Roughly 29% of 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. customers in 2014 were 34 or younger, according to Internet Retailer’s Top500Guide.com. That’s despite the retailer selling products—flowers, gifts and gourmet foods—that aren’t the typical types of items millennials buy, says Jim McCann, CEO of 1-800-Flowers, No. 56 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide. That relatively high percentage, he says, reflects the retailer’s marketing department’s longstanding practice of regularly testing ways to attract new customers, particularly younger ones.
The key to 1-800-Flowers’ business, which sold $815 million online in 2014, is its ability to identify changes in the retail landscape and to quickly adapt, McCann says. Over the course of 40 years, that approach has led McCann to transform the business from a lone flower shop in Manhattan to a flower shop chain to a telephone-based merchant to an online retailer.
But throughout the decades no technological change has come quicker than consumers turning to mobile devices to navigate the web and shop, he says. And mobile devices change just about everything. “We constantly have our phones with us,” he says, noting that those phones contain a wealth of information about their owners. If retailers can figure out how to entice consumers to share that information the power is immense, he says.
For example, if 1-800-Flowers can convince a shopper to share his phone’s contacts—or his Facebook contacts—with the brand, it can use that information to make it easier for him to send flowers or other gifts. The retailer can also use Facebook information, such as his friend’s birthdays, to send push notifications to alert him to reach out to his friends.
“It’s all about building a relationship,” he says. “We want to be a brand that people trust that we’ll only use information that’s in the customer’s best interests to help him have a better experience.”
But since 1-800-Flowers customers who shop on mobile devices are younger than other shoppers, the retailer has to be mindful when marketing to them to promote products at lower price points, he says. Take, for instance, the retailer’s Cheryl’s Cookies brand. Cheryls.com sells Cookie Cards, which are themed gift packages that contain a $5 gift card and an iced cookie. The price is $5.99, including delivery.
“We don’t make money on those,” McCann says. “But it’s a tool we use to attract new customers to the brand.”
The retailer doesn’t buy ads to promote the Cookie Cards—McCann says it couldn’t afford to—but the cards help it attract buzz when consumers post about receiving the cards on social media. The $5 gift card leads recipients to visit Cheryls.com and make a purchase that usually exceeds the gift card’s value.
The company takes a similar approach with its 1-800-Flowers brand. Rather than promote $60 bouquets, as it often does to desktop shoppers, its mobile ads focus on convincing shoppers to buy bouquets that cost less than half that price.
“Giving shoppers a lower-priced entry point gets them in the door,” he says. “And it gives us the opportunity to convince them later to trade up.”