Bridal apparel retailer Azazie Inc. knows it’s a tough time for its customers: brides.

Ranu Coleman, chief marketing officer at Azazie.

Ranu Coleman, chief marketing officer, Azazie

Because of the pandemic, many couples postponed, canceled or downsized their wedding celebrations. For months, many events were on hold because of uncertainty regarding how the virus would spread, how large gatherings could be held and if travel would be allowed. These factors paused bridal spending.

“The wedding industry has gotten hit really hard by COVID-19,” says Ranu Coleman, chief marketing officer at Azazie.

Like many retailers, Azazie, No. 678 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, recognized it had to adjust its business to stay afloat during this time. “We definitely had to pivot,” Coleman says.

The first change the brand made was to its design strategy. Azazie launched a new line called “Azazie Romance,” which offers bridal gowns for smaller events. The silhouettes in this collection are simple and elegant, which may be more appropriate for a wedding in a backyard, virtual celebration or elopement, Coleman says.

Starting in mid-March, the web-only merchant noticed more traffic and sales to gowns at lower price points. In response, Azazie started offering more dresses for $199 and $249 so it had more selection at the lower prices, considering some of its gowns can go up to $899. Azazie noticed this value-focused traffic trend on its bridesmaid dresses as well and reduced the price of some those dresses to $69, lower than its typical $79-$129 range.

These changes helped Azazie increase bridal gown sales by 200% since April, Ranu says without revealing more. Sales have been steady in recent months and grew over last year in April, May and June, she says without revealing more.

Azazie’s bridal gown giveaway

Besides these updates, Azazie launched a contest in which it promised to give away 35 bridal dresses in April. Brides submitted their story about how the pandemic had impacted them and why they wanted a free bridal gown. Azazie received hundreds of submissions, Coleman says, without giving an exact figure. The merchant was so overwhelmed with the stories and the number of stories it received that it expanded the contest twice, and in total gave away 50 dresses. Azazie selected the winners based on the applicants’ circumstances and also tried to have a diversity of winners in terms of demographics, she says. Azazie announced the contest winners on its blog.

The initiative did not boost sales—and that wasn’t its purpose, Coleman says. During the pandemic, Azazie brainstormed ways to give back in a small way and landed on this idea, she says. Brides—both those who won and those who did not—have expressed gratitude for the contest as it made them feel a part of a community, Coleman says.

“Brides enjoy reading these other stories. It makes them feel less isolated in the situation going on,” Coleman says.

Plus, posting about the contest on its blog feeds into Azazie’s emphasis on content marketing, which is one of its main channels of customer acquisition, Coleman says. Millennials are its primary customer base, and they want to see user-generated content, like the personal stories and images from the contest, she says.

Plus, by hosting the contest, Azazie garnered insights into what brides were planning for their weddings during the pandemic. For example, many brides said they wanted to get married now more than ever, Coleman says. Many were or are planning small intimate weddings with just their immediate families and then looking ahead to hosting bigger anniversary parties. Although the wedding celebrations are not the big parties they originally planned, many brides still want “that bridal moment,” and that means wearing a special dress, Coleman says.

“Even though they are doing something small, they still want to feel like they are wearing a bridal gown,” she says.

This knowledge gave Azazie confidence that consumers are not canceling celebrations, but rather reducing and postponing. “At the end of the day, weddings are something that is always going to happen,” Coleman says.

Azazie’s path to fast growth

Azazie, which launched in 2014, is one of the fastest-growing Top 1000 apparel merchants, with web sales that increased 110.0% year over year in 2019.

Coleman attributes Azazie’s fast 2019 growth to several factors, including…

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