At wedding retailer David’s Bridal, getting a mobile shopper to make an appointment at one of its some 300 stores is a top priority, says Kristen Klock, director of omnichannel for the retailer.

Why?

70% of consumers who book an appointment for a wedding consultation—be it for trying on a bridal gown, selecting bridesmaid dresses or looking at accessories—show up. And 60% of those who show buy something.

And so, in addition to selling via its mobile app and mobile site, the retailer is focusing on using mobile to make setting an appointment extremely easy.

“In our business the store experience is very important, a wedding dress is a considered purchase,” Klock says. “And so for us mobile traffic, appointments and getting shoppers to register with us are important metrics we look at. We aren’t just focused on commerce.”

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The retailer still generates ample sales via mobile and it is growing. 22% of e-commerce sales stem from smartphones and 12% comes from tablets, and mobile sales grew 70% year over year. Smartphone traffic is split evenly between Google Inc.’s Android and Apple iOS, but sales are much higher on iPhones. However, mobile success isn’t measured by sales alone or even mainly by direct m-commerce sales, Klock says

Because appointments are so critical, David’s Bridal in late 2013 overhauled its desktop website appointment booking process. Previously, a shopper would fill out a form requesting an appointment and a David’s Bridal customer service representative would call the shopper back or she would be redirected to another site to book. After the retailer made it possible to book appointments online web appointments increased 300% and the majority of appointments are booked online rather than calling a store. Recently it optimized what it coins the appointment flow for its app, which it launched last year using vendor Prolific Interactive. 

In the app, a consumer clicks to make an appointment, chooses the type of appointment (such as wedding dress or bridesmaid dress) and either types in her ZIP code or allows the phone to retrieve and enter her location using GPS. She then views a list of stores nearby, and selects a store to view the dates and times that store has available for that type of appointment. “Some stores have 10 fitting rooms, some have 50,” Klock says. The app user then selects a time that works with her schedule, enters her phone number and name, hits Submit and she is done.

It’s now working on optimizing appointment booking on the mobile site as well, and it’s no wonder. In the app with the simplified appointment booking process about 2.5% of consumers book an appointment; on the site about 1% do, Klock says.

The retailer which first launched its mobile site six years ago in October 2014 switched to responsive design using IBM WebSphere Commerce 7 as its commerce platform. It manages its desktop and mobile site in-house with the help of around 20 employees spanning IT and marketing. Responsive design is a format that adapts the look of a single retail website to the device the consumer is using, eliminating the operational headaches of operating separate web sites for mobile phones, tablets and computers.

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When designing for the web, mobile web and app, Klock and her team conduct research and usability tests to determine how shoppers navigate shop differently on a desktop compared with a smartphone. For example, usability tests found 90% of desktop users preferred all the steps to book a store appointment be on one page, while the majority of smartphone users preferred to book in small, digestible bits across several pages rather than scroll one long page.  “Mobile shouldn’t just be shrinking down the website,” Klock says.  “Some things we have on desktop just don’t translate on mobile.”

What Klock is most proud of today when it comes to mobile is David Bridal’s app. She prioritizes the app, and says it must offer features not available on the retailer’s mobile site in order to justify consumers downloading it.

The mobile app, for example offers a bridal gown finder tool that allows an app user to answer a series of questions about her dress preferences and then view a curated selection of dresses that fit her requests. That’s not available on the retailer’s desktop or mobile site. 90,000 consumers have tried out the tool, which just launched in January, Klock says. It plans to launch similar tools in the app later this year to help brides select bridesmaid dresses and invitations

Additionally shoppers’ rewards are much easier to manage and redeem via the app.  When a bride buys her wedding dress either in the store or online, David’s Bridal mails or gives  her a booklet with promo codes and a barcode on the back. She can redeem those rewards online if she has the paper booklet and types the code in at checkout. Or, she can redeem in store with the booklet. But she always had to have the booklet to get and see her rewards.. Recently David’s Bridal launched the rewards coupons in a digital format through the app. Once a bride buys her wedding dress, David’s Bridal “unlocks” her rewards when she opens the app. She can take her phone/iPad to the store and redeem in person or she can apply the rewards promo code online. The app allows her to view and access all of her rewards in one place without having to hold on to a paper booklet. She can also share her bridal party rewards with her wedding partythrough the app via text, e-mail. For example, $20 off your bridesmaid dresses.

It also plans to use app push notifications in a way that aims to be helpful, Klock says. That would include appointment reminders or notifying a bride that her dress is ready to be picked up. “We are trying to be more personal (with push notifications) rather than just blasting her with marketing messages,” Klock says. It also uses deep linking though its web ads and with push notifications. Deep linking takes a shopper who has the David’s Bridal app on her smartphone directly into the relevant page with in the app when she taps on a link online—even opening the app for her. For example, if a mobile alert offers $20 off bridesmaid dresses, deep linking would open the app and take the shopper directly to the bridesmaid dress page within the app. It’s also looking to add Apple Pay to it to make checking out quicker by allowing shoppers to purchase with their fingerprints in the app.

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The point of all the little extras is to make it worth it for shoppers to take the time to download the app and to keep them engaged. And it seems to be working. All of the most important metrics David Bridal tracks, such as conversions, appointments and registrations, are higher for the app than the mobile site. For example, getting a bride or other person involved in planning an upcoming wedding to register with David’s Bridal is a top priority, Klock says. Since the wedding planning process on average lasts around 9 months, Klock says, David’s Bridal wants a shopper to register so it can interact with her early and continue to market to her throughout the lengthy  (and often expensive) wedding planning  process.

The retailer sells much more than wedding gowns—pretty much everything related to a wedding—from favors to invitations to mother of the bride and bridesmaid dresses. David’s Bridal wants brides to register so it can send her targeted offers for all such items as she plans her big day.

The next mobile to-do item on Klock’s agenda is do a better job of collecting clues from a shopper and then feeding her content to pique her interest.

“If we know she is looking at lace styles often, then we should show her lace trends,” Klock says. “Mobile is all about personalized experiences.”   

 Follow mobile business journalist Katie Evans, editor, at Mobile Strategies 360, @Mobile360Katie

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