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Gifting Gets Easier


Flower and gift retailer 1-800-Flowers has been a long-time innovator in cross-channel retailing. The Carle Place, N.Y.-based company went online in 1991 and three years later broke new ground as the first retailer on AOL. Not surprisingly, the company was among the early adopters of mobile commerce and social networking tools.

“It’s important for us to provide our existing and new customers the opportunity to shop with us via their mobile device, anytime, anywhere,” said Kevin Ranford, Web director of 1-800-Flowers. “Being in arm’s reach is especially important during the holiday season, when customers are inundated with choices.”

The company, which receives the majority of its orders online, views its mobile channel, social networking initiatives and online LiveChat tool as a natural step in becoming more accessible to shoppers. Although it launched its mobile Web channel almost four years ago, it is pulling out the stops this year. To further make its products available via handheld devices this holiday season, it plans to reach out through its Mobile Gift Center application from Austin, Texas-based Digby, which allows iPhone and Blackberry users to access gift ideas, product descriptions, full-color images, exclusive offers and special promotions.

In addition, the retailer recently made its m-commerce channel available as a downloadable storefront application for Google’s Android platform, a mobile operating system for wireless devices that runs on a variety of smartphones. This launch extends the existing mobile strategy built on Digby’s Mobile Commerce Suite platform.

The Digby Mobile Commerce Suite is a Software-as-a-Service platform designed to allow retailers to extend their current e-commerce infrastructure to a mobile channel. The 1-800-Flowers’ mobile channel is a trimmed-down version of its online catalog designed for quick, on-the-go browsing. Images are optimized for viewing on small mobile-device screens.

“As consumers turn to their mobile device for what they relied on computers for in the past, being able to place gift orders while on the go provides a huge added value to our customers,” Ranford explained. “And since we provide an optimized-for-mobile shopping experience, we are poised to continue to enjoy this channel’s growth and grow our offering along with it.”

Ranford said that one of the major advantages of being a first mover in m-commerce is the company’s year-over-year learnings.

“The information we’ve obtained from various mobile marketing programs in the past has helped us build on what we need to know to go into our peak holiday seasons,” Ranford said. “This has positioned us for strong mobile performance again this year.”

Not surprisingly, 1-800-Flowers also plans to be an active player in the social networking world.

“We absolutely see social media as another important way to connect and communicate with our customers,” Ranford said.

In July, the retailer opened up the first-ever retail store on Facebook to encourage members to purchase products directly through the popular social networking site.

“We are giving our customers more chances to shop with us by allowing them to make purchases without ever leaving Facebook,” Ranford said.

It is, however, difficult to find the company’s fan page on Facebook unless you remember to include the hyphens and the “.com.” To address this, the company has a Facebook link on its homepage to help send traffic to the page.

Like most retailers on social networking sites, is susceptible to negative messaging and feedback from disgruntled customers. Even still, Ranford said the company is pleased with the results so far. Fans—the company already has 7,000 on Facebook—who visit the site are rewarded with a discount code that can be used for their next purchase.

Additionally, it has an active presence on Twitter, boasting more than 2,000 followers. The company engages its audience by offering trivia games, daily giveaways and information on deals.

Along with being available to customers via mobile and social networking this holiday shopping season, 1-800-Flowers plans to differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace by leveraging its newly implemented online LiveChat tool. From receiving gift-giving advice to getting assistance during checkout, customers can be guided through their online shopping experience by chatting with gift consultants and customer-service representatives.

“We’ve had great feedback with all of these strategies, so we’re looking forward to seeing how it all plays out,” he said.

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