Why it matters:
- With more people than ever working remotely, companies are seeking new ways to connect with employees and clients.
- Employee engagement is increasingly important as businesses strive to retain workers and boost morale.
- Companies want automated solutions that save time and allow for more choice and personalization in their gifting programs.
Gifting powerhouse 1-800-Flowers.com, which owns 12 brands including Harry & David, Cheryl’s Cookies and The Popcorn Factory, was well-positioned for the surge in personal gifting triggered by the pandemic. It updated the technology used by its consumer gift brands more than a year before the first lockdowns.
But as U.S. businesses overwhelmingly switched to remote work and as virtual events replaced in-person gatherings, 1-800-Flowers.com executives realized they needed new gifting solutions for their corporate accounts as well.
They began introducing new features for corporate gifting in 2020, and in October 2021 unveiled their most dramatic innovation – a software-as-a-service platform that lets business accounts manage gifting and engagement more efficiently and creatively.
Eric Gehnrich, senior vice president, enterprise sales and partnership marketing at 1-800-Flowers.com, spoke with CO— about how the company identified this opportunity and then maximized it.
The challenge: Frictionless gifting for B2B clients
In 2018, 1-800-Flowers.com began working with gifting tech company SmartGift to develop a platform that would allow consumers to send gifts even if they didn’t have the recipient’s address. It also lets recipients view a gift before it arrives, swap it for a different gift if they wish, forward the gift on to another recipient, and use a QR code to send a real-time thank you message to the gift-giver.
The technology, which lets someone send a gift with only an email address or a text number, was an immediate hit.
“As we saw consumers really adopting this frictionless gifting, we realized we needed to do something like it for our B2B audience,” Gehnrich said.
While the SmartGift technology was working well for individual gifting, business accounts needed a solution that could handle one-to-many transactions, and a platform that could be customized to their specific needs.
Business owners were telling Gehnrich and his team that automation, speed and ease of use were important, as well as being able to offer “the right product at the right price at the right time.”
Businesses also were looking for ways to increase employee engagement and morale, both with appreciation gifts and via in-person events that 1-800-Flowers.com could facilitate, such as charcuterie board arranging classes or wreath-making parties.
In addition, Gehnrich said, any new gifting platform had to work well not only for large companies, but for the small-to-medium businesses that are an important part of 1-800-Flowers.com’s B2B sales.
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As we saw consumers really adopting this frictionless gifting, we realized we needed to do something like it for our B2B audience.
Eric Gehnrich, senior vice president, enterprise sales and partnership marketing, 1-800-Flowers.com
The solution: A ‘Hero’ platform for corporate accounts
1-800-Flowers partnered with SmartGift to launch Hero, a gifting platform for corporate accounts that incorporates features of the SmartGift consumer platform, and adds capabilities designed for one-to-many gifting.
The Hero platform gives companies the ability to send an employee a gift wherever they may be working at the moment; allows employees to choose from a selection of gifts; lets businesses schedule recurring deliveries for work anniversaries, birthdays or other milestones; and provides companies with analytics about their gifting program.
1-800-Flowers.com also is offering the Hero platform to corporate clients through a software as a subscription model. Clients pay a fee based on scale and can customize the platform to meet their specific requirements.
The company beta-tested the Hero platform internally, with different 1-800-Flowers.com divisions using it to send gifts to their employees.
1-800-Flowers also has partnered with Alice’s Table — which they acquired this month— a company that hosts livestreaming virtual workshops and gatherings, with 1-800-Flowers.com brands supplying the food for cooking classes, or the flowers for decorating workshops, or other employee engagement events.
[Read: Investing in the Remote Revolution: Startups Capitalize on a Work-From-Home Future]
The results: ‘It’s really morphed into another sales channel for our corporate audience’
1-800-Flowers.com’s sales skyrocketed in fiscal 2021, hitting a record $2.12 billion, up 42.5% over the previous year. Corporate gifting still only accounts for about 10% of the company’s business, but it is one of the fastest growing divisions.
The Hero platform and the software-as-a-service subscription model are driving additional revenue growth. “It’s really morphed into another sales channel for our corporate audience,” Gehnrich said.
The new platform also helps drive awareness of the many 1-800-Flowers.com brands among corporate clients, including its new acquisitions, by showing them all of the options on one platform, Gehnrich said.
Additionally, the SmartGift and Hero features that let gift recipients instantly share their reaction with the giver and on social media spreads brand awareness well beyond the individual recipient.
As thank-you messages are being posted on social media, “Engagement’s more than just a transaction,” Gehnrich said. “It’s evolved into appreciation of the gesture of the gift.”
What’s next: Leaning into premium and personalized B2B gifts
Competition in the corporate gifting space has intensified during the pandemic, with a number of startups offering new digital and app-based solutions. But 1-800-Flowers.com believes its size, portfolio of brands and its 45-year track record of being an early adopter of technology gives it an edge.
Going forward, 1-800-Flowers.com plans to leverage its 2020 acquisition of personalized gifts site PersonalizationMall.com to expand its premium and personalized corporate gift offerings.
That acquisition allows 1-800-Flowers to add corporate swag, such as logo-embossed jackets, mugs and other gifts, to its traditional food and floral offerings.
Gehnrich said the company will continue to use technology to enhance its services to meet changing needs.
“There’s an evolution happening with corporate sales and we want to be on the cutting edge of this technology,” he said. “We want to make it as easy to gift as possible and as easy to engage as possible.”
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Published January 12, 2022