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09/10/2015

How Brideside is bringing tech to the wedding industry

Did you know Chicago has the largest wedding market in the nation?

That may come as a surprise to some, but for one local startup, it’s half the reason they call Chicago home.

“The Chicago consumer is very on trend and sophisticated, but this is a very underserved market from a retail fashion perspective,” said Nicole Staple, co-founder of a concierge-driven e-commerce experience for bridal parties called Brideside.

Brideside is the answer to what Staple and co-founder Sonali Lamba saw as an antiquated industry that e-commerce innovation had all but ignored — and not just in the Windy City. Brides and their bridesmaids often live scattered throughout the country and come in all shapes and sizes, but Staple said until Brideside, there weren’t any tech-enabled alternatives to the traditional on-site bridal boutique experience.

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“Everything from the shopping experience to branding to the type of products being offered were not in line with the way commerce was developing,” she said.

With Brideside, consumers have a smarter, savvier, and cheaper way to find bridal dresses and accessories. Once a bride registers for an account, she is automatically connected with a personal style consultant who will work with her and her bridesmaids to find dresses that work for everyone and ensure they have a personalized and curated experience.

“Whether she’s an expecting mother, plus size, or petite, we make sure that she has a dress that she’ll be happy with and feel beautiful in,” Staple said.

Users can browse the company’s 800-plus collection of dresses and accessories, saving their favorites as they go. In a home try-on structure modeled after Warby Parker and Trunk Club, bridesmaids can have dresses shipped to their houses for $10 dollars a pop to make sure dresses are a good fit.

Staple said they’ve already seen more than 10,000 bridal parties register with the site and have shipped over 4,500 sample dresses.

And it’s not just users who are impressed. The company landed a $1.5 million seed round from strategic investors like Trunk Club’s Rob Chesney and Sittercity’s Genevieve Thiers. DreamIt Ventures also participated with a follow-on investment.

Brideside’s all-woman team currently sits at 15 full-time employees, but a portion of their seed round will be used to grow that headcount — particularly the company’s sales and customer acquisition teams.

In addition, the company will use part of the money to expand their collection. That expansion is already underway, beginning with Brideside’s recently announced exclusive line with esteemed bridal designer Kelly Faetanini.

Based out of a shiny new (and 4200 square foot) West Loop office, Staple said Brideside also wants to build up an offline presence in the city for women who prefer a more traditional experience. She stressed, however, that the level of personalization remains the same both on- and off-line.

And tech, she said, remains at the core of the business.

“By being so data-driven, we are able to collect a ton of insight on the digital bride and millennial consumer,” Staple said. “By leveraging that data and collaborating with someone really innovative on the design side, we launched something that’s a completely new concept in bridal attire.”

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