1-800-Flowers.com – Follow-up with customers creates higher awareness of products

Some companies have created innovative programs that draw customers to their sites and keep them coming back.

For 1-800-flowers.com, a popular seller of flowers and gifts, personalized marketing doesn’t begin and end with the computer. Although most of its current personalization efforts currently involve email, the company is already at work wresting other forms of media into more personalized forms. “The key is sifting through the data and finding the relevance,” says Pamela Knox, senior vp of marketing. How you deliver that personalized message is just a technicality, she says.

Indeed, 1-800-Flowers is already testing the personalization of the king of mass media: television. For Mother’s Day 2002, the retailer tested customized TV advertising in Los Angeles. While it was not the ad nirvana in which each spot was individually served, ad agency Wunderman was able to customize and target neighborhoods by zip code and make real-time changes to the ad message as inventories changed during the week before the holiday. Customized ads helped boost sales and customer satisfaction rates in the target areas, says Knox.

This kind of experimentation joins the ranks of an already-thriving personalized email program. Because half of all 1-800-Flowers transactions take place online, the company has a huge database of voluntarily surrendered email addresses. And the company’s personalization chiefs have taken full advantage of the cache. “In the beginning, we did broad-based emails to everyone. But now we’ve evolved the program to the point where it can provide more personalized communication,” says Knox.

Some customers get reminders once a year, when a birthday or anniversary approaches. Others get pitches themed to the holidays. Some are on a weekly schedule. Most come with product recommendations. Brean Murray Research analyst Kathleen Heaney says the program has been instrumental in encouraging existing customers to try the company’s newly added merchandise lines such as food and toys.

What works with 1-800-Flowers.com? Email designers delve into the database not just for addresses and demographic info, but for tastes and price points, too.

The trick, says Knox, is to make the right recommendation. If the customer bought a floral gift basket last year, the email might contain a recommendation for a food gift basket. If you sent flowers in honor of a new baby, in a year the email might offer to sell you a child’s toy. But if you bought chocolate chip cookies, your next email isn’t going to sell you a gardenia plant.

Data is only as good as its interpretation, says Knox. “Don’t listen to the salesman who says he’s got your perfect CRM solution and he’s going to triple your sales. Personalized marketing is hard work,” she says. “It’s a matter of digging down into your data and understanding what your customer is saying to you. There’s no silver bullet.”