Recently I had the great pleasure of sharing a shopping day with my daughter, looking for potential wedding dresses for her big day later this year.
My daughter has very definite ideas of what she wants to wear and the style and type of dress that will best suit her, and in which she will feel fantastic. As she is not a traditionalist, we knew that we would have to investigate the type of opportunities that would most likely provide the outcomes we were seeking. We did some research and then set out optimistically to see what our day would uncover.
As we went from outlet to outlet, it was obvious that the sales people had been “trained” to deal with only one type of potential bride, one that was looking for the same type of style as other brides or bridal magazines currently depict, and not one that sought any individuality. Although many of the sales people were very pleasant, they completely failed to identify what my daughter was looking for and only questioned her on which of the “generally used” styles she preferred. In fact, she did not prefer any of them. As they did not attempt to uncover her preferences, they continually showed us the standard products, and then tried to “sell them” by saying that this is what everyone is wearing! I gasped as one sales person propped a veil on her head, clearly expecting us to get more excited as a result. This approach of ignoring her preference for non-traditional options had the opposite effect and we left that store as fast as we could!
We all know that the wedding industry is a huge money making industry where item prices do not in any way reflect the cost of producing the product. It clearly survives by marketing a set number of styles then selling them on the basis of “that is what everyone has”. Salespeople then tell potential brides that of course the latest trend is perfect for them regardless of age or size. They follow that with the appropriate number of “how wonderful you look” type comments to get the sale over the line.
From my perspective, working in the area of sales force development, I was astounded at the lack of true selling skill being demonstrated in every outlet we visited, as well as the lack of product variety. At the end of the day, we returned home without a purchase. We knew that it was not going to be easy, but we had not anticipated the “bridal cloning” – an expectation that whoever walks in the door will want the same thing. In this environment the salespeople are oblivious to, and disinterested in, what will motivate an individual to buy.
How often does this type of situation occur, not only in the bridal industry? Do we as consumers simply “give in” and purchase the popular or latest trend products because it is too difficult or time consuming to seek out those that are more tailored to our actual needs, and because we cannot find anyone who is interested or flexible in their sales process to really understand what our needs are and try to meet them?
I have no doubt that we will find the dress that my daughter is seeking, it will just take more effort and time than it should. I do know that the final decision definitely won’t be as a result of a sales person or outlet that works on the assumption that every bride will want what they are told to want.