No shrinking violets: How independent florists can buddy-up to help business bloom

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On the dot delivery service knows how challenging it is for a business of any size to blossom in present market conditions, but CEO Patrick Gallagher has some useful tips and advice.

Earlier this year, the ONS reported the biggest quarterly fall in UK retail sales in seven years; it’s fair to say that shoppers are tightening their purse strings and it’s tough on the UK High Street.

Time has never been such a prized commodity and sadly, many of us struggle to find time for gestures of love, thanks or commiseration. We are also quick to abandon buying processes that are slow or clunky. People demand convenience; the ability to get what they need, exactly when they need it, as easily as possible.

For retailers, it is imperative to meet this demand or risk losing sales to competitors who are optimising their offer. In such a competitive, fast-paced market, delivery has become the key differentiator.

For smaller, independent businesses, the thought of competing with retail giants is somewhat daunting. With Amazon now selling potted plants and bouquets, and with flower subscription services like Bloom & Wild revolutionising the industry, how are local florists to survive, let alone thrive?

Building smart partnerships – such as with fulfilment providers – is part of the answer.

Collaborating with outsourced service companies allows businesses to cherry pick the best elements from each stage of the shopper journey, providing customers with an optimum experience and encouraging them to return again and again.

So, how can partnering with a delivery service, like our own, make a difference?

Grow your reach and customer base

As an independent retailer, it’s tempting to handle delivery in-house. By making the journey to customers yourselves or enlisting employees, the fear that products will be damaged or mishandled is lifted and you are fully in control of your schedule.

But for small businesses, sourcing, preparing and delivering products to multiple locations within a strict timeframe is a strain, both on time and money. While there is an upside to running a nicely branded vehicle, it’s not a business cost everyone wants to take on.

Some would also argue that time spent undertaking deliveries could be better spent on marketing activity, creating a new bouquet option in this season’s colours or catching up on paperwork.

What’s more, independent florists also face the problem of reach. By taking delivery into your own hands, your products will only ever only go as far as you can.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Our network of couriers allows us to reach 99% of the UK from our nationwide service centres. Working with a delivery partner like this, rather than going it alone, means you can take your products further, faster, and use the time won to focus on what matters most for your business: making sure you’ve got gorgeous flowers.

Every flower is unique: optimise personalised deliveries to enhance the gesture itself

On Mother’s Day, Amazon offered customers free two-hour deliveries for fresh flowers, and one-hour delivery priced at £6.99. With industry behemoths like Amazon and Interflora pioneering superfast delivery, smaller businesses might feel pressured to push for speed above all else.

But speed does not necessarily equal convenience.

The most important thing for any retailer is to cater to the individual needs of customers, rather than spending unnecessary amounts of money and energy on the pursuit of speed. This is especially true for florists, given that a badly timed delivery could ruin a gesture or result in a wilted, damaged product.

With that in mind, consider offering an expanded suite of delivery options to cater to the specific needs of different customers, whether that’s same-day, next-day or specified hour delivery. Being able to choose the exact hour for a floral delivery to arrive may not be right for every customer or every purchase; but it’s priceless for those who really need it.

Florists have helped lead the way in this – offering tracked deliveries and confirmation of receipt long before others on the High Street. But keeping an eye on the competition will help keep fulfilment one step ahead.

Harness the opportunity to innovate

More British consumers are buying their bouquets online than ever before. According to Royal FloraHolland, in 2010 only 3% of UK consumers bought flowers online. By 2015 this figure had increased to 10%, and in 2016, 13% of consumers bought flowers over the internet.

This shift from the High Street to online is down to the pursuit of convenience. Consumers are attracted to the products and services that make their lives easier. Not everyone has time to pop in-store to order flowers.

But the demand for flowers is universal and lasting; they feature in many of life’s defining moments. If florists make it easier to order and receive them, they’ll continue to be a mainstay of UK life and attract new types of customers.

Many businesses are doing just that. Bloom & Wild have helped do away with painstaking trips to the post office to collect poorly timed deliveries with their letterbox sized bouquets. Floom have created an online marketplace that makes it easy for consumers to buy from independent florists and there are plenty of new subscription services for plants and bouquets, such as Geo Fleur and Sprout London.

How can small and independent florists factor innovation into their offer quickly and affordably? It all comes back to collaboration. In challenging times like these, as customers cut back on life’s little luxuries, it is essential that smaller businesses work together to enhance their offer.

This could mean buddying-up with a local wine or chocolate retailer to expand your range of products, adding new types of plants to capture a more hipster-focused customer or trying new packaging options to offer practicality and a touch of luxury.

It’s an exciting time to be in floristry. But smaller businesses will need to adapt and innovate to continue to thrive. There is no end to the possibilities.

So, take a step back and look for the opportunities to boost and expand your business through new relationships. As a smaller, independent retailer, collaboration is key for success in tough economic times.

 by Patrick Gallagher, CEO of On the dot
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