The latest technology can help tailor your business to customers’ needs.
by Monica Humbard
When the Internet was in its infancy, skeptics considered its use for business “cold” and “impersonal” because one-on-one contact was eliminated. They questioned how retailers could develop and maintain relationships with customers without that personal contact.
But, as Stan Pohmer, floriculture industry consultant and executive director of the Flower Promotion Organization, reminds, the Internet turned out to have the opposite effect. It takes retailers right into their customers’ homes and offices, allowing them to monitor and track their online purchases. Through e-mail, retailers can stay in constant contact with their customers.
Just as forward-thinking companies embraced the Internet, businesses today must stay on top of trends in technology and look ahead to new possibilities to stay competitive. Mr. Pohmer points out that while some uses of the latest technology may not immediately look feasible for your company, you have to plan for the future.
For example, 1-800-Flowers.com recently started a virtual flower shop allowing customers to handle their floral transactions on their Blackberry devices. “I don’t know that this is doable right now for the average supermarket chain, but you have to look to the future,” Mr. Pohmer says. “As you build [information technology] capabilities, you have to start planning for this. We have to leverage technology to our benefit.”
Here are some ways Mr. Pohmer suggests using technology to personalize the shopping experience for your customers.
LOYALTY PROGRAMS Many supermarket chains have loyalty programs in place. Go beyond just offering shoppers coupons for items they already purchase, and suggest related items based on their buying history. If shoppers have a history of purchasing candy and greeting cards, send them coupons for flower or balloon bouquets.
NEWSLETTERS Instead of designing a single newsletter that goes out on a regular basis to customers, set up a program to personalize each newsletter based on the actual purchases of individual shoppers. You can set this up in conjunction with your loyalty program.
-MAIL FOLLOW-UP When a customer places a delivery order, ask for his or her e-mail address, and note the date of the occasion for which the order is sent. When the arrangement is ready, take a digital photo of it, and e-mail it to the client as an added service. The following year, send another e-mail with the same photo reminding the client of the occasion and what he or she sent the previous year. And then suggest a different gift for the present year. Also, capture the physical—and e-mail, if possible—address of the recipient, and start marketing to him or her directly.
GPS SYSTEMS A Global Positioning System (GPS) can save you both time and money on delivery services. Take it a step further by purchasing an off-the-shelf route optimization software program. You plug in your deliveries, and the program automatically designs the most efficient route. To save time, you can ask it to eliminate left turns so drivers are not sitting at red lights more than necessary. When routes are plotted, upload them into your delivery vehicle’s GPS system.
PHONE SYSTEMS Programs are available that enable you to set up phone numbers to ring to certain locations, so callers are transported to wherever you are. Some programs allow you to program in up to 12 phone numbers.
When you leave a location, you can remove the number from the system. This can prevent customers from getting a recorded message and you from being tied to a location while waiting for a phone call. If a caller does have to leave a voice mail, some of these programs will send it to the Internet, where you can retrieve a link to the voice message. Floral directors who oversee more than one store or bridal consultants whose clients need to access them easily will find this useful.
WEB SITES Set up your Web site to track the purchasing history of online customers. Use that information to suggest add-on sales to online shoppers based on the buying history of other customers who purchased the same items. This shopper-history system hasn’t been applied to floral yet but has worked well for other online retailers. For example, in the home interior industry, if a shopper buys a particular bed-linen set, a retailer’s Web site automatically suggests purchasing a certain set of pillow cases, based on the purchasing trends of other customers who have purchased the same linen set.
Reach Contributing Editor Monica Humbard at (800) 355-8086.
|| update on the gtin pilot study
The Floral Logistics Coalition has completed its pilot study of implementing an industry standard protocol for cut-flower identification. The study, begun in summer 2007, included more than 20 companies representing all facets of the floral industry and involved assigning 14-digit Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) to boxes of flowers and 12-digit Universal Product Codes (UPCs) to floral bunches and bouquets at the start of the floral chain.
The goal of the pilot study was to identify guidelines for implementing GTINs and UPCs for all floral products, following the lead of other departments in supermarkets already using this technology. Members of the coalition believe that implementing this in the floral industry would cut costs by automating labor-intensive manual processes, increase efficiencies, reduce errors, cut operational and administrative costs and, ultimately, sell more flowers.
At press time, the coalition was planning to release in early October the “Floral GTIN Implementation Guide,” which covers the findings of the pilot program and strategies on how to assign GTINs to box configurations and UPCs to bunches and bouquets. To download a free copy of the guide, go to one of the Web sites for any of the sponsors of the study, including the Association of Floral Importers of Florida (AFIF), www.afifnet.org; California Association of Flower Growers and Shippers (CAFG&S), www.cafgs.org; California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC), www.ccfc.org; Produce Marketing Association (PMA), www.pma.com; Society of American Florists (SAF), www.safnow.org; and Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association (WF&FSA), www.wffsa.org.