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IMRG Online Retailer Interview: Bloom & Wild

A Q&A with Phill Burton, COO, Bloom & Wild

We spoke to Phill about subscription, next-day delivery, and the customer-first business model.

Tell us about Bloom & Wild

Bloom & Wild is trying to innovate the experience of sending and receiving flowers. We’ve been going for five years now and we’re really trying to improve that experience through three main tenets.

Firstly, through the use of technology, making it easier to send flowers to your loved one by bettering the experience through the use of our website and app.

Secondly, by really having a brand that people love. Our flowers are generally gifting products for emotive occasions: I might be sending some flowers to my mum to say happy birthday, or perhaps to a friend to say congratulations, and we think in the gifting sphere, brand is super important. Therefore, we take a lot of care and attention in thinking how to embed that into our experience, from the flowers that are in the box, to the packaging, the content, and the partners that we work with.

And thirdly, through logistics. We’re a very data-led company and we try to use that data to improve the customer experience. For example, we use tracking, current data, and historical data to assess the statistical chance of your bouquet being delayed and intervene if necessary. We pass a lot of that data back to Royal Mail to help them assess failure points in their delivery network.

Connected with the delivery experience, we came up with the concept of Letterbox Flowers, which are flowers which fit in a flatpack box which fits through your letterbox. We came up with that category when the company started and now it’s one of the common ways to send flowers: lots of our competitors now do the same, but we remain the category leader.

That’s just an example of us really wanting to improve the experience of receiving flowers. The last thing you want is to come home and find a card from Royal Mail saying you have to go to your local sorting office – it can put a downer on the whole impact of the gifting experience.

What was your biggest challenge in 2018?

In 2017 we embarked on international expansion. We launched in France and Germany, and we’re continuing to develop those markets while thinking about other markets as well. Internationalisation is a big challenge.

With our core UK market, the challenge is the same challenge we have every year: it’s trying to increase the engagement of our customers with our product and our service, and make sure that not only are we not losing our customers to our competitors, but at the same time we’re increasing the frequency with which our customers use our service.

Is subscription something which you try to push people towards?

The business started as a subscription business, but within a year pivoted to focussing on gifting. We were led by our customers who were actually using the subscription service to send gifts to multiple recipients.

The reason that we think we’ve struggled in that subscription market and pivoted away from it is that there’s a unique competitive pressure in the UK, which is supermarkets. People are more price sensitive when they’re buying flowers for themselves than for others, and you can actually get a pretty good bouquet of flowers for under £10 from the supermarket.

We do remind our loyal customers about our subscription business, but it's not a focus.

How to you predict volumes and cope with the influx of orders on high-volume days?

There are two main areas which we consider at peak times. One is how many sales we’re likely to make, and therefore how much flower volume we need to bring in. Especially in peak periods, you’re competing with the rest of the market, so we’re probably telling our suppliers and growers about a year in advance of any peak how much flower volume we need.

Therefore, data is super key. It was really difficult in the first couple of years, but now we’ve had five years of trading we understand much better what the volume is likely to be, and the various inputs to that: what our acquisition marketing channels look like and how efficient they’re likely to be now and in the future. We look at our retention models: how likely are we to get the various cohorts of customers to repeat at those peak times? We’ve got various internal data models on those.

Then there’s macro events. Do we think March 2019 is likely to be different to March 2018 in terms of consumer appetite and spend? There’s also nuances to our business around proximity between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, which has a big impact on people’s purchasing behaviour.

Then there’s thinking about preference of bouquet. We have a lot of internal models which look at historical records on individual bouquet performance, which goes down to a stem and colour level. We’re able to use our data visualisation software and see the likelihood of people wanting a yellow alstroemeria in their bouquet, and translate that and extrapolate that out to what we think will happen in future years.

What are the key metrics you look at to judge how you’re performing (outside of sales)?

The one metric which informs how our entire business works is NPS (Net Promoter Score).

We monitor customer and recipient NPS levels. For customers, we send out regular online surveys to gauge NPS, and recipients, we have inbox content which then leads you to fill out surveys online. We have mathematical models which equate movements in NPS to movements in repeat rate, and therefore what that means for the general health of the company.

Do you ever doubt your next-day delivery service?

Having free next-day delivery has been one of the main reasons that has fuelled our quick growth in the UK. The ecommerce giants have created a culture where free next-day delivery is expected now.

We do offer paid premium carriers as well and are very transparent about the relative successful delivery rates of our free versus paid delivery option.

What’s your returns process?

We have a zero-returns policy. We don’t ask anyone to send their flowers back. They’re a perishable product and it's not worth it. By the time they’d get back to us they’d be a waste, and we don’t want to increase our carbon footprint unnecessarily.

Instead we have a very generous customer service policy: if someone receives a bouquet and they don’t like it, then we’re open to having a conversation with them, and generally the resolution to that conversation is that we send them a replacement bouquet and tell them to keep the original. I think if you look at the reviews on our site, our customer service is one of the reasons that we have such positive review scores.

Do you actively encourage reviews, or are they sent in without prompting?

We encourage them actively. We work with two review sites - reviews.co.uk and TrustPilot, both of which email our customers asking if they have five minutes to review us – there is that proactive element from us.

It sounds like an impressive operation – optimising everything you can to keep the customer happy

I think that’s a fair assessment. Customer-first is one of our values. Care is our number one overarching value – care for our customers, care for our employees. I think that pervades across everything we do. It’s something we hold dear, and it’s the reason we run the business the way we do.

 

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