Every bride makes thousands and thousands of decisions before the moment she says “I do.” From the save-the-date card to the dress, she will want each and every option to be exactly right, to come together to make the perfect day. And as the vice president of customer experience and product management at David’s Bridal, Courtney Graybill wants to make all those decisions as painless and easy as possible. “We have such a wide assortment of offerings that we felt like we needed to make it easier for her to find what she was looking for,” she says.
Graybill joined the organization in 2014, and was appointed the vice president of digital strategy and analytics two years later. In that position, she made major advancements in the way the company connected the dots between the way their customers behave and how they sell their products.
A decade ago, an organization’s e-commerce approach could amount to dropping all of their products on a website. Today, Graybill and David’s Bridal need a more advanced strategy, one that ties the online and in-store experience together into one big picture. “The customer today doesn’t care if she’s talking to someone in the call center, coming into the store, or shopping online; the customer expects that the experience is the same everywhere she goes,” Graybill says. “Companies need to adapt and think differently about how they deliver through technology.”
Making the Website Match the Stores
One major project that Graybill undertook at that time involved redesigning the website to better fit the needs and habits of the customers. The organization’s data showed that shoppers were becoming increasingly mobile, a trend that’s only continued. To that end, she and her team worked on optimizing navigation for the mobile browser, boosting zoom capabilities, offering more adaptive filtering, and making sharing to social media easier.
“We also found they really want to see gowns on real people, so we’ve highlighted that more prominently throughout the site,” Graybill says. “We also added areas where when you see a gown, you’ll also see the veil and the undergarments that are going to round out the look.” In a sense, the redesign showed customers that David’s Bridal sees them as a person in need of a complete experience, rather than just someone who would buy a product. The editorial content on the site’s front page may not sell dresses, but it reinforces that vision.
Shoppers turn to the David’s Bridal website for inspiration as frequently or perhaps more than they do to complete a transaction, while also engaging with the brand across the many social media touchpoints the organization offers. Brides rely heavily on Pinterest today much the way they did bridal magazines in eras past, arranging complete events on the site and engaging with others. The teen shoppers that comprise the company’s prom market engage with others through Instagram and Snapchat. Graybill and her team look at how they can connect those dots and make sure that customers have the ability to share their experience with their community. “We see a lot of growth in customers looking for ratings, reviews, and user-generated content,” she says. “She wants human feedback, so how do we connect all these other off-property ways that she’s interacting, finding products, and getting inspiration to the strategic thinking that we’re working on?”
A Gradual Rollout for New Web Features
Rather than wait and undertake a single massive launch on the redesign of the website, David’s Bridal chose to roll out features on an ongoing basis, providing new value to customers whenever possible. The development process has undergone similar changes, moving from a waterfall style to agile. “Now we can do quicker iterative changes versus waiting on big releases,” she explains. “That’s been successful in engaging with our development team and collaborating more.”
Graybill’s new role as vice president of customer experience and product management means she can take that methodology and mindset to the enterprise level. “We can start to break down those silos,” she explains. “We don’t need to create a solution just for the website or just for the stores. We can think about all the touchpoints across a customer’s journey.”
Key to that understanding is that the website, the app, and the brick-and-mortar stores are all parts of the same larger whole that fuel each other. To that end the website is often used as an inspiration source, a way to inspire customers to book an appointment in the store. Once they do, David’s Bridal is making it easier to connect her online dreaming to finding products in-store because of clever changes Graybill and her team made to David’s Bridal product pages.
“We sat behind the glass wall at a usability test and watched customers engaging with the product detail pages. We had thought Pinterest would be the way they would share favorite dresses, but many would just take a screenshot,” Graybill recalls. As such, she realized that they would need to make product names, description, and detail visible at first glance on a screenshot of a product page.
That said, e-commerce continues to be a growing facet of the David’s Bridal strategy as well. “To drive e-commerce, we tested removing some of the editorial content from our navigation with the hypothesis that we would more quickly guide her into the product searching, and we would increase appointments in e-commerce conversions,” Graybill says. “What’s interesting about our customers is that when we hid that editorial content from being the first thing she saw on the navigational structure, we actually were reducing the conversions for appointments and purchasing.”
It’s counterintuitive to offer pathways away from product pages, but proved that customers want guidance and ideas around what their special day looks like, which helps in the purchase decision.
Innovative projects like the mobile app and the wedding dress finder tool will further make that dream a reality. “I think it’s so important to provide our excellent customer service, to take the great in-store experience we’ve developed and make it easier for her to do some of that on her own through the website and the app,” Graybill says. “We’re currently working on building a digital road map to cross-cut all the touchpoints of the brand, making every one of them more personalized and helping to guide her through that process.”