To some in floral retail, the online space is a great opportunity, a great unknown, or both. Whether you are in e-commerce reluctantly or enthusiastically, you want your online offering to complement your existing business and maintain the standards of quality you have worked so hard to establish.
Tips for ensuring complete customer satisfaction with your e-commerce operation.
Today, you have choices in vendors and delivery methods – new players that have come along to challenge the flower chain in terms of selection and price.
Quality, however, is a major consumer concern, and delivering quality is something that the flower chain has learned to do pretty well. Any new system that aims to compete against it should expect to meet – or beat – the standards the flower chain has set in the following areas.
1. Maintain the Cold Chain. Shipping companies with famous names usually do a good job, but they cannot guarantee that flowers travel under optimum temperature conditions. Choose a fulfillment center that guarantees consistent-quality flowers that are carefully selected and treated according to postharvest protocols: flowers that have been packed cold, kept cold and protected from temperature fluctuations during shipment.
2. An Ounce of Prevention. Two known killers that often stow away in flower shipments are Botrytis (gray mold, a fungal disease) and ethylene (a hydrocarbon gas that causes cut flowers to age more quickly). Fortunately, there are tools, methods and treatments to help thwart these villains. Make sure your growers and fulfillment centers know them and use them.
3. Take a Sip, Take a Dip. Proper hydration before and after the journey is key to cut flower quality. Ensure your supplier gives flowers a good drink (with a commercial hydration solution) before shipping and that customers hydrate again upon receipt with the right flower food. Speaking of consumer education ….
4. Knowledge Is Power. Educate consumers about the varieties they order (some varieties of the same flower types naturally last longer than others) and about cut flower care and handling in general. Cleaning, feeding and hydration issues, as well as the cautions about flower placement in the home, may not be common knowledge to some consumers.
5. Give People What They Want. Substitutions are a common complaint about the online flower experience. Choose suppliers that provide the flowers they promise on their websites, and provide responsive customer service when they can’t meet that commitment. This may mean limiting flower selection to more readily available varieties – and ones that can withstand the rigors of an e-commerce environment.
6. Grab Your Partner. Find an industry partner to help you validate your processes. How easy is the ordering experience? Does your platform work properly? What are the most popular and profitable varieties? Is your delivery timely? Do consumers get what they want, and are they satisfied? If not, what changes should you make? A partner invested in your success can help provide these answers.
CARE AND HANDLING PROTOCOLS: PART OF ANY SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS MODEL
You may be a floral retailer wading cautiously into an e-commerce program. You may be a floral retailer wondering why your existing e-commerce program is underperforming. In either case, our advice is the same: Mind cut flower care-and-handling protocols, and make sure that your fulfillment team also minds them. Fresh, vibrant, long-lasting products are your best insurance policy against customer complaints.
Steve Daum, director of Superflor Technologies at Floralife, a division of Smithers-Oasis Company, has worked in floral production and cut flower postharvest care and handling for nearly 30 years. He worked as a grower in Latin America and managed the quality control department for Eagle Condor Farm in Ecuador. Steve also has conducted many seminars on care and handling in both the United States and internationally. In 2002, he was named PMA’s “Marketer of the Year.”