THE CLARUS Blog

Moving Forward: How 1-800-FLOWERS.COM is Adapting to the Pandemic – featuring Neil O’Keefe [Interview]

This interview is part of our Moving Forward Blog Series, where we ask major brands how they’re adapting to changing consumer expectations from a loyalty perspective post-pandemic.

Since the pandemic hit the U.S. in March, people’s lives changed dramatically.

Quarantining, facial masks, hand sanitizer, and curbside pickup became massively used in mainstream terms.

While people yearned for human connections, retailers also wanted to connect with their customers in new ways.

At 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc., the desire for more personal connections is driving its customer loyalty strategies.

We caught up with Neil O’Keefe, V.P. Enterprise CRM and Loyalty Marketing, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc., and here’s what he had to say about:

  • The impact of new consumer behavior
  • The importance of connections and building emotional moments
  • Deepening customer relationships
  • What customer loyalty will look like in the future

 

Jim Tierney: Consumers have found new behaviors during the pandemic and there has been a seismic shift toward eCommerce. How do you think these new behaviors will impact 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. now and after the pandemic?

 

Neil O’Keefe: In today’s environment, consumers are looking to connect with others and express themselves more than ever.

People are looking for ways to let others know they are being thought of, and customers have been increasingly turning to our family of brands to send food, flowers, and oNeil O'Keefether gifts to loved ones for every day and special occasions.

According to McKinsey & Company, 77% of consumers have tried a new shopping behavior and more than a third of those people have tried new brands, retailers, and websites.

Moving forward, we believe people will continue to place greater importance on connecting with others and expressing themselves as we come out of this health crisis. We will go back to basics–prioritizing the relationships in our lives and staying more connected.

To secure the loyalty of our customers, we as a company are focused on helping people express, connect, and celebrate.

Through our assortment of products and services, including our Celebrations Passport loyalty program, we’re well-positioned to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s consumers.

 

“77% of consumers have tried a new shopping behavior and more than a third of those people have tried new brands, retailers, and websites.”

 

Jim: Listening to your customers is a top priority. How has that changed, if at all, during the pandemic?

Neil: We have always been very thoughtful in our approach to listen to, and connect with, our customers–and it has become increasingly important as we all navigate these uncertain times.

According to a study by SmarterHQ, “72% of consumers say they now only engage with messages tailored to their interests.”

We understand that consumers are looking to engage with others in a time of social distancing, so we adjusted our messages accordingly to better align with this emerging customer sentiment.

Our customer communications have been focused on sending gestures of love, brightening someone’s day, and reaching out to someone special to let them know they are on your mind.

We also wanted to help our customers honor everyday local heroes across the country who have been fighting on the front lines of this virus.

We’ve engaged our customers to join us in a conversation around these local heroes and asked them to share their gratitude for a local hero who inspires them.

We received thousands of heartwarming nominations and our 1-800-Flowers.com and BloomNet teams joined forces to send complimentary bouquets to these local heroes.

 

Jim: Having loyal customers is always important for brands. As brands slowly emerge from the pandemic, what are your customer loyalty goals?

Neil: We want to deepen our relationships with customers. Through our 1-800-Flowers.com Connection Communities powered by Wisdo, and several other customer experience efforts we continue to integrate, including complimentary eCards, how-to content, and expert sympathy resources.

We are looking beyond the transaction to help customers express themselves and connect with the important people in their lives.

We’re also focusing on our Celebrations Passport loyalty program, which provides members with free shipping and no service charge on all orders across our family of brands for one full year.

This program was designed to drive frequency and enhance customer lifetime value. We’ve found that Celebrations Passport members have significantly higher purchase frequency, retention rate, and average spend compared to non-members.

We are continuing to focus on this program and explore ways to enhance its value proposition, including complimentary gifts, reminders, product exclusives, and more.

 

“We are looking beyond the transaction to help customers express themselves and connect with the important people in their lives.”

 

Jim: How is 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. responding to consumer behavioral changes and how can the brand leverage these changes to attain greater loyalty?

Neil: According to a report from Salesforce, 54% of customers think companies need to fundamentally transform how they engage with them.

At 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, we are always looking for opportunities to engage with our customers, help them build relationships, share with others, connect in new ways, and celebrate moments big and small.

We sincerely believe that people are seeking more meaningful and deeper connections, especially during this time, and we are helping to facilitate that through our innovative products, complementary resources, and experiential events such as our 1-800-Flowers.com + Alice’s Table virtual floral arranging workshops.

Additionally, since the pandemic began, we’ve been sending weekly notes to our customers checking in on them, and sharing tips for staying connected with friends, family, and co-workers during this difficult time.

It’s important that we engage with our customers and offer them support–whether it is recommending DIY projects to do with the kids or suggesting activities they can do at home.

 

Jim: Are there any specific changes or updates you’re planning to make to your loyalty program?

Neil: We believe the future of gifting gets more personal, so we’re reinventing the process as we create differentiated experiences that drive customer loyalty.

We’re constantly looking for new and innovative ways to help our customers connect with the important people in their lives, even if it does not involve a transaction.

Regarding our Celebrations Passport program, we’ll continue to look for ways to enhance its value proposition, including surprise and delight gifts, reminder programs, special product previews, exclusive offerings, and more.

 

Jim: What do you think customer loyalty will look like in the “new” retail reality? What is the most important thing retailers can focus on for the rest of 2020?

Neil: We believe that people are not only seeking more meaningful relationships with each other, but also with the brands they do business with. We see this sentiment being a long-lasting impact as we move past this period.

Brands will need to focus on their purpose and ensure they build an authentic experience for customers.

For us, this means continuing to focus on new and unique ways to expand on our vision of inspiring more human expression, connection, and celebration.

 

“We believe that people are not only seeking more meaningful relationships with each other, but also with the brands they do business with. We see this sentiment being a long-lasting impact as we move past this period.”

 

Jim: An attractive loyalty program can be a key differentiator for a brand. How can a loyalty program spark engagement and increased revenue as the country slowly re-opens?

Neil: Customer loyalty today is a result of an exceptional customer experience. Therefore, loyalty programs should help customers engage with the brand, enhance the shopping experience, drive purchase frequency, and increase customer lifetime value.

Our Celebrations Passport loyalty program, for instance, provides customers value by offering members with free shipping and no service charge on all orders across our family of brands for one full year.

Customers can shop across Harry & David, Cheryl’s Cookies, The Popcorn Factory, Shari’s Berries, 1-800-Flowers.com, and more–all without having to pay for shipping.

This allows our customers to discover and enjoy our full family of brands. It also engages customers with product exclusives, reminders of special occasions, and surprise gifts.

 

Key Takeaways

As Neil said, the future of gifting is about getting more personal.

Creating differentiated experiences is a key part of that personal touch.

By sending weekly notes to customers, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM is practicing what it’s preaching: Deepening customer relationships by making regular connections.

Those connections create emotional bonds that help both company officials and customers.

Customer engagement has never been more important than now, and 1-800-FLOWERS.COM continues to demonstrate that to its customers.

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