“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” – Luther Burbank
Name: Jade Ferguson
Job Title/role: Public Relations and Marketing Manager
Favourite flower: Tuberose
What was this Valentine’s Day like for Flowerlovers?
This year Flowerlovers had the most successful Valentine’s Day on record; sales were up 25 per cent on last year, which for us indicates significant growth. I think a large portion of this growth can be attributed to our online presence. In the past 12 months, we have (with the help of Sheen Media) created a website featuring an online store. The integration of this store into our existing social media page on Facebook has ensured that we have constant contact and sales opportunities with our loyal customer base.
How has the online store been received by customers?
As with any new website, it has taken a while for our customers to embrace making their purchases online, but sales have steadily increased since our websites launch in 2013. Providing our customers with the opportunity to order flowers online certainly worked for us ahead of Valentine’s Day. Not only did we receive the largest number of delivery orders we have ever taken, but the online pre-ordering process ensured that, logistically, we were able to manage our workflow in a much more efficient way on one of the busiest days of the year.
Did you learn anything new about selling online that you hadn’t anticipated?
We’ve certainly learnt a thing or two about online sales since our launch; customers buying online are generally seeking a very quick and streamlined process and this often means that they can miss detail in the ordering. We receive a lot of orders that are missing important delivery information, even recipients names are left out on a regular basis. I don’t think it has hindered the process though as I often make follow up phone calls to our online customers to get more detail from them, or ensure that the information provided is accurate. In many ways, I think the customer appreciates the contact because we all know the fear of clicking a few buttons and spending our hard earned money on something and then praying that it arrives on time or looks like the photos. I think the human contact and customer service side of online sales is a really important part of the entire process still, it gives the customer confidence in our product and services and establishes a basis for repeat purchases.
How has the online store helped Flowerlovers?
The online store has done more than just add to our sales growth; having a website in general means that there is an additional provision of information to our customers that wouldn’t normally be as readily available. Don’t ever discount the value of a website providing your business hours, important phone numbers, and directions to your business and parking details—these minor details are incredibly important in capturing a new customer base. Further, our website is an opportunity to showcase our latest work and communicate with our customers through a contact form and all of these tools are invaluable in building brand confidence and repeat business.
How did social media play a part in your success this Valentine’s Day?
Without question, social media has played a massive role in Flowerlovers continued success over the past two years. I think any business MUST have a social media presence, even if only on one medium. Flowerlovers focuses mainly on our Facebook page (though we have Instagram and Google Plus accounts). By having a presence on Facebook, Flowerlovers gets to establish a brand “voice” and build an engaging community with our followers and likers. It allows our customers to communicate with us, indicate their likes and dislikes and it offers us free feedback on everything that we do.
Being able to “advance” communicate our product lines and prices for Valentine’s Day through Facebook certainly led to an increase in pre-ordering flowers for special occasions such as this. I can’t stress the importance of establishing a social media presence more to any small business. It becomes your database and “launching pad” for new products, exciting business news and information. If Flowerlovers hadn’t had an already established following on social media, it would have been extremely hard to launch a website and online store without an audience of already loyal customers. We definitely attribute the steady growth of Flowerlovers online sales to the direct relationship between having an online store and broadcasting this information and integrating it with, our social media outlets.
What reasons were customers using social media for when they connected with Flowerlovers?
I think, initially, our customers were just interested in seeing pretty photos of flowers and in many ways, I think they still are! There is nothing nicer to ’share’ than a crisp image of beautiful blooms. But as time has gone on, it’s become clear that customers wanted to be able to engage with the business in a more meaningful way. We receive on average, about 100 enquiries per month through our Facebook page alone (both private messages and timeline questions or comments). Social media also provides our customers with a platform for feedback, a place to purchase our product and a place to share their own creations and images of flowers. We are constantly surprised at how interactive our customers can be with our page.
How do you manage enquiries through social media, especially when there is increased activity, such as around Valentine’s Day?
The enquiries through both our social media outlets and our website become particularly demanding at our busiest times of the year (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day) and it can be hard to keep up—I think that sometimes the customer forgets there is just one human being sitting on the other side of the computer screen (often the same human being who is dealing with the phone ringing and the walk-in customers among other things). This year we created a ’Valentine’s Day Collection’ for our online store and the link to this page alone was a God-send this year. A large amount of enquiries were from those that haven’t clicked far enough to get the answers to the questions they are asking. Other enquiries were about prices, product and delivery… all of which is available on our website, so we just needed to link our customers through to these pages.
Generally, I check our social media first thing in the morning and again in the afternoon. I try to respond instantly to any enquiries. It can bevery hard to keep up with ’ongoing’ communication in Facebook private messages, so when I can identify that a customer needs more attention or engagement, I will ask for a phone number or continue the conversation over email.
Is there anything you might try next year to make Valentine’s Day an even better experience for flowerlovers and their customers?
I think anyone that visited Flowerlovers this Valentine’s Day would vouch for the fact that we really worked hard to provide an exceptional all-round experience. From an ability to pre-order online, over the phone and in store right through to the atmosphere in the shop on the day (we had a very exciting mall-way with live music from local musician Dave Power and a Coffee Cart onsite), the team at Flowerlovers always work hard to engage our customers in a unique and enduring way.
Next year we will do what we did this year, but with more pizzazz, more customers and, of course, more flowers!