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Online florists crank up mobile for acquisition

Online retailers including 1800Flowers and ProFlowers are leveraging Valentine’s Day to turn one-time flower shoppers into loyal shoppers.

Compared to other verticals, online florists and gift companies are in a unique spot with mobile because of the amount of data and information that must be collected to submit an order. However, there are some new tactics and campaigns that show how online florists are increasingly getting mobile right.

“The flower category and most gift companies have an additional challenge when it comes to mobile,” said Carissa Ganelli, CEO/founder of LightningBuy, Bridgeport, CT.

“They must collect gift recipient information and incorporate delivery calendars that are more challenging from mobile devices,” she said.

“They are more challenging by virtue of the fact that they require additional data entry, clicks and screens to be scrolled than a more typical mobile transaction in which the customer is making the purchase for himself.”

Tracking down mobile users
On top of collecting shipping information and data, online florists have to then tie this information with delivery slots in real-time, which can also be a challenge.

Despite some of the setbacks with entering tedious amounts of information, click-to-call functionality and clean landing pages are two of the ways that online flower retailers are improving the mobile experience.

In fact, 1800Flowers was picked as one of the top retailers in LightningBuy’s recent study with the fewest number of clicks to checkout (see story).

Additionally, Ms. Ganelli cited FTD as a retailer that offers a tab on its mobile site called “Find Flowers Fast” to help consumers locate products quickly by date or geography.

To help 1800Flowers find interested new members, PayPal Media Network segmented out a group of PayPal customers who had not shopped at 1800Flowers yet, but showed that they may be interested in shopping from the online retailer.

These consumers were singled out through algorithms that look at purchasing behavior. This includes information on what other categories consumers shop from and looks at how frequently and recently they use PayPal.

The segment of three million potential customers received a $15 credit in their PayPal accounts, which could be used either via mobile or online. The amount was automatically applied when a consumer used PayPal to checkout from 1800Flowers’ mobile properties or Web site.

An email was sent to the list of consumers explaining that PayPal had deposited the funds into their account. Although mobile-specific redemptions were not broken out, mobile has become the primary way that consumers open and read email, meaning that there were likely a high number of consumers who saw and then used the offer from their smartphones and tablets.

1800Flowers claims that the $15 offer campaign generated a 240 percent return on investment. The email campaign was deployed on Oct. 10 and the offer ran through Nov. 30.

Since then, 1800Flowers has been running different campaigns with the same offer.

For example, PayPal Media Network recently ran a campaign on Facebook’s mobile and Web properties.

Similar to the email component, consumers saw the offer in the news feed, clicked through to a landing page and could then save the offer to be automatically applied when they shopped at 1800Flowers.

1800Flowers is also currently running a similar offer for Google Wallet users that incentivizes users to buy Valentine’s Day gifts using the Google Wallet checkout option on the brand’s mobile properties.

Unlike some of the other online flower retailers, 1800Flowers has been pushing mobile heavily over the past few years.

Last year, an executive speaking at eTail East revealed that the company was using mobile fingerprinting to track cross-screen shoppers (see story).

Additionally, 1800Flowers was rated as one of the top retailers with the quickest mobile checkouts by LightningBuy in November (see story).

“[1800Flowers is] very aggressive with their mobile, digital and social activities,” said Sarah Hodkinson, director of marketing and offers at PayPal Media Network, Boston.

“We’re also going to be promoting next week offers for them via the app and PayPal Twitter handle, so they’re really embracing all forms of digital media and seem very innovative in their willingness to test different things and see what really drives performance for them,” she said.

“As you’re seeing the migration from desktop traffic in terms of online over to mobile, mobile is becoming an increasingly important channel [for the online flower retailers].”

Long-term loyalty
Since flower sales typically only spike a few times a year, online flower retailers are in a unique position to turn one-time buyers into year-long shoppers.

Although there are challenges around ensuring the freshness of products and pushing out quick deliveries, mobile may aid in facilitating some loyalty.

For example, online flower retailers would benefit from using mobile-exclusive deals or rewards to help retain users.

Online fresh flower retailer ProFlowers launched its first iOS application last week to help consumers order flowers quickly while on the go before Valentine’s Day – one of the biggest sales times of the year.

Although the app is the company’s first stab at an iPhone and iPod touch app, there are several features that may be significantly helpful in retaining consumers after the upcoming holiday.

The app includes a curated list of 40 flower and plants for consumers to choose from.

To speed up the checkout process, the app can pull in contact information from a phone’s address book into the shipping field.

There is also a credit card scanning feature that aims to cut down on the number of steps that consumers need to take to make a transaction.

Finally, the app syncs with Facebook to set up notifications around upcoming special occasions and birthdays that remind consumers when it is time to send out a gift.

“Increasing mobile conversion has been an elusive goal for many ecommerce companies, and we believe the problem lies in the poor mobile app experience,” said Brady Cale, chief technology officer of ProFlowers’ parent company Provide Commerce, San Diego.

“With the acquisition of Sincerely late last year, we now have the opportunity to produce a great app that we feel will elevate the mobile commerce experience for our customers,” he said.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York