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GUEST COMMENT The war of the roses: How direct-ecommerce is driving a shift in online floristry

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A wave of online florists’ business models founded on pure ecommerce are shaking up the market for flower retail online, and making life uncomfortable for the established online florists, which have dominated since the .com boom.


SerenataFlowers.com is one such business which is leading this shift and reaping the rewards of doing so. It is now fifth in the world for online floristry and the UK’s leading online florist.

 

Since the business moved online in 2004 its unique distribution model has lured online shoppers away from more traditional online florists that operate less like ecommerce businesses and more like agents or brokers.

 

Unlike traditional ‘relay’ model organisations which pass the floral arrangement and delivery onto local florists to fulfil, SerenataFlowers.com handles orders from start to finish, cutting out the middlemen and passing the savings onto customers.

 

It was one of the first in the industry to employ a true ecommerce model, despatching flowers directly to online consumers from its UK-based flower emporium. Daily deliveries of the freshest stems are transformed into quality bouquets by the florist’s own floral artists before being courier delivered from emporium to door.

 

The business is forecasting excellent growth over the next few years and credits its current success and predicted growth to this more agile, responsive, direct-commerce business model.

 

Research suggests that this direct-to-consumer section of the market has experienced rapid growth over the last 10 years while the traditional online florists which use the florist-to-florist relay business model are being left behind.

 

The report The Business of Flowers by SerenataFlowers.com suggests the reasons behind this are simple enough – direct-ecommerce models are better equipped to meet changing consumer demand and convenience is the key. As with all consumer goods, the public wants their purchases delivered faster, with later order cut-off times, at better value and with more choice. In an already saturated floristry market, those who want to survive need to tick as many of those boxes as possible or face inevitable demise - and ecommerce businesses based on direct to consumer models are currently winning out, as they offer the most cost-effective and practical solution to this.

 

Research shows that modern flower buyers most notably prioritise the very strengths of these direct-commerce businesses - convenience (34%), quality (33%) and value for money (30%) - above all else in the decision-making process.

 

Superior quality and value are winning the war of the roses

 

By sourcing flowers daily from carefully selected growers and auctions around the globe, SerenataFlowers.com are able to quality control their products, ensuring only the freshest blooms are dispatched directly from their UK-based flower emporium to consumers.

 

This means that unlike local florist fulfilment they very rarely need to substitute buds or varieties advertised on the website due to lack of stock or aged produce.

 

Delivering superior quality is vital, as 40% of consumers purchasing flowers online expect the bouquet to arrive looking as it did on the website.

 

Distributing bouquets direct from flower emporium to consumer provides the organisation with a very lean cost structure, making savings for both the business and the consumer.

 

This is another crucial factor feeding into purchase consideration as 30% of customers factor value into their final decision and 41% of generation Z value this above all else when making their purchasing decision. These daily deliveries also provide the customer with a speedy service where traditional relay business models cannot.

 

It is benefits such as these which are earning these types of businesses market share from an emerging generation of flower buyers.

 

The growth of these types of organisations is not just down to consumers waking up to the benefits they offer - they are also becoming aware of the failings of websites based on more traditional relay models, according to the data. Shoppers want speedy delivery (27%), great value for their money (30X%) and bouquets that arrive looking exactly as pictured on the website (40%) – aspects which the older relay business model struggles to compete with.

 

How technology is helping direct commerce gain the advantage

 

Providing all the necessary updates on the status of an order via email and sms service is a big part of how the business ensures customer satisfaction. An online self-service centre which allows customers to resolve their own issues such as requesting a re-delivery or refund helps the customer to feel looked after even after the purchase is complete. Using trusted review sites such as Feefo and Trustpilot enable the business to monitor customer responses to their ranges and rethink or remove any products that aren’t performing well.

 

Targeted social media and marketing ads are another great way that SerenataFlowers.com directs consumers back to the website, and further analysis of this customer behaviour then gives insight into which products are performing best. In this way, the company is able to feed the best products to its customers and potential market-base, targeting them with only relevant products to avoid appearing spammy.

 

The Business of Flowers report also highlights the importance of a website being easy to use (37%). Serenata Flowers’ website is its online shop window, and so just like a brick and mortar store it needs to be tidy, organised and showcase the hottest new flowers to entice shoppers to delve deeper and spend, spend, spend. The website has been praised by customers for its user-friendly interface and easy navigation that makes shopping enjoyable and simple.

 

What’s next?

 

With Brexit just around the corner and the continued weakening of the pound consumers are going to be tightening the purse strings, therefore, the floristry industry needs to find ways to keep flower buying in the picture. The Business of Flowers report proves that making savings on purchases, however marginal, is going to be more important to the customer than ever, therefore, this needs to be implemented as a key sales tactic in the coming years, and not just within floristry - across all industries.

 

Whilst a number of mainstream florists will likely struggle with the implications Brexit will have on trade and business, direct ecommerce businesses are in a stronger position to outlive relay model platforms and traditional bricks and mortar organisations, due to the savings the direct-to-consumer ecommerce model generates for both the business and customer.

 

Satisfying the needs of emerging generations of consumers will be key for online retail in the years to come, as these consumers prove to be investing more in online spend. Research has found this age demographic to be the most price-conscious, prioritising this more and more in their purchasing decisions.

 

Survival tactics

Over the coming years looking after the customer through convenience, quality and value will continue to be the most important objective across all sectors and industries within retail.

 

Those companies relying on fulfilment would do well to re-evaluate their business model as potential years of uncertainty knock. Operating a cost-effective business model is going to be more important than ever. Cutting out the middleman where possible to streamline costs and, crucially, pass on savings to customers to keep them on a side with great value for money is going to be essential, even more so when targeting Generations Y and Z.

 

With 37% of consumers valuing a user-friendly interface, keeping websites clean and easy to navigate is also going to play a big part in avoiding a poor bounce rate and keeping shoppers active right through to purchase. Customer data analysis also needs to happen on a regular basis to stay relevant and feed consumers what they want to see.

 

Where suppliers are necessary, safeguarding the supply chain to ensure quality and sustainability is also strongly recommended to ward off any unwelcome surprises as the Government continues trade negotiations.


Author: Martin Johansson, managing director of SerenataFlowers.com

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