Coco Wedding Venues’ founder Emma Hla shares invaluable insights from her platform’s venue search data and advises on hoåw to market this winter.
We at Coco Wedding Venues know it’s been a hard few months for our beloved sector and, whilst we continue to weather the storm, we want you to know we’re here to offer any advice or support during this time.
I thought I’d touch upon the venue search right now, what couples are looking for, how the government’s recent Covid update is affecting enquiries and some considerations to maximise your marketing as we head into autumn/winter.
After the initial crisis and first wave of postponements across March and April, summer brought with it a welcome momentum in planning, enquiries and renewed hope. Especially as small, intimate weddings started again. For our platform, across June, July and August, we saw increases of +28% on users in comparison to last year.
Whilst September is usually a peak engagement month (couples tend to start their planning after a summer engagement!) it’s certainly been a challenge this year as we’ve seen the ultimate ‘back-to-school’ with children and adults alike returning to their normal everyday routines.
Now, just a few weeks later, the government updates and lockdown 2.0 has once again put a pause on life and this will certainly have knocked confidence amongst newly-engaged couples and those with weddings in early 2021.
As our platform is focused on wedding venues, we feel our insights are a very fair reflection of the general buying mood for couples venue searching right now. So, as we head further into winter we expect this short lull in enquiries to continue and a pause in couples moving forward with bookings. But as we’ve seen before, confidence will return.
What are couples searching for?
We’ve reviewed our analytics for the last two months and we thought it might be useful to share what our couples are currently searching for. I’ll break this down into venue types, capacity, style and features.
In terms of number of searches, the biggest venue type search right now is for Elopement Specialist venues, which is up +96% on last year. This is followed by:
For other venue types outside the top five there have been significant increases also for:
•Festival Wedding +3,933%
•Outdoor Ceremonies +840%
•Town Hall +724%
Four of those venue types are outdoor related searches so couples are certainly being swayed by the idea that being outdoors is best – with space, fresh air and festival vibes being big news.
The searches for town hall and bar/restaurant go hand-in-hand and we feel this reflects the immediate desire to get married or the changing of plans to fit within the current guidelines – small, simple and relaxed.
Intimate (20-40 guests) is our biggest capacity search right now, followed by Elopement (2-20 guests). Grand (150-300 guests) is the third highest search, so couples looking forward are still thinking big and I think this reflects a shift in focus as we enter the latter part of the year.
Based on the enquiries in the last 30 days, 92% of the couples currently on our platform are looking to book their wedding in 2021 or later, with 66% (two out of three couples) specifically enquiring about 2022 and beyond.
The Grand capacity option dropped dramatically during the height of lockdown and I think with eyes on 2022 couples aren’t considering restrictions in their planning.
Boho, Coastal and Rustic are the top three style categories, with City seeing the biggest increase on the peak pandemic period.
But if we compare the performance of the style categories to last year, then big increases can be seen across The Luxe Edit (+767%), Destination (+233%) and Classic Elegance (+190%).
With our Venue Finder, couples can really narrow down their search and we offer a wide range of venue features for them to choose from. The top five most desired features currently are:
*Allows External Caterers
I hope these insights will be useful in your planning and allow you to review your own marketing, imagery and story-telling to ensure you’re speaking to couples searching right now.
This is of course just a snapshot of our audience, so if you are listed with other third-party platforms, perhaps ask what their current top searches are so that you can tailor each listing to specific audiences.
Moving Towards Christmas
We need to talk about Christmas. I’m so sorry for mentioning the c-word, if you’re feeling anything like me then you’re not quite ready to accept Christmas is lurking around the corner.
But… it’s almost here and now is definitely the time to start thinking about additional marketing or support you might need from your third-party platforms over the festive season. I’m hoping we’re in for a bumper engagement season, because let’s face it we need to end this year on a high! And nothing screams celebration more than your favourite person asking you to spend forever with them.
So, here are six simple tips to help prepare your third-party listings for peak engagement season:
1.Review your details and ensure all the basics are up to date (website and email addresses/telephone numbers) especially if you’ve furloughed employees or teams have changed.
2.Maximise elements on your listings such as virtual tours, gallery and film options, late availability or exclusive offers and event diary listings for your open days. Review what elements are included in your memberships and maximise your ROI.
3.Ensure you have plenty of current testimonials for couples to read – include any recent Covid weddings to show you’re open, active and taking bookings and couples are thrilled with your service and their big-small day.
4.Add communications that have been created in response to coronavirus – this could be ceremony-only or micro wedding packages, flexible booking and payment options for couples to confirm your venue with confidence or a Covid-secure statement.
5.Book in boosts or content with your marketing channels now – especially for the key three month period of December, January and February.
6.Finally, build your photography bank – go through any previous 2019/20 weddings where you haven’t yet received images and reach out to the relevant photographer asking if they’re happy to share images with you for marketing purposes. We suggest politely reaching out to the couple for their consent too, however it is the photographer who holds the copyright. Ensure your crediting procedure is thorough so they know you will be sharing their work and crediting them correctly in the process.
All of the above is focused on maximising your third-party marketing platforms, but directories and venue finders can only do so much – we’re traffic generators and the moment that lead leaves our world and enters yours it’s up to you as the venue to convert.
There are so many things that can happen after that point that could turn a couple off – poor imagery, a slow website, call-to-actions not clear enough. So, alongside the above, take some time to review your own marketing touch points in-house, ensuring the funnel that leads are being fed into (websites/social media feeds) are looking focused, current and visually strong.
The above will help you to focus on future business, future bookings and future success.
Brides and grooms haven’t stopped wedding planning, and when couples feel they can move forward once again with their buying decisions (as they did in the summer), they will already know who they want to get in touch with, who they want to view and who they found comfort in during this critical time.
We want that who to be you.
About the Author
Emma Hla is the founder of Coco Wedding Venues, the UK’s original style-focused wedding venue directory and an award-winning blog. Since 2013 Emma and her team have been stripping back the noise and overwhelm in those first steps of planning and beyond for discerning couples with an eye for style.
Coco Wedding Venues’ focus is on quality rather than quantity and couples trust its knack for finding the most beautiful and unique places to get married – each chosen for their warmth, heart, stories, and individuality. www.cocoweddingvenues.co.uk