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1-800-Flowers’s Mobile Marketing Blooms, but its Customer Service Withers

Mobile is a blossoming channel for many marketers. Floral and gift retailer 1-800-Flowers is consistently looking for new ways to integrate mobile into its multichannel arrangement. And while innovation may be sweet, a Valentine’s Day fiasco reminded the retailer that basic customer service is what really causes business to bloom.

1-800-Flowers has a history of adopting budding technologies. In 2002, the retailer implemented AdWords. Google first introduced the online advertising service just two years prior and released a revised version of AdWords the same year as 1-800-Flowers’s implementation. In addition, 1-800-Flowers adopted mobile search ads in 2010 to drive customers to its mobile site and app. 

“The history of the company has been very intertwined with being innovative in both the marketing and the communication that we put out,” says Amit Shah, VP of online, mobile, and social for 1-800-Flowers. “It’s very much a part of our DNA to be experimenting ahead of our customers to make sure that we are relevant to them when they do become part of a certain medium.”

To ensure that its multichannel marketing continued to bloom, 1-800-Flowers also implemented click-to-call ads. Click-to-call ads allow retailers to list location-specific business phone numbers within mobile browser ads. Customers viewing the ads on their smartphones can then click on the phone number and call the business directly. Shah estimates that 1-800-Flowers first instigated click-to-call ads in early 2011. Today, about 8 to 10% of 1-800-Flowers’s revenue comes from click-to-call advertisements. Shah says click-to-call advertisements enable customers to get in touch with the brand through multiple touchpoints.

“At the end of the day, customers might have specific questions for us,” he says. “Maybe you want to send something for a funeral, but you’re not sure what the appropriate item is. In those cases we think having the click-to-call extension is a big win for the customers.”

And the role of mobile only continues to grow. Using estimated cross-device conversions—an element of Google’s new Estimated Total Conversions metric—1-800-Flowers discovered a 7% increase in conversion when a conversion started on one device and finished on another. In addition, the brand discovered a 4% increase in total mobile conversions when it tallied up the number of conversions that began with a mobile ad click.

Given that 95% of 1-800-Flowers’s transactions involve two people—the purchaser and the recipient—it’s important for the brand to deliver positive customer experiences for both parties, Shah notes.

“We are obsessed about customer service,” Shah says. “That’s one of the distinguishing features that we have. Because [1-800-Flowers is] such an easy-to-remember phone number, we are just a call away if you have any problems. We tend to think that those are the key message points that resonate with customers.”

However, 1-800-Flowers found itself in the weeds this past Valentine’s Day after customers took to social media to vent about their failed deliveries. Customers ranted about no-show orders, dead flowers, and unresponsive customer service representatives.

“Their biggest money-making holidays are Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day,” one customer wrote on Facebook. “They will never again see a dollar out of my pocket. They don’t answer anything. Ever.”

1-800-Flowers has been messaging individual consumers on Facebook and Twitter to rectify the situation. Shah says that the average social response time is about five minutes. However, on February 15 the brand posted on Facebook that customer service “wait times are longer than we would like” due to inclement weather and high volume of customer service requests.

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