Weddington Way caters to Millennial brides who grew up scrolling through Pinterest rather than leafing through the pages of bridal magazines.
These brides aren’t interested in the “experience” of shopping for a wedding dress at a bridal emporium. They’ll likely find inspiration for their dress style or party decor on pin boards.
Modern brides are into expediency, efficiency and managing costs, according to Ilana Stern, founder of e-commerce site Weddington Way, which now offers about 1,300 bridesmaid dresses for sale. Weddington Way will expand this year to wedding gowns. For the next year to 18 months, the site will focus on the sartorial needs of the entire wedding party, even wedding guests.
“The long-term vision extends beyond that to provide all the goods the bride needs to buy to make her wedding look the way she wants it to look,” said Stern, noting that the company’s sweet spot is women aged 25 to 32 in urban and suburban markets.
Bridal parties can browse the assortment of private-label and third-party bridesmaid dresses online and share and discuss the products in a virtual showroom, Stern said, adding, “We’re a technology first company.”
Stern, a former Bloomingdale’s buyer, got the idea for Weddington Way at Stanford Business School. She raised $300,000 from classmates and professors and launched the site out of beta in 2012. Weddington Way focused on scaling its customer experience during 2013, which “involved a lot of automation and building out our team,” Stern said. The site in 2014 closed on $9 million in Series A funding, bringing the total raised to $11.5 million. Strategic investors include former Gap chief executive officer Robert Fisher, Bonobos founder Andy Dunn, Nixon’s founder Andy Laats and RoAnn Costin, a member of the Lululemon Athletica board.
Weddington Way is taking its experience to the physical world with temporary Love Pop Shops across the country. A Love Pop Shop was unveiled in Chicago in June. “A bride would come into our shop and meet with a stylist who had all her information, which was collected by the site, such as her wedding date, number of attendants and color palette,“ Stern said. “The stylist would have a dressing room assorted for her. The bride could save dresses to the virtual showroom for collaborative shopping with bridesmaids that live in other cities. She could go back and forth from digital to physical and back to digital for checkout.”
On Friday, a Love Pop Shop will bow at 109 Mercer Street in New York’s SoHo and one is scheduled for Los Angeles between Jan. 29 and Feb. 28. “We have five planned nationally in the first quarter of 2016 and will be rolling out more from there. Our goal is to hit many more markets in 2016,” Stern said.
A shop at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco is available by appointment.
“We’ve built a big business already exclusively online, but what we’re finding is customers want to try on the dresses,” Stern said. “There’s an element of our brand that we can put forward through a physical experience. We do see these Love Pop Shops as a huge growth lever. They have incredibly high conversion rates.
“Permanent stores are definitely a possibility for us in the future,” Stern continued. “Our brick-and-mortar strategy will be a mixture of permanent locations in certain markets and temporary locations in other markets. Because of the seasonal nature of the wedding business, there’s an interesting opportunity in terms of real estate.”
For brides who can’t get to a Love Pop Shop, Weddington Way recently instituted a try-on-at-home program where up to three dresses can be shipped at a cost of $10 per dress. If the bride ends up loving one of the dresses, the full try-on fee of up to $30 is credited toward her purchase.
Weddington Way uses customer data when designing dresses for its collection. “We see things they’re searching for in the search bar and not finding and we’re using that information for what we design,” Stern said. “Weddington Way [private label] is a significant portion of our sales and growing. Many of the third-party brands are made-to-order and are also important. With made-to-order we’re able to offer customers a dress in 50 colors, in multiple sizes and we’re never out of stock.”
While Millennials have a certain approach to planning a wedding, Stern said, “what is consistent across generations is that brides want their weddings to be beautiful and a reflection of who they are as a couple. What’s different is how they accomplish that vision.”