Bridal and gift registries can be a profit center for retailers who are able to secure the all important word-of-mouth referral. However, establishing a well regarded and much-talked-about reputation is of course the difficult part. The key to this conundrum lies somewhere between catering to modern conveniences with a strong online presence and standing out from the big box stores with superior customer service.
The last 20 years have seen digital communication become an increasingly vital aspect to our lives. The area of weddings and all things bridal is no exception. Modern brides are selecting their wedding favors and pinning them on Pinterest for the world to see before they have even met their groom-to-be. The engagement is announced on Facebook rather than the local paper, and a dedicated website will most surely soon follow. When a couple goes to register for their bridal shower and wedding gifts they expect it to be as easy for their guests as clicking a link from the personal wedding website created by the couple for the special occasion.
"We did a manual paper system years and years ago when we first started. We've been doing registries for 25 years, and it's all online now," says Doug Huemoeller of Kitchen Window in Minneapolis, Minnesota. "We've partnered with a company called Your Gift Registry, and we use their digital interface for that, where customers can go to our website and then access those registry items .… Having that partner for that interface is the most important thing, so that people can have easy access."
Your Gift Registry offers wedding and gift registry solutions to independent retailers by handling the data entry and online portion of the gift registry process after customers have selected items in person in the store. Guests may then access the list online to browse or make purchases that are fulfilled through the retailer. Such access is especially important when factors like out-of- state weddings are taken into consideration. In 2013, destinations weddings accounted for 24 percent of all weddings, according to TheKnot.com 2013 Real Weddings Study.
"Nowadays we have people who grew up here in Greensboro, they're getting married in Bermuda, their parents are all over everywhere; it's real interesting because of the way we have to do contacts and keep up," says Martha Nading, who has been doing gift registries for the last 29 years at her kitchenware store, The Extra Ingredient, in Greensboro, North Carolina. "I hired Your Gift Registry instead of having to hire somebody right here on the spot in my location to do all that work for me because there is a lot of data entry now that it's online."
Beyond leveling the playing field by establishing an online presence, dedicated customer service that reflects the intimacy of the event will allow independent retailers to stand apart from big box competition. Having couples schedule an appointment for registry services will permit time to ensure that a staff member is able to show personalized attention. Providing special training to employees on the registry system within your store will allow them to become bridal consultants capable of providing knowledgeable suggestions and seeing the process through from start to finish and follow-up.
Simple accommodations retailers can provide, like gift wrapping, add up to a big impact for the customer. At The Extra Ingredient, customers are able to complete the process with at their convenience, for instance, beginning the registry by selecting dinnerware and tabletop items and then coming back to select cookware and cutlery at another date, if needed. Kitchen Window offers a hold and delivery option for guests in which all gifts are held until a specified date and then delivered to the desired location in one batch. Couples who are concerned for the environment can also choose to have their preference for unwrapped gifts relayed to guests. Anything retailers can do to meet the busy couple at a convenience level will surely build up a strong impression leading to future referrals.
"For us, we don't just give our guests a scanner. We do registry by appointment, we have an associate who goes around either with the person or with the couple and provides them with information about registry and things to look at or to consider for their assortment," says Huemoeller. "That person sits down with the couple for a few minutes to find out a little about them. Then for registering with us we do offer the person or the couple a free cooking class, because, again, we want to build that connection with them."
Registry incentives can be an opportunity for retailers to stand out from the competition at little cost. The Extra Ingredient opts to give the couple their very first registry gift. Other possible incentives might include things like offering a percentage discount for a certain period of time after the event or a free product once a specified amount has been spent in the store towards that particular registry.
Whether retailers choose to offer an incentive or not, their inventory must reflect all the essential areas of registry that brides and grooms will be looking for. A strong selection of small electrics, cutlery, cookware, bakeware, gadgets, and tabletop are crucial to ensuring that the couple does not have to register anywhere else to complete their kitchenware needs. A tabletop brand that offers a classic set of porcelain or stoneware dishes is also critical. The Extra Ingredient has found Vietri and Juliska to do well as registry brands. A formal option, like Richard Ginori, might be nice to have on hand as well if you know your clientele is likely to select such a set.
A kitchenware store's inventory selection and customer service will ultimately be what leads to a satisfactory bridal registry experience that translates to word-of-mouth referrals. One good bride with a few showers where friends at similar stages in their lives see the beautifully wrapped gifts and how pleased she is can be all it takes. Getting in on the action may take time, but is very good business when done successfully.
"Gourmet Catalog has found bridal registry to be an important part of the independent retailer's business. Stores who don't participate in a registry program are missing out on a large market of customers, especially younger generations," says Janis Johnson, President and Founder of Gourmet Catalog & Buying Group. "Once a customer registers with your store, they are likely to come back for future purchases. A registry program can create that special, enjoyable experience that remains a memory for a couple, forever tying them to the store. It's a great way to build a new customer base and gauge what a specific generation is looking for when it comes to kitchenware items."