A $400 dress for $40 delivered right to your door? The ability to choose the latest styles from 115 brands? Sounds too good to be true! No wonder the UK has fallen in love with Girl Meets Dress. We were lucky enough to have the company’s co-founder, Anna Bance, share her inspirational story at our recent City Tour event in London. And what a story it was!
For those of you who don’t know the company, Girl Meets Dress is a luxury rental service that provides designer dresses to women all over the UK and Europe. Customers can choose from a host of the season’s latest dresses by an array of beloved designers. No matter how elegant or casual the occasion, the site offers a variety of options to help you find just the right piece.
Anna was very modest when introducing her brilliant business to the City Tour audience. “We basically run a normal ecommerce site. The way you rent a dress is the same way you order anything else online. We have over 4,000 dresses to choose from, but you can rent them for roughly 90% less than the price to purchase them.”
How It All Began
It was fascinating to hear Anna talk about how she founded the business: “When we launched in 2009, there was nothing else quite like Girl Meets Dress. Rental was nothing new. People could rent dresses on the high street. But they weren’t current season and the service wasn’t online.”
Due to its roaring success, the team had to quickly learn how to make the site work best for its customers. “We didn’t have a long lead up to launch. Girl Meets Dress was really just an idea, and we honestly didn’t know whether the business would work out or not. We didn’t even know what dresses women wanted or how far in advance they’d want to book them. However, as customers started to order the dresses, we started to learn what they wanted.”
Since launch, the team has paid careful attention to learning more about their diverse customer base. “Our customers range from 12-year-olds attending their first dance to students hiring their university ball outfit to a woman who was looking for a gown for her first ever ball at the age of 71.”
Understanding the Customer
Intuition and insight have helped Anna learn how best to engage customers. From the outset, Anna was determined that Girl Meets Dress would be available beyond the UK’s major cities – it needed to reach every corner of the country. This was a significant undertaking, but an important one. Anna knew how much customers without easy access to the high street would benefit from the service.
Additionally, Anna said it has been critical to learn the lifecycle of their various customers to know just when to reach out to them. Some women use the service every month, some once a year. The best thing Anna has learned from studying her customers is that they very rarely rent a dress from Girl Meets Dress only once. They almost always become repeat customers in some form or fashion.
Anna couldn’t highlight enough just how important personalization and an open conversation with customers is for success. Chat services are proving a particularly popular way for customers to engage with the brand, but more traditional means of communication, such as email and phone, are still widely used amongst their customer base.
As a pioneer in online luxury dress rental, Anna knew it was important to help mitigate any fears customers might have about using such a service. “The return policy was crucial to our success. Many customers assume that their money is gone once they have rented the dress, even if it’s not right. We have worked hard to reassure customers that if the dress doesn’t fit, they can return it completely free of charge.”
Keeping Up With the Changing Times
One can’t help but be impressed by the series of clever initiatives Girl Meets Dress has created to engage their customer base. For example, the company recognized the desire of many customers to see the dresses in person, so it partnered with Uber, paying up to £20 of a customer’s fare to travel to the Girl Meets Dress warehouse to do so. And to be available to customers who unexpectedly find themselves away from home without the right outfit, it recently partnered with W Hotels to offer free dresses to guests staying in their suites.
Girl Meets Dress also keeps a close eye on the social calendar across the UK, identifying major events its customers might need a dress for, such as June’s Royal Ascot. And it follows the latest trends to make sure the dresses in stock meet demand. With all the hype surrounding The Great Gatsby, Girl Meets Dress broadened its reach to offer a vintage dress rental service.
The company’s impressive inventory leaves many wondering how designers feel about women renting their dresses via Girl Meets Dress rather than paying full price to buy them outright. Even Anna herself admitted she was anxious about how brands would react. As it turns out, they love the concept and see it as another acquisition channel. “They see that we can introduce girls of all ages to their brand. If someone has never bought from a particular brand but has a positive experience with it via Girl Meets Dress, they won’t feel intimidated to venture into the shop the next time they are on Bond Street.”
As if all Anna has achieved to date isn’t exciting enough, she’s already working toward the next steps in the Girl Meets Dress’s success story. The current plan? Further expansion into Europe and perhaps even a rental service for men. We can’t wait to see where they go from here!