I’ve changed the name of our blog

admin wrote this on Oct 6 |

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I’ve just returned from Chicago Market and based on the feedback received from independent bridal shop owners, I’ve decided to change the name of this blog to “Bridal Shop Meets Internet”. After the first day of speaking with shop owners is became clear that many of us are struggling to effectively use technology/internet to build their sales.

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be posting pithy insights on how the independent bridal shop owner can utilize technology to create an experience that the internet discounters and big box chains could never provide.


Version 1.3 now available

admin wrote this on May 2 |

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Version 1.3 is a direct response to your feature requests. All of the enhancements and new features added in this version were a direct result of the outstanding feedback I’ve received from shops using BridalLive. In this blog post, I’ll outline some of the more notable new features.

Improved Order Tracking/Management

In version 1.2, in order to be able to see the status of a customer order, you had to open the customer’s Sales Order and click “Associated POs”. We’ve improved this in version 1.3, by adding the PO #, Est. Ship Date, and Qty Received to the contact’s purchase history tab. These new fields are available for each sales order line item listed in the purchase history. Also, you can now jump directly to the Inventory Item, Sales Order, or Purchase Order right from the from the line item!

Additionally, we’ve added the ability open the contact tab directly from the Purchase Order. For each line item on the PO, we’ve added a new icon that will open the contact’s tab. Also, we’ve added the ability to copy the Contact’s name and event date to the notes field on the PO. Simply select “Copy contact information to PO” when you are creating the PO and voila!

From the POS side, you can now enter notes for each line item and track which items have been taken home on a Sales Order. Also, for those of you who require a certain deposit percent for Sales Order (i.e. 50% down), you can now specify this percentage under Administration > POS > Default Deposit Percent.

Receipts got an upgrade as well. With version 1.3 you can now print your logo and any line item notes. To add your logo, simply go to Administration > POS > Print Logo on Receipt.

Improved Appointment Options

In version 1.2 appointments were either “Pending” or “Completed”. With version 1.3 we’ve now introduced the concept of “Re-Booked”, “No show”, and “Canceled”. Using the accompanying report titled “Appointment Status Count By Month”, you can now track how many appointment were not completed and why. With this feature, you will now have the ability to measure improvements made in Pre-Sales communication with the bride.

Also, the Quick Appointment now has a notes field where you can enter notes specific to that appointment without having to open the appointment.

Improved Inventory Management

In version 1.2, every item was unique by short description, size and color. As a result, new items for the same style were added to the inventory every time a different size or color was sold. While some prefer this technique, we added to option to manually specify color and size on the Sale and Sales Order without new items being added to the item list.

To make things even easier, we’ve added to concept of Color Groups and Size Groups that can be added to Vendors. When these color and size groups are linked to the inventory item, the color and size fields on the Sale/Sales Order use these available options. Moreover, this feature establishes a foundation needed to be able to suggest sizing based on the contact’s measurements.

For a complete listing of new features and improvements, please reference the release notes.

How to get the new version

Updating is free and simple and takes less than 30 seconds. On each computer running BridalLive, follow these 3 steps:

  1. Open the Administration Module
  2. Click “Program Settings” in the left navigation menu
  3. Click “Check For Updates” and accept the updates.

As always, if you have any questions/suggestions, please contact me.

Helping you thrive,

Tom Esposito

Top 7 Bridal Shop Website re-design tips

admin wrote this on Jan 27 |

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In this post, I’ll outline my top 7 website re-design tips for your bridal shop website. If you are thinking of overhauling your website, be sure to read these first.

  1. Focus on conversion – The only reason you have a website in the first place is to generate new leads. If your old website wasn’t set up to measure conversion, make sure your new one is. For more information on this, take a look at my other post on Measuring your bridal shop website’s conversion rate .
  2. Your website must attract prospects – Your website has to be more than just pretty, it has to attract visitors. Visitors are attracted by remarkable content. Whether that be a great blog post, a cool video, or a special promotion, you must give web surfing brides a reason to visit your website. Once you’ve figured out what that is, be sure to tell the world. Post to Facebook, tweet, write a blog post, share a video on you tube, etc. The bottom line is that your brand now has more real estate that it can claim online and much of it is free. If you do nothing else, be sure to create your local listings at all of the top search engines. Here are the links: Google Local Business Center, Yahoo Local, Bing Local. As an added bonus, the effort spent to create your Local listings will help you out in the SEO department as well.
  3. Create Landing Pages – Landing pages that visitors usually “land” on first. Often times, these are pages have been optimized for search engines. Since most visitors don’t enter your web site through the front door (home page), make sure that each of your landing pages are well designed with appropriate calls-to-action.
  4. Re-use what’s working with your current site – Don’t completely trash your old site if there were parts of it that were working. For example, if you have a significant amount of inbound links to a page, don’t get rid of it. Keep any keyword rich copy that you spent time creating and re-use that as well.
  5. Don’t re-invent the wheel – There is a reason why amazon hasn’t done a major re-design of it’s website. It’s because it works. There are plenty of designs out there that work really well. Take inspiration from them.
  6. Spend more time creating content than beautiful design – Be sure to include elements to your site that allow you to change and/or produce content on a regular basis. A blog is a great way to keep fresh content on your site. Plus, it shows that your business has a pulse.
  7. Include a simple way to measure your site’s effectiveness – We’re bridal retailers and we don’t have time to check our web site analytics every day. That’s why it’s important to have a system in place for measuring your site effectiveness. I keep tabs on a few key numbers: Conversion rate, bounce rate, total visitors. Then I look at my top 10 referring sites to make sure that my marketing spend is in check. These numbers usually give me an idea of how well our site is working.

What are some of your tips for redesigning a web site? Anything you learned last time around? Share your ideas with the readers of this blog by commenting.

Version 1.2 now available!

admin wrote this on Jan 3 |

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It’s finally here and you’re going to love it.

If you’ve ever wanted to automate your prom dress registry, it’s here. If you were one of the many that requested Credit Card processing, today’s your day. With over 25 new features and improvements, version 1.2 is the next step in making your bridal business more profitable.

For a complete listing of these new features and improvements, please read the release notes.

For more information on how to use the new features, see the Online User Guide.

Updating is simple and takes less than 30 seconds. On each computer running BridalLive, follow these 3 steps:

  1. Open the Administration Module
  2. Click “Program Settings” in the left navigation menu
  3. Click “Check For Updates” and accept the updates.

Have fun with it and let me know how we can make it better.

Shameless plug follows:

Today BridalLive’s Marketing Tools are helping retailers all over the country generate more web site leads, reduce appointment cancellations and increase their closing ratio. If your shop could use improvement in these areas, I encourage you to learn more about the marketing tools. To see it in action, contact me directly at 1-888-764-2605 for an interactive live demo and case studies.

Automated Bridal Shop Marketing: Part #1 – Your Lead Machine

admin wrote this on Nov 8 |

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This is the first article in a series entitled “A Systematic Approach to Bridal Shop Marketing“. In this topic we’ll provide an action plan for effective web site design, optimizing your site for Google, and how to increase your web site search rankings. The latest issues of Vows Magazine has an article on understanding what brides are searching for online. In this post, I’ll add some action steps that you can perform to achieve more search engine traffic.

When companies explore the idea of creating a web site, many simply have a web designer convert their paper-based brochures into a “web site”. The end result is beautiful, but the content is static and void of interactivity. Visitors to these sites typically click around for a few minutes and leave. If the site owner is lucky, they’ll convince the visitor to pick up the phone and call. However, in reality most visitors leave, never to return. These “Brochure-ware” web sites have low visitor loyalty and typically have a low conversion ratio. Why? Because these sites are full of the same old marketing speak and void of any content that engages the visitor.

In this article, we’ll outline an action plan for turning your website into a lead generation machine. If you have a website like the one mentioned above, using the techniques outlined in this article will result in more traffic and more leads.

Getting Found

Before you can begin converting visitors into prospects, you must have visitors. The most effective way to drive traffic to your website is through search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO).

At the core, there are 2 approaches to SEM: paid, and non-paid. Paid SEM involves placing advertisements on search result pages. These ads appear at the top and right hand side of the search result page. With non-paid SEM, your website’s link appears in the actual search results. This is commonly referred to as organic or natural search placement. Paid search will have quicker results with less traffic, but may carry high costs for competitive keywords/key phrases. The organic approach has the potential to drive far more traffic to your site at a much lower cost.

Consider the following heat map for Google’s result page:

google heat map

Some interesting points here are:

  • Organic listings capture 75% of the traffic
  • The first page captures 89% of the traffic
  • The #1 result captures 42% of the traffic

So you want to be in the “HOT” area of that heat map, huh? Well, first things first. Google must be “taught” about the content of your website before you can achieve a high ranking. To do this, you’ll want to make sure you’ve perform the following steps. These steps should be followed in order.

Step #1: Identify your keywords

Select keywords based on search volume, relevance, and competition. Use Google’s Keyword tool or WordTracker to figure out which keywords your website should be optimizing with. The key to selecting the right keywords is balancing search volume with relevance and competition. One trick I’ve used is to setup an Adwords campaign with as many relevant keywords as I can gather. Each Adwords campaign will show you the actual number of impressions per key phrase. This trick allows you to use actual data to properly select keywords.

Step #2: On-Page SEO

There is a lot that goes into On Page SEO. I’ll touch on some of the most important items and provide some resources at the end for those looking for more detail. Ultimately, the goal of On-Page SEO is placing your keywords where Google looks for them. I recommend that your website does not use a Flash intro as this usually makes it difficult for Google to navigate to your content. Any text on your website should be “readable” by Google (i.e. no images containing text).

Follow these guidelines for on page SEO:

  • Page Title – The title of your web page helps search engines understand what your web page is about. The page title appears as the main text of your search result link as well as in the top left corner of the browser window. This should be no more than 60 characters (including spaces) and should include your key phrase. Separate multiple key words/key phrases with a pipe character (“|”). Here is example of a title tag: <title>Bridal Shop in Arizona |Arizona Bridal Shops</title>
  • Page Description – This tag provides a description for your web page. Use your key phrases in this section twice. Rumor is that Google doesn’t weigh the description as much as you may think. The goal here is to use word that contains your keywords as well as encourages the reader to click you link. An example of a page description is: <meta content=”Anita’s Bridal was voted the best bridal shop in Arizona in a contest that included all bridal shops in Arizona.” />
  • H1, H2, H3 tags – These are the heading tags that emphasize text on your web page. Use 1-3 heading tags per page that contain your keywords. The goal is to break up your text in to sections and include an H1, H2, or H3 as a heading. An example would be: <H1>Arizona Bridal Shop celebrates 25th Anniversary</H1>
  • First and last 25 words of the page – Place you keywords in the first (heading) and last (footer) 25 words of your page.
  • Bold your keywords – This should happen at least once.
  • Italicize or underline your keywords – This should happen at least once.

As mentioned earlier, this is by no means an exhaustive list of On Page SEO techniques, but these steps are a good first step if you haven’t spent time doing this. For those interested in more information on SEO, I recommend the following resources:

Once your website has been optimized for your keywords and key phrases, you can now begin your Off Page SEO. As a general rule of thumb, 75% of your time should be spent working off of your site and 25% on your site. This means you should be working to build links to your site from others once it’s been established and optimized.

Step #3: Off-Page SEO

Many SEO experts agree that Off Page SEO is the single most important step for achieving a high ranking. Google determines your site’s relevance to a search term using a complex voting system known as PageRank. The more websites that link to yours, the higher your website’s PageRank. Links from larger sites like Microsoft.com carry more weight than links from less important sites. Off Page SEO involves getting as many credible sites linking to your site as possible.

Follow these recommendations for Off Page SEO:

  • Create and distribute content – Create articles that relate to and include your keywords, then distribute them to the following 3 websites: ezinearticles.com, goarticles.com, and buzzle.com. If this is too much work, use a service like isnare.com to distribute your articles to hundreds of directories.
  • Create and Distribute Press Releases – Follow the same technique in the above recommendation to distribute press releases. If you aren’t familiar with writing press releases, use a service like elance.com and someone will gladly do it for $50.
  • Submit your website to directoriesdmoz.org, business.com, aboutus.org, and others that allow for free links.
  • Link Exchange – Find others that blog about your favorite topics and ask if they’d place a link on their site to yours.
  • Create a blog – Google loves fresh and original content. A blog is also a good way to build trust among your customers. What better want to get inbound links than having someone linking to your original and thought provoking content!

As your website climbs the list for your key phrases, you will begin receiving more traffic. The next 2 posts in this series will center around converting your visitors into prospects and measuring your conversion results.

Follow the links below for the rest of this series:

  1. Part 1: Your Lead Machine
  2. Part 2: Conversion Principles
  3. Part 3: Measuring Conversion

Stay tuned via Email, RSS, or Twitter. You are not going to want to miss this series.

Automated Bridal Shop Marketing: Intro

admin wrote this on Nov 4 |

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This post begins a series on how bridal retailers can establish a ‘system’ to manage their marketing and customer relationship efforts. Before we begin outlining the system, let’s discuss how marketing has evolved.

I (and many others) believe that we are in the middle of a dramatic change in the way businesses effectively promote their products and services. A decade ago, our basket of marketing tactics might have looked something like this:

  1. Billboards
  2. TV/Radio commercials
  3. Print Ads
  4. Leads lists

These techniques, based on interrupting the consumer, have become less effective as our society established tools to block “outbound” messages. Caller ID, TIVO, iPod/MP3 players, and SPAM filters have all contributed to the decreased effectiveness of these marketing channels.

Brides have begun shopping (and learning) in a whole new way and it is our job to adapt. Brides seek out their information using search engines (Google). The average bride performs dozens of searches per day and will sit behind her desk gathering information for hours before she visits a bridal shop. She’ll spend time compiling a list of shops to visit. Will you be found?

With this premise established, I plan to outline a system for managing “inbound” marketing efforts over the next few blog posts. Here are some questions to think about while waiting for the first installment:

  1. Is your bridal store positioned to leverage advances in technology to effectively spread the word about your products and services?
  2. If a bride searches Google for “bridal shops in <your city>” what page do you show up on?
  3. What are you doing to convert every bride that visits your website into a lead?
  4. What is remarkable about your bridal shop’s brand?
  5. What are you doing to nurture your leads after you’ve established a rapport?
  6. Does your bridal shop software allow you to communicate with your customers and leads on their terms?
  7. What are you doing to turn your brides into evangelists for your shop?

Stay tuned via Email, RSS, or Twitter. You are not going to want to miss this series.

Follow the links below for the rest of this series:

  1. Part 1: Your Lead Machine
  2. Part 2: Conversion Principles
  3. Part 3: Measuring Conversion

BridalLive (Bridal Shop Software) – Version 1.0 SHIPPED!

admin wrote this on Oct 25 |

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bridal point of sale software - shipped!

We’re pleased to announce BridalLive version 1.0 has SHIPPED! Thank you to all the bridal shop owners that have helped shape BridalLive’s version 1.0 release. We couldn’t have done it without you. You’ve helped us stay true to our mission of making BridalLive the easier way to manage your bridal shop.

Mike from Ella Park Bridal was critical to the early creation of many of the features you see today. Rachel and staff from Bel Fiore Bridal have all helped stress test the system and identify bugs before they made their way to the rest of the BridalLive shops.

While version 1.0 marks a huge milestone for our bridal shop software, we are forging ahead on many new and excited features. Keep your eyes open for our release notification emails as these features will be coming soon. Here is a sneak peak of some of features you can expect to see shortly:

  • Credit Card Processing – you’ll be able to process credit cards right from within your bridal pos software.
  • Prom Functions – you’ll be able to track prom dresses sold by school.
  • Tuxedos – version 1.0 handles tuxedos, but upcoming versions will support “rentals” a bit better.
  • Internationalization – Due to the interest we’ve received from our overseas bridal shop owners, we’ll be opening BridalLive up to the rest of the world. Now international bridal shops will be able to enjoy the latest bridal shop software from BridalLive.

As a BridalLive user, you are always entitled to the latest releases for FREE. The latest release always takes less than 1 minute to install for each computer.

So if you like what you see today with BridalLive, rest assured that we’ll continue to make running your bridal shop easier with our bridal shop software. Contact us today to purchase your license.

BridalLive is easy, smart, and powerful bridal shop software!

How to use our Bridal Shop POS Software to measure website conversion

admin wrote this on Oct 15 |

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using bridal shop pos software to measure conversion

In this post we’ll look at one way BridalLive helps you measure the effectiveness of your website. BridalLive is more than an excellent bridal shop POS software package; it helps you extend your brand online by providing widgets that can integrate with your bridal shop’s website.

Knowing what we know now about the importance of business websites, it’s hard to imagine that just 5 years ago many businesses needed to be convinced of the importance of having an online presence. Today, businesses without websites are having a harder time competing in their respective market. The internet is the new yellow pages and the first place brides go when they get engaged is online.

In this post we’ll talk about how our bridal shop software is helping bridal shop owners measure the effectiveness of their website. We’ll leave generating traffic and effectively converting that traffic into leads for another blog post. This blog post will focus only on how you can use BridalLive’s Online Marketing Tools to measure your website’s conversion rate.

Let’s start by explaining what BridalLive’s Online Marketing Tools are. These “tools” give the bridal shop owner everything they need to be able to capture information from brides online. The marketing tools consist of 5 widgets that can be seamlessly embedded into your website with very little effort. The individual widgets are Appointment Requests, Lead Forms, Bride Interview, Feedback Forms, and Testimonials. For more information on this, take a look at the Marketing Bundle. Now that you’ve got the concept, continue reading to learn how to measure conversion…

The rest of this article is going to be somewhat technical. But the important thing to know is that the Online Marketing Tools can be linked with your Google Analytics (it’s free!) account. Once linked, you can view reports within Google Analytics that show the number of times visitors to your site submitted one of your Online Marketing Tools.

Next, we’ll break down the steps that are needed to begin measuring your website conversion. WARNING: This is technical. If you need help setting this up, let us know and we’ll help you set it up.

Step 1: Locate your Google Analytics Site ID

This can be found by logging in to your Google Analytics Account (click here to login). Your site ID is formatting like this UA-1234567-1. Once you’ve located your Site ID, copy it and proceed to step 2.

Step 2: Add your Site ID to your Marketing Tools URL

If you’ve already embedded the marketing tools with your website, you’ll want to change the URL being used. Let’s take a look at the URL for the Appointment Request Form.


Once you’ve made the change, you will be able to determine your website’s conversion rate.

Step 3: Determine your website’s conversion rate

Go to your Google Analytics account and click “Content” from the left navigation menu. Then click “Top Content” and filter the report for all the Online Marketing Tools pages that were viewed/submitted. This can be done by typing “bridallive” in the filter at the bottom of the report. Take a look at the image below to see how we accomplished this with our test account.

Bridal Shop POS Software

In this example if we wanted to measure the effectiveness of our Appointment Request targeting, we can simply measure the number of Appointment Request submissions by the number of visit to your website. So if we had 50 visitors to our site that day and 4 submitted an Appointment Request, then we’d have a 8% conversion rate. However, the best way to do this is to create a “Goal” in Google Analytics for any of the pages you see in the graphic above. Here is an image of the Google Analytics goal screen.

bridal shop software conversion

Then once you’ve created the goal it will appear beneath the “Goals” section in Google Analytics. To view your conversion rate, simply click the goal and you’ll see something like the image below:

bridal shop website conversion

Once you know how to measure conversion rate, you can start making changes to your site to increase it. You should be monitoring this number regularly and making changes when needed. Eventually you’ll develop a website that’s exceeding your conversion expectations.

Retailer Spotlight – Ella Park Bridal, Newburgh, Indiana

admin wrote this on Sep 16 |

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courtesy: www.ellaparkbridal.com
Yesterday, we talked to Mike from Ella Park Bridal in Newburgh, Indiana to see what he had to say about his new bridal shop software, BridalLive. Mike has been instrumental in providing feedback and suggestions for BridalLive enhancements. Many of the features you see in BridalLive are a direct result of his feedback. We hope you enjoy the interview!

Tom: Tell us a little about your shop? How did you get into bridal, your location, how long in business, sq footage, etc.

Mike: Back in 2004, we made a decision to get out of the corporate world and start our own business. With the help of another couple, we launched Ella Park Bridal as a pure ecommerce system. Lisa and our 2 daughters are all 10 year members of the local 4H program and as kids earned many awards for sewing and creative projects. After establishing ourselves online, we moved to our present location (about 2800 sq ft) and opened our retail store. We are located in historic downtown Newburgh Indiana and are looking to expand into a new location within the next 12 months.

Tom: What made you choose BridalLive over the other bridal-specific software vendors?

Mike: I liked the ease of use, the constant willingness to add specific features for the bridal business and the program’s small footprint. It is intuitive, easy to understand and fast.

Tom: How long did it take to learn to use BridalLive? How long to train your staff?

Mike: Learning the software was simple because it works like the paper forms you used previously. We were using QuickBooks, which does a decent job, but there were issues with finding a customer, their orders, event date, etc…plus we had to have multiple licenses for each computer. The girls have found BridalLive to be easier to use and training them was simple because the system is intuitive.

Tom: Has BridalLive improved your bridal shops operations? How?

Mike: We are more organized, eliminated the paper contact forms, keep our customer file updated with each “touch” (phone call, email, visit to our store). The online marketing tools will prove to be a winner as we develop them into our marketing programs.

Tom: What is your favorite feature of BridalLive?

Mike: Too many to mention them all, but several include all the “bride” information on the contact center including event information, measurements, items tried on, orders and items purchased…the point of sale is easy to use and now features your own customizable “Terms and Conditions”; inventory look-up is very fast and there are a multitude of ways to find the item; and of course my latest favorite feature…the ability to not only import items but the ability to mass change items. This is an easy way to correct some of the implementation issues we had once we started using the system everyday.

Tom: Would you recommend BridalLive to other bridal shops? Why?

Mike: I would recommend BridalLive to any shop wanting to get a handle on their contacts, orders and inventory. The cost is minimal when compared to other systems…and the best part is you actually respond to questions and issues in a timely, efficient and effective manner. If it had not been for the overwhelming support, I would not have taken a chance on this system.

We want to thank Mike for taking time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts and insights with everyone.