1-800-Flowers stays a step ahead of disruptive tech
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website
Three decades ago, the company now called 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. was a small array of florist shops in New York City and Long Island. That was before the purchase of a telemarketing business called 800-Flowers.
“By creating a brand around a phone number, we disrupted the floral industry,” said Chris McCann, president and CEO, at the 2018 Retail Innovation Conference. “We realized then that if we had that ability, then another technology could come along and somebody could do that to us.”
To make sure a newer technology would not have the chance to disrupt 1-800-Flowers’ business, management instilled a culture of exploring, testing and deploying new technologies. “We established a process we call ELAC,” Mr. McCann explained. “It stands for engage early when a technology is emerging, learn along with the consumer, adapt those learnings and innovate with new products, and bring it to a stage of commercialization.”
Following ELAC principles, 1-800-Flowers leaped into new trends while many other companies waited to see if they had staying power.
In the online world, 1-800-Flowers became the first company to sell on AOL in 1994 and launched its first website on the Netscape platform in 1995.
1-800-Flowers started experimenting with emerging mobile technology before the recession of 2008-09, when the company was forced, for the first time, to cut costs. Mobile investments were on the chopping block, but Mr. McCann decided not to pull back.
“We became mobile-first in the way we think, and it’s been working very well,” Mr. McCann said. “More than half of our customers now come to us via mobile devices.”
Today, Mr. McCann sees the company culture gradually shifting from mobile-first to AI-first as it invests heavily in conversational commerce, which includes chat-type solutions as well as voice.
Mr. McCann added, “As homes get smarter through voice interaction and voice control becomes more prevalent in cars, the scale is starting to tip.” Referring to the toll-free number that put 1-800-Flowers on the map, he observed, “It’s kind of back to the beginning for us.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of 1-800-Flowers.com’s ELAC (engage, learn, adapt, commercialization) guideline for embracing new technologies? What advice would you give to retailers when it comes to evaluating emerging tech?