If customers don’t use it frequently “we’re not staying on your phone,” says president Chris McCann.

1-800-Flowers.com Inc., a retailer that began with a single florist shop, added a toll-free number to its name in the 1980s and started selling online on CompuServe in 1991 is preparing for its “fourth wave” of retailing in the era of social networks and mobile commerce, says president Chris McCann.

“Change is not a choice, it’s about survival,” McCann said in a keynote address last week at the 2015 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

One innovation underway is a new mobile app that will better tailor offers to each individual consumer, McCann told Internet Retailer in an interview after his speech.

For example, the app will incorporate a reminder program that’s built into 1800Flowers.com: a consumer can list dates, such as birthdays and anniversaries, that he wants to be reminded about and the e-retailer sends him an email in advance of those events. It will also build on information provided by members of the company’s Passport program that offers free shipping for a year for $29.99.

“We’re trying to figure out what you have told us about you and how you interact with us and we’ll try to give that to you through the app,” McCann says. He says the new app will be released in 60-90 days.


For a retail app to be successful, McCann says, a consumer must use it often. And 1-800-Flowers.com is hoping it can stimulate frequent purchases as a result of its acquisitions in recent years of several related gifting companies—among them gift basket retailer Harry & David, The Popcorn Factory, chocolate brand Fannie May and baked goods retailer Cheryl & Co. To make it easier for a customer familiar with one brand to buy from another, 1800Flowers.com now features tabs for six of the company’s brands, and a single shopping cart a consumer can use to buy from all six with a single checkout.

The added brands contributed to a more than 51% increase in online sales for 1-800-Flowers.com in 2014 over the prior year, to $815 million, according to Internet Retailer’s 2015 Top 500 Guide. 1-800-Flowers.com is No. 56 in the Top 500.

Expanding beyond flowers is essential to drive a consumer to buy frequently—and that frequency is essential to a successful mobile app, McCann says. “If it’s just a florist app, the average floral customer buys one to three times a year,” McCann says. “That’s why we’ve expanded into gourmet. If you’re only buying from us one to three times a year, we’re not staying on your phone.”

A study last year from The Nielsen Company backs up McCann’s contention that consumers are not using many more mobile apps, even though they are spending much more time using apps each month.  The studied showed that consumers were spending 65% more time with mobile apps in the third quarter of 2013 than they had two years earlier, but the number of apps they use each month was growing much more slowly, from 23.2 in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 26.5 a year later and 26.8 in the Q4 2013.