Covid-19, grow your business, Marketing Tip, small business

The Brides’ Project turns reopening into better sales conversion with an efficient booking process

Fighting Cancer one-dress-at-a-time! 

What started as a hobby to raise a few dollars for charity by Helen Sweet is now a full-fledged social enterprise called The Brides’ Project with a noble vision. The Brides’ Project accepts donated wedding dresses from brides, salons, and designers so that they can provide beautiful dresses to future brides at 50% off the retail price.

“I never expected to be able to say that our brides helped raise over $1.25 million in the fight against cancer. Even through these exceptionally challenging times, I feel very fortunate that this ‘crazy little idea’ has become an enormously fulfilling venture that has touched the lives of so many others”, said Helen.


From the fight against Cancer to the fight against COVID-19

As the pandemic made its way around the world, a lot of brick-and-mortar businesses like The Brides’ Project were shut down for 2-months, and as they reopened, they had to make a lot of changes. 

Helen explained, “All visits had to be by appointment only. No walk-ins to ‘just see what you have’. To keep everyone safe (and support social distancing) we serve far fewer brides, we no longer let them freely shop (i.e. touching everything), and we can’t afford to have people coming in “just to try things on”.

A major change that happened for most retail businesses was that clients need to know what the stores have BEFORE they come so that they minimize contact and the time they spend rummaging through stuff. 

The problem with that for Helen and her team was that their stock is unique and had about 400-500 pieces. There was one of each dress in a particular size, color, designer, style, etc. and they couldn’t order another one like the mainstream salons. It was a vast inventory for the clients to go through before their visit.

Bride gowns on display in a shop

Prepping up for reopening with online store and bookings 

Helen and her team started preparing for reopening within a few weeks of the lockdown and came up with the idea of creating an online store so that their clients can select the dresses they want to see/try even before they visit. 

Her two part-time staff helped take photos and put the items into Shopify. As for the technical website design, Helen herself set it all up since she was the most tech-savvy person on the team (plus as the business owner, she’s the one to wear multiple hats at the store). 

They had to make a photo area in the store, buy new mannequins in different sizes since their dresses come in sizes 00-30.  There was a lot of trial and error and learning as they went along.

“My crew was FABULOUS in working tirelessly to help make this happen”, said Helen.  

Helen's support crew in her business

At the end of all this hustle, they were able to successfully set up an online Shopify store where clients could see the dress catalogue and select the dresses they wanted to try before visiting the store. 


A new challenge: Too many steps in the booking process 

Previously, clients went to thebridesproject.com and were then linked to the booking page (Appointy) to book visits. But with the new online store, clients had to go to the Shopify store, and then get back to the website for Covid rules and to get linked back to the Appointy booking page – which made it immensely confusing for clients.

According to Helen, “When we brought Shopify into the mix, it was just too many steps”.

They wanted to eliminate the website from the process (where they provided their booking instructions and Covid safety rules). But Helen’s concern was that if this information is not displayed correctly, brides might show up without picking dresses in the proper size, without reading the information required in terms of the safety protocol or our requests (e.g. 2 guests max), and completely waste their time. 

As Helen pointed out, “During the early days of reopening, people were very reluctant to go out so we certainly didn’t want to waste their time or cause undue exposure”.


Solution: Bookings, Safety rules, and intake forms – all in one place! 

To reduce the number of steps while still providing critical information before, Helen used her Appointy booking page! 

Instead of redirecting clients back to her website from the Shopify store, The Bride’s Project’s Appointy booking page was configured to display important information before the bookings process starts – eliminating the step to visit their website. 

Their Appointy booking page was linked directly to the Shopify store and social media to allow clients to book appointments easily. 

“With Appointy, the information was all integrated into our Appointment system at the front end: COVID safety facts, instructions on how to book the right type of appointment, etc.”, said Helen.

Their clients could see this information on the booking portal in a pop-up and could only move forward once they would click on ‘Agree’ – ensuring that none of the to-be brides miss this information. 

Welcome notice displayed after booking an appointment with 'The Brides' Project

They were also able to collect the information they needed to make the best use of time using Intake forms (refer screenshot below). They collected information like waist sizes, number of guests visiting, etc. to reduce in-store time and maximize safety.

Intake form that asks the bride's basic details for her wedding gown

This was then followed up by automated reminders before appointments to ensure that clients always turn up on time to ensure social distancing and for successful capacity management

“Appointments are actually incredibly efficient. We give them an hour, but they actually rarely need the whole hour now. This also gives us more time to physically separate clients and clean between appointments”, said Helen.

They also observed VERY FEW no-shows – owing to the pre-appointment reminders and phone calls. Plus the upfront information pop-up on the booking page saves them the awkward moment of turning people away in case they turn up in larger groups or without proper safety precautions.

Their sales conversion rate is at about 66-75%. It was previously hovering at about 25%. So they have far fewer clients, but they’re buying dresses. This means fewer staff required as well.

Helen said, “We no longer get people coming in to ‘just try stuff on’ which not only causes wear and tear, but depletes staff resources (time). They know what we have before they come.”


Stronger for the future 

Helen and her team think that the changes have been such a huge net positive that they’d keep this new booking process even beyond Covid-19. COVID forced Helen and her team to do something that was kind of unthinkable in terms of the initial outlay in time/effort… but now they’d never go back!

With any obstacle or hardship, there is always a silver lining!  Thank you Appointy for being a part of the solution that has brought us here :). You’ve helped us succeed through an incredibly difficult time and offered timely, effective solutions.”, said Helen.


Ready to try online appointments for your business? 

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About Appointy

We at Appointy, help business owners grow and run their businesses with our online scheduling software. This blog was a part of our ‘Manage your Business’ category, where we provide expert tips, resources, or simply talk about the challenges that small and medium business face every day. 

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