Although the new generation of brides is growing up on the internet. A brides still cannot purchase many of the important components online. The retail environment still holds onto the majority of market share of invitation purchases. However, the percentage is slipping, with more web sites going up than retailers opening and some retailers closing; we collectively have to do more than ever to educate the bride and other invitation consumers on the advantages of purchasing at a retailer.
Richard May, owner of a fine stationery store, Therese St. Clair, in Greenwich, Connecticut has started an association called The Stationers Guild that is a group trying to educate the consumer on the benefits of purchasing from a retailer. The web site will be optimized for excellent search engine placement so amid the web sites that sell to the consumer will be a retail stronghold educating the consumer to some of the finer stationery products, a dealer locator with member retailers who must be an independent retail storefront and most importantly education for the bride on the advantages of going to a retailer. I have personally tried to be as supportive as possible of his efforts as it coincides with my initiative to help retailers use the web to get local customers with web design and marketing with Local Traffic Builder.
In previous writings such as my manual “The Invitation Business Report”, I discuss how important it is to network with other businesses that are an earlier rung on the planning ladder for the obvious reason of establishing funnels to generate new customers. Now I feel it is that much more important to do so in order to get vital information into the hands of consumers early in the process before they start even researching invitations to encourage a preference to go to a retailer. Thus literature distributed should include benefits of your business and going to a retailer. I also discuss in my report extensively strategies to encourage customers that are in your store to stay retail even if they were thinking of only using your store for research. An obvious advantage is your locality and that on a web site the customer has to pay in full for the invitation before the order is even started while they can pay a deposit to you and pay the balance upon inspecting their invitation order in person. Furthermore a reputable retailer will inspect the invitations before the customer sees and correct any mistakes whiles ordering on the internet leaves the customer to correct a mistake (that is if they even notice it and send it out with an uncorrected mistake causing embarrassment).
One of the truly knowledgeable retailers, Hannah K Rodewald, owner of “The Pleasure of Your Company” in Lutherville, Maryland who as I do, serves on the board of advisers for “The National Stationery Show” recommends that invitation businesses join local chapters of associations like the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE) and International Special Events Society (ISES), where one can find networking opportunities with members that range from Party Planners, Caterers, Entertainment Companies, Photographers and Videographers.
One of the strategies we both agree on is when you do a beautiful invitation or menu for a banquet facility you would like to approach them to recommend you, send them a sample and note to show how your work is a reflection of the elegance of their facility, and how customers who buy online are more likely to create that first impression with a cheezy invitation to create the wrong impression or take away from the decor of the reception by having a home made menu on each table.