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Exclusive Q&A: FTD CTO delves into partner e-commerce platform

new FTD logo
FTD is launching a new platform with Shopify.

FTD is collaborating with a well-known hosted e-commerce provider to aid its small-to-medium florist partners.

Matt Powell, CTO of specialty floral and gifting retailer FTD, recently spoke with Chain Store Age about his company’s partnership with Shopify, which has resulted in the launch of a new solution for its florist partners, MercuryOnline (MOL). MOL provides each participating florist with a suite of tools and services designed to meet their specific small business needs, such as search and customization.

[Read more: FTD enables digital gifting]

Powell described how the partnership with Shopify came to be and how MOL benefits customers and FTD’s florist partners.

What initially prompted the FTD-Shopify partnership?

I joined FTD in March 2020 as part of a new leadership team brought in by FTD CEO Charlie Cole. The business was at an inflection point and there was a clear need for an infusion of innovation across product and experience, both for our network of member florists and our consumer customers.

For my team and me, this meant a key focus was re-imagining our platform to better empower the local businesses at the core of FTD and allow them to meet our shared customers where they are; both online and in-store.

Shopify is an industry leader in small-to-medium-business e-commerce and shares our mission of empowering local businesses — they were the ideal partner for our next-generation member e-commerce platform. We’ve been thrilled with how the partnership has come to life.

It’s been great working with Shopify on MercuryOnline (MOL), specifically, as it’s allowed us to integrate a wire service, a cloud-based omni-channel POS and the world’s leading small-to-medium business e-commerce platform into a single cohesive and seamless experience for the very first time.

What gave FTD the idea for MercuryOnline (MOL)?

FTD’s first foray into the MOL idea space was Florists Online (FOL), a small-to-medium business platform for florists we launched in the late 1990s. We were early to the internet in general and, as far as we know, one of the first (if not the first) to provide a multi-tenant e-commerce platform-as-a-service.

When the new leadership team joined in 2020, it quickly became clear that the florist community had been treated like commodity, not a partner, by big players in the floral space, FTD included, for some time. This didn’t make sense to us.

So, we took a long hard look at the products and services we had been providing them for decades (which were outdated, not intuitive, and not member-first), and set out build something radically new with our members at the center: a truly composable marketplace that would attract the highest-quality members via inspired applications that support the different ways they do business.   

While this transformation touches every part of our platform, the nexus of the member experience is two products: MercuryHQ, our next-gen POS, and MercuryOnline.

We started with our POS, which had not been meaningfully updated in a decade. MercuryHQ (MHQ), is a completely reimagined POS system that, so far, serves over 3,000 of our 9,000 network members and counting, and provides them with a single cloud-based, device-agnostic solution to efficiently manage everything from website orders, to walk-ins, to 3rd party marketplace orders, to products for any channels, to marketing, to customer relationships, all in one place.

Building on this, we wanted to provide our florist members with a dynamic e-commerce experience that was member-first and that would allow FTD to better support their business needs in a more seamless and more effective way. In March 2022, we debuted MercuryOnline to do just that. MOL is the centerpiece of our strategy to help our membership compete, and win, in every digital commerce channel.

How does MOL benefit participating florists?

MOL was created with florists in mind, so every aspect of it was designed to meet their specific needs and improve their overall experience.

At this moment, key features include easy and intuitive tools to customize their site experience to help generate more traffic, custom add-ons to drive up average order value, customizable delivery fees and delivery cut-off times by zone to give them the control they need over fulfillment, and a bunch of automation that reduces the effort required to manage their online presence. 

We’ve also worked hard on performance to make sure our florists’ customers get a speedy experience and to ensure their site list prominently on search engines. MOL is directly integrated with our network and sits on top of MHQ, which lets orders and customer data automatically flow from Shopify into the member’s POS — and products, store info, and inventory availability to flow automatically from MHQ to Shopify, without the member having to do anything. 

This omnichannel approach to small-to-medium-sized business commerce makes things simpler for customer and member.  We have one order history, one customer database, one catalog — shared across all channels where the member conducts commerce. An example of what that means is that customers can see every order they have ever transacted with that specific member florist in their online order history, regardless of whether it was done online, in-store, or in some future channel. 

We’re close to releasing new catalog capabilities that let florists set publishing schedules for seasonal assortments. Over the next few months, we’ll also begin rolling out features including automated customer email follow-ups, social media integration, and digital payment integration with Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal. 

How does MOL benefit customers?

Consumer customers are going to love MOL. In fact, we’re already getting strong KPI signals to that effect. Our top-performing florist was the first to migrate to MOL and they have nearly doubled their conversion rate; we read this to mean the platform is better meeting the needs of the consumer.

MOL makes it easier for the consumer to do business with the florist, because regardless of where they are choosing to do business in that moment, the florist has all of their information in one place.  This helps eliminate the kind of confusion, hassle and frustration that often arises when one tries to do business jumping from channel to channel.

MOL also offers customers the kind of modern conveniences they typically only get only from large companies including things like same day delivery, the ability to buy online and pickup in-store, and purchasing using their house credit account.

And, of course, because MOL is powered by Shopify, consumers get all the good stuff that comes with that: a familiar shopping experience, a fast-and-easy checkout, and the peace of mind that comes from transacting on a well-known platform.  

Can you discuss any future plans for MOL?

We are constantly experimenting and optimizing our products so that our consumer customers and member florists have the best possible experience. Over the next few months, we have some great features coming out including additional automation of customer communications, social media integration, and digital payment integration with Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal.

We’ll also be releasing additional “themes” to give our members even more options for how they present their businesses online. We’re also working on a subscription solution, consumer loyalty program, live chat with the florist and more.

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