CEO Chris McCann talks about why Valentine’s Day falling on a Thursday is good news for the brand, plus 1800Flowers.com’s new digital gift tool and voice commerce.

1-800-Flowers Inc. is preparing for a strong day of online sales for Valentine’s Day.

This year, Feb. 14 lands on a Thursday, which is good news for 1800Flowers.com, says CEO Chris McCann. Compared with last year, when Valentine’s Day fell on a Wednesday, a Thursday holiday gives shoppers an “extra” day to shop, McCann says, as shoppers think about the Valentine’s Day in the context of their work week, he says.

The least favorable day for Valentine’s Day to fall is a Saturday or Sunday, McCann says. Consumers have more options to celebrate on the weekend, whereas during the week, sending flowers to a significant other at work is a common gift, he says.

Valentine’s Day accounts for roughly 5% of 1-800-Flowers’ Inc. annual revenue, generating $1.19 billion in fiscal 2018, which ran from July 2, 2017-July 1, 2018. Within the January-March quarter, 10% of the retailer’s revenue is attributed to flower sales during Valentine’s Day, the retailer says. In addition to 1800Flowers.com, the brands Harry and David, Cheryl’s Cookies, The Popcorn Factory, Simply Chocolate, plus others, also fall under 1-800-Flowers Inc.’s umbrella.

McCann expects Feb. 12 and 13 to be the busiest volume days of sales, based on historical sales data. In a recent survey, 27% of shoppers said they would go online to buy a Valentine’s Day gift, according to the National Retail Federation’s survey of  7,384 adults in January.

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1-800-Flowers rolls out new tools

New this year for Valentine’s Day shoppers is 1800Flowers.com’s “Quick Meets Easy” navigation tool and its “SmartGift” tool.

The SmartGift tool allows shoppers to purchase a gift from 1800Flowers.com, and then the recipient receives a message via email or text that the gifter sent her something. The recipient can then view the item the gifter selected. She can then decide whether to select something else, as well as where and when to have it delivered. This ensures the recipient likes the gift she receives and it arrives when it is convenient to her. The tool is good for last-minute shoppers, McCann says, as the recipient knows she received a gift on the holiday, even if it is not delivered until later. The tool is similar to the Gift Now feature, which several retailers deployed over the holiday season.

On the Quick Meets Easy landing page, shoppers answer three questions about their relationship and then 1800Flowers.com suggests a product to give to their significant other based on those responses.

The tool is meant for easy gift finding and is not meant to be a digital assistant. Two years ago, 1800Flowers.com rolled out a digital assistant called Gwyn (gifts when you need). Shoppers could ask Gwyn—which used artificial intelligence—for product recommendations. The retailer realized it launched Gwyn too early; it needed more research and development, McCann says. For example, when the retailer first debuted the tool, Gwyn was focused on sales. The retailer discovered, however, that many shoppers wanted help modifying their order, and Gwyn needed to be more robust so she could be a fully automated assistant. The retailer also discovered that it needed to do more “database work,” McCann says, or ensuring that products in its database were tagged with correct keywords that Gwyn could use. For example, making sure the correct sentiment keywords are attached to bouquet, such as a sympathy bouquet or friendship. 1800Flowers.com may bring Gwyn back when she is further developed, McCann says.

McCann also discussed 1-800-Flowers’ push into voice commerce, which the retailer has been investing in since 2016 with its voice-enabled Amazon.com Inc. Alexa skill. Since then, 1800Flowers.com has deployed voice-enabled capabilities on other smart devices, including the Google Assistant on Android smartphones and the Google Home smart speaker, Apple Inc.’s business chat on the iPhone and the Samsung digital assistant Bixby in 2018.

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Shoppers are getting comfortable with ordering via their voice, McCann says. While it is still very early days, based on consumer use of it so far, the retailer is going to continue expanding and enhancing its conversational commerce investments, McCann says.

Within the last year, 1-800-Flowers also launched a new mobile website in April 2018 using progressive web app technology. This allows the mobile site to load extremely fast by having certain elements of the site—such as the header and basic template—pre-cached and not have to reload when shoppers navigate page to page.

The retailer also reported its earnings last week. 1-800-Flowers Inc.’s total revenue for its fiscal 2019 second quarter for the three months ended Dec. 30, 2018 was up 8.6%, reaching $571.3 million, up from $526.1 million in the comparable period last year.

1-800-Flowers Inc. is No. 66 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 500.

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