2016/2017 wedding industry business trends
In working in the wedding industry as a full time business coach/speaker, I am often asked “Rick, what are you seeing out there” or “Do you see the same things in this market as you do in the other parts of the country”. Now I don’t pay attention to trends related to colors or what brides might be wearing, etc… but the trends about the business of weddings.
I have divided my report into two sections, with an emphasis on Marketing for the simple reason that most wedding professionals sell what they do just fine, assuming they can get in front of the wedding couple, face to face.
When I first got into the wedding industry 24 years back, Brides would book me on the spot at our first appointment or they wouldn’t book at all. One big trend I see in marketing is that brides want to take a step forward, then take a step back, which when we recognize this we can help her by holding her hand at every step of the process. While this happens in both the marketing and the sales steps, I will cover them each separately. First, marketing:
- More Steps. The typical steps of find, communicate, meet are now find, find again, communicate, hide, maybe respond in three months then hide and then maybe meet. By planning on these steps it doesn’t hurt us if we put a half step in between such as a step to get her off of email and onto the phone or insuring our advertising and marketing is consistently pointed in the right direction. What steps we want them to take we need to understand at each stage of our marketing.
- Wedding Identities. The last three years have seen a dramatic rise in the “wedding identity”. This wedding identity is a separate email (typically Gmail) and phone (Google Voice) which will isolate the bride from those trying to market to her. She has learned that after her wedding is done, she wants to be rid of the stress of planning her wedding . For her to click a few buttons and delete this “identity” is very easy as well as this identity helps to keep her organized. The problem with this identity for us as marketers is it offers one more layer or buffer between us and the bride making it much more hard to break through. This is especially true when it comes to email. Email open rates and click through rates have dropped dramatically. In fact it used to be that those who provided lists (typically bridal shows and wedding magazines) are now offering email addresses in those lists far more and phone numbers far less)
- There has been a dramatic rise in the use of Mobile web browsing in just the past year necessitating that your web presence be fully responsive (Mobile friendly). 4 years ago I was speaking at a conference where WeddingWire CEO Sonny Ganguly was also speaking. He mentioned in his talk that we would see the uprise of mobile and we needed to start preparing for it. Well, we are here and if you are not paying attention to the mobile aspect of your site you will be way behind the competition.
- Brides are more attracted to testimonials from brides and less keen on awards. Brides are responding more to testimonials from other brides , particularly video testimonials and less to the awards given through the industry. Though many of these awards are Bride based (voted on by Brides) Most brides have said they do not know the merits or method in awarding these awards. Further, many brides have reported saying that they see the awards everywhere and think they are just given to those who advertise on the various sites who award them.
- Networking groups diminishing. As a trend, I have seen where wedding professionals are not joining the associations. This has been a big trend for years, but this trend is now shifting to attending the national conventions. Editorial note: Do I think this is a good thing- absolutely not. In fact, this is making the industry a lot more dumbed down because instead of forming relationships and marketing partnerships, more and more are joining a facebook group and thinking that they will find the same resources and results.
- Print media continues to slide. Print has been suffering for some time now, but the slide continues. This does not infer that print does not have merit, in fact, those who are publishing magazines are finding more resources to help their advertisers be successful. Brides still say they read magazines and will especially read a wedding magazine.
- Pinterest. For Brides and weddings, Pinterest is having a better marketing ROI than any other social media outlet. Weddings are beautiful, full of color and pretty and Pinterest offers what wedding professionals describe as a better place to show rather than tell. Pictures are more effective for marketing as well as you don’t get lost in the constant change of the Facebook newsfeed. Those who are using hashtags properly see a dramatic difference in traffic on Pinterest than they do from Facebook.
As mentioned above, most of the sales trends remain the same based on getting the wedding couple in front of you (Face to Face)
- More Steps. As mentioned in the marketing section, there has been a shift in the buying process of the wedding couple where they have added more steps in the process. When it comes to selling to brides, they have so much information coming at them and they simply do not know how to buy what we sell to get the absolute best selection based on their needs. Wedding professionals are experiencing more “I want to think about it” responses as well as the “Let me check on a few things and I’ll get back to you”. It has become necessary to almost plan on this despite the idea that sales trainers suggest that you simply haven’t done your job. While you may have room for improvement, the landscape has changed and based on your prospective client being able to search at their fingertips any of your competitors who matter to her and she has simply overwhelmed her own process with too much information. Because she has too much information, she more easily shuts down and shuts off the process (the game of “Bride and Go Seek” where she connects with you, sounds enthusiastic , then disappears)
- Face to Face. The process of selling has changed where more sales are made face to face as opposed to online or over the phone. While people are encouraged to be efficient with their time, taking the time to meet with the client has proven to bring better results. Further, this not only applies to selling, but to the pre-sale. In your marketing for example, a bridal show is more of an audition for an audition than it is the audition itself. Bridal shows will continue to be effective because of their face to face nature, when they are worked properly (i.e. don’t sit behind a table and expect a wedding couple to leap over the table to sign your contract because you put out a candy dish and a brochure). In addition, face to face networking has become more valuable, but has taken a label of “old School”.
- Higher focus on Price. Brides have always focused on price, but industry veterans are complaining that the price question is more prevalent than ever in their careers. The potential reason for this is that there are more competitors in the market who are less trained and less experienced. Many refer to these less qualified as hobbyists. These hobbyists are known to not invest in paid marketing and tend to go the route of lower price, which then creates a race to the bottom. Wedding Couples are still buying high end options for their weddings, however, they can be easily distracted by the price vendor who sells on price.
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