Two floral heavyweights go head-to-head in direct marketing comparison

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Two floral heavyweights go head-to-head in direct marketing comparison
Two floral heavyweights go head-to-head in direct marketing comparison
Founded 1998; Private company

part of Provide Commerce
Founded 1976; NASDAQ FLWS

$667.7 M annual revenue

Many Americans turn to their local deli or grocery store to choose a floral bouquet for special occasions like Mother's Day or a colleague's retirement, but there are two leading direct marketing companies that will let them “say it with flowers” by phone or Web: and

These leading brands use distinct operating models, but share the same goal of cultivating a repeat customer. ProFlowers operates on a direct fulfillment model. They take their flower product from suppliers straight to the customer's door. 1-800-Flowers takes the third-party route, relying on local florist networks to fulfill orders.

Both exhibit different sales approaches as well. 

“If you know what you want relatively quickly, 1-800-Flowers is excellent on a more transactional basis,” says Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association, which represents the call center industry. “If you are not certain of what you want, but you may have a budget and you want someone to help guide you through the process, ProFlowers has a better reputation for that.”

Like most direct marketers today, both companies operate loyalty programs. 1-800-Flowers has a formalized program, called “Fresh Rewards,” which is clearly distinguished on its website. Fresh Rewards allows people to earn discounts that can be used across all of its brands. Kelly Hlavinka, managing partner at Colloquy, a consultant and research company focused on loyalty marketing, says the program is attractive because it offers tiered rewards “and puts some of the juiciest rewards in the top tiers.” 

ProFlowers opts to partner with companies, like American Express and Marriott, to offer rewards points.

“If you're looking for corporate customers, why not partner with American Express membership rewards where they specialize in issuing cards for travel and entertainment for corporate travelers,” adds Hlavinka. “Reaching that audience to acquire new customers is not a bad idea.”

The differences in their loyalty programs demonstrates another operational difference between the two competitors. ProFlowers makes a concentrated effort to cater to corporate clients, while 1-800-Flowers builds relationships with consumers. ProFlowers has a dedicated corporate page on its website and provides a separate 800 number. 

“It does seem like you've got two companies with very different priorities — and priorities in terms of their top objectives,” says Hlavinka. “That's reflected in their go-to market strategy with their loyalty programs.” 

ProFlowers and 1-800-Flowers declined requests for comment.

E-mail marketing prevails as an effective direct marketing tactic for both organizations, including cross-selling in transactional e-mails, special offers and discount rewards designed to reactivate lapsed customers, according to a sampling of recent e-mail messages, which were examined by Direct Marketing News (DMN). 

Chris Wells, CRM manager at Critical Mass, which does not work with ProFlowers, penned a recent blog post praising the company's  strategy, where it allows customers to sign up for alerts about a friend's birthday or other important events. 

“The e-mail reminder service offered by provides a very useful customer utility benefit that likely resonates well with customers with very busy lifestyles and hectic schedules,” Wells told DMN. “A reminder e-mail sent at just the right time can serve as a key loyalty driver for customers who meet this profile.” 

In social media marketing, outruns its competitor. As of October 7, it had an impressive 47,157 fans on Facebook, while ProFlowers had amassed 4,057. It is a similar story on Twitter. has 6,669 followers while has 992. Number of fans, of course, doesn't tell the whole story.

It's often more important how companies make use of the social networking sites and it's here that 1-800-Flowers does stand out as the stronger marketer, says Deb Durig, account director at Atmosphere Proximity, an Omnicom-owned agency.* 

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