“Valentine’s is very much a last-minute holiday,” says 1-800-Flowers.com Inc.’s CEO Christopher McCann.
There are a few shoppers who plan ahead at the end of January for the Feb. 14 holiday, McCann says. However, the peak shopping day for flower retailer 1-800-Flowers is typically the Monday before Valentine’s Day, McCann says. This year, that’s Monday, Feb. 12, and McCann expects that day and Tuesday, Feb. 13, will both be the high sales days for this flower-gifting holiday.
Because the retailer works with florists and local artisans, 1800Flowers.com can take orders in the morning on Feb. 14 for same-day delivery, McCann says. In fact, last year during the Valentine’s Day season, traffic to 1800Flowers.com peaked on Feb. 14, according to SimilarWeb data.
Once the calendar flips to Feb. 1, sales begin to increase for 1-800-Flowers, McCann says. This year, it also experienced an bump in sales on Feb. 5, a Monday, McCann says. Traffic this year has followed this pattern as well, according to web measurement firm SimilarWeb.
Overall, Valentine’s Day is 1-800-Flowers.com’s second-largest floral holiday for sales behind Mother’s Day. Valentine’s Day accounts for roughly 9-10% of annual floral sales at 1-800-Flowers.com, and Mother’s Day roughly 12-14%, McCann says.
Because the retailer wants to be the go-to site for gifts throughout the year, it does not increase its flower prices to take advantage of procrastinators, McCann says. 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. also owns several other gift-related brands such as Harry and David, Cheryl’s Cookies, Simply Chocolate and 1800Baskets.com.
While the retailer is concerned about the life-time value of shoppers, Valentine’s Day also is a good holiday to acquire new shoppers, McCann says.
“We get a good percent of younger people getting into the mode of forming relationships,” McCann says. “Valentine’s Day is an important time of year to really express feeling to each other. For us it’s a very good opportunity to get that customer.”
This year, the retailer is trying to highlight its products that follow current trends, McCann says. An example of this is the rose-of-the-month club, which correlates with the current boom in in subscription retailing, as well as its farm-fresh flowers to capitalize on consumers who care about sustainability.
The retailer also is featuring flowers that are an ultra violet color, which is a trendy color this year, McCann says, as well as the classic Valentine’s Day flower, roses.
Also new for this Valentine’s Day is a self-serve customer service center. If a shopper wants to change a card message or the address of the flower delivery after he made the order, he can go to a spot on the website to make these changes instead of using the interactive customer service methods, such as calling in or on-site chat.
On the tech side, the retailer is continually updating and highlighting its conversational commerce capabilities, such as its Amazon.com Inc. voice-assistant Alexa skill, its Facebook Messenger Bot, as well as its artificial intelligence-powered gift concierge Gwyn. Gwyn is an on-site chat bot that can make product recommendations based on what a shopper says she needs. The bot learns over time based on previous interactions with shoppers.
Consumers are increasingly using the conversational commerce techniques; however, they are not at point of “moving the needle” on sales, McCann says.
Shoppers typically have five to six questions when they interact with Gwyn and spend a little bit more than two minutes with the tech-based concierge before going into the shopping cart, McCann says. The retailer recently updated Gwyn so shoppers can checkout right in the chat box with her instead of going through the normal checkout flow.
While it’s difficult to measure how much of an impact Gwyn makes on sales, McCann assumes the bot has a positive impact on conversion.
The retailer also updated its Alexa skill that allows shoppers to ask their Alexa-enabled hardware devices “Alexa, I’d like to send 1-800-Flowers for Valentine’s Day,” in one sentence. Previously, a shopper would have to first tell Alexa she wanted to send a gift from 1-800-Flowers, and then Alexa would ask her for what occasion, McCann says.
The retailer can do this now because Amazon updated the software’s voice recognition capability, and 1-800-Flowers updated its skill to take advantage of the new feature, McCann says.
Shoppers have used the Alexa feature to buy flowers, says McCann, who declined to reveal specifics. “It’s growing nicely for us, but not at a point of scale to have significant impact,” he says.
More shoppers will use the feature as consumers buy and use more voice-activated devices, such as the Amazon Echo, Apple Inc.’s Siri and the “OK, Google” assistant, McCann says. Based on the use the retailer is seeing, McCann is convinced voice commerce will take off.
According to an Internet Retailer survey of 1,011 online shoppers conducted by Toluna, 27.1% of consumers own a smart speaker such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home, and of that group, 44.2%, have used their devices to make an online purchase.
1-800-Flowers is No. 59 in the Internet Retailer Top 1000.