”
All of his work is done in part to make David’s Bridal more mobile and digital, with the goal of always driving more customers to the physical stores and making sure David’s stylists are able to make dream weddings come true. “We’re making sure they have the tools that they need to make that shopping experience an excellent one,” he says. “Anybody can create an app nowadays, but being able to tie that back into all the aspects of the purchase process and the dress-finding process is powerful.”