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At Teleflora, AI Helps Tell The Flowers From The Weeds

If you’re a shopper on a mission, finding the “perfect” product can often take you beyond a simple Google search. There’s research, comparison, assessment — reassessment – and, to the dismay of eCommerce marketers, a good chance of some abandoned shopping carts along the way.

As we’ve written about before, solving the conversion challenge often boils down to the quality of customer experience. If brands can anticipate what customers want to buy – and when they want to buy it – marketers can engage at just the right moment, with just the right deal.

But you can’t do that without understanding your data, your products, and your customer base. For Teleflora, one of the largest flower delivery services in the U.S., this was a big issue. And by simply taking a closer look at their data, they were able to discover new opportunities they couldn’t pinpoint before.

Sowing the seeds

For Teleflora, repeat customers come in waves. Annual purchases tied to holidays are common, which leaves the brand with a collection of target audiences that only engage at specific points throughout the year. A strong remarketing strategy and stellar customer service is required to build the brand loyalty needed to keep customers coming back, and the sales cycle alive.

 “In this industry, there’s a slower cycle of launching new products,” Tommy Lamb, director, CRM & loyalty, said. “So it’s not like there’s a quarterly or seasonal floorset — it’s a handful of products for holidays.”

When Lamb joined Teleflora in 2016, he quickly realized the brand was lacking the resources and data needed to fully understand their customers and deliver a personal touch. Their email marketing strategy was also underdeveloped; relying primarily on a combination of welcome emails, holiday-centric “reminder” emails, and generalized batch-and-blast campaigns.

Lamb knew the brand needed a shift in strategy, and they needed new tools to do it. Lamb decided to partner with Bluecore, a retail marketing platform he worked with on past projects before joining Teleflora.

“It was pretty much a no-brainer. It’s not like we had something working that we tested against – we had nothing,” Lamb said. “And because I was able to successfully realize the potential of Bluecore throughout my career, I figured they would be more than capable of getting the lift I needed in email.”

Farming the data

Lamb says implementing Bluecore’s technology started “pretty much on day one.” The process was three-fold. First, Teleflora combined their product data with individual customer data to create more comprehensive profiles, and identify high-value opportunities based on past interactions and recent purchases.

“As a marketer, you’d like to have as much control as possible, and for Teleflora, that means a control around margin,” Jared Blank, SVP marketing, SVP data insights, Bluecore, said. “I think the thing they really appreciated was the ability to find a product and match them up with people, because I think that’s very hard – especially if you’re a gift retailer.”

Next came the personalization. Teleflora tapped into Bluecore’s machine learning capabilities to help anticipate which target audiences would be most likely to purchase certain items at certain times. This allowed Teleflora to create an automated email marketing strategy tied to every stage of the individual customer journey, complete with personalized product recommendations relevant to the potential buyer.

“We’re trying to make it easy to figure out who will buy something at full price, and exclude those people so you’re optimizing margins,” Blank said. “Or, who would be interested in roses instead of tulips — so that you don’t have to send out ‘rose’ emails to ‘tulip’ buyers.”

What started out as a two-touch program became a complex system based off 50 unique, trigger-based interactions. Remarketing efforts were also brought out of the inbox, to cater to customers who may have opted out of email.

“Our social media manager could, for example, take lists of people who may have opted out of email that still showed a high value and remarket to them via social channels,” Lamb said.

Reaping the rewards

Then, came the analytics. Advanced insights into product performance allowed Teleflora to identify their best-selling items, with some surprising results that challenged their traditional promotional strategy.

Case and point – Valentine’s Day 2018. Lamb and his team scoured their product inventory and discovered their “Heart & Soul” bouquet was in high demand – even though the heart-shaped rose arrangement received barely any visibility on the Teleflora website.

“It was interesting to see that a product we’d had for years was being identified as a valuable product,” Lamb said.

The Teleflora team then got to work, bringing the bouquet out from inventory and into the spotlight as part of a personalized Valentine’s Day campaign. It ended up being their highest-performing Valentine’s Day promotion this season.

“You tend to lean on the same best-selling products because you know that will work with a wide audience. — but you may have a lot of products,” Blank said. “The ability to surface products that don’t necessarily get a lot of love, and send them to a broader audience, is really appealing.”

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