Putting the Web to Work
and hows to creating an online presence for your floral
by Monica Humbard
today expect most businesses to have Web sites. Ryan Freeman,
president of Strider Inc., a company that develops Web
sites for small businesses, says it would be difficult to find a
business that wouldn’t benefit from a Web presence. No matter
how large or small your floral operation, he declares, you need
a Web site to stay competitive.
One of the primary reasons floral businesses need Web sites
is to present customers with online ordering options. Michael
Schrader, director of floral for Schnuck Markets, Inc.,
based in St. Louis, Mo., has seen an increase in orders at its
floral operation’s Web site,
during the past few years, which he credits to a younger, more
Internet-savvy generation of shoppers.
FTD Group, Inc.’s executive vice president, grocery
division, has witnessed the same growth in Internet business.
Today, FTD has thousands of members in both North and South
America who utilize at least one of FTD’s many online service
reasons to have a web site
If your floral business does not have a Web site, here are
several reasons Mr. Freeman gives for why you should.
SOLIDIFY YOUR LEGITIMACY
Having a Web site, Mr. Freeman says, confirms the
legitimacy of your business. In fact, he has discovered that
consumers are suspicious of businesses without one. From a
supermarket perspective, if a floral department does not have a
page on its company’s Web site, customers may perceive it as
insignificant, temporary or not of value to the company.
WEB “WINDOW SHOPPERS”
A 2007 study revealed that 80 percent of consumers
research purchases online before buying in brick-and-mortar
stores, Mr. Freeman reports. He explains that $500 billion in
offline commerce is influenced by online commerce.
Mr. Schrader says that’s why, during major floral holiday
periods such as Valentine’s Day, when many online orders are
filled by the company’s design center, all Schnucks floral
departments have the recipes and necessary pieces on hand to
create the holiday floral designs featured on the company’s
floral Web pages. This lets consumers print out designs they
find on the Web site and show them to the designers at their
neighborhood floral departments.
A third reason Mr. Freeman gives for building a Web presence is
that your competition most likely has one. Mr. Pauley says FTD’s
goal when helping its members build Web sites is to make them
more competitive and profitable.
how to build a site
Mr. Freeman notices that many businesses immediately focus on
how their Web sites will “look” before they consider their
content and function. This is natural for those in the floral
business, he says, because of their visual focus. Instead, he
recommends spending a lot of time planning. Here are the steps
• First, define your
goals. What do you want the site to accomplish—sell
products, communicate with customers, promote
branding and so on? Look
at other Web sites to see what competitors and
similar industries are doing.
• Second, determine
functionality. How will it work? Again, check out other sites
to determine what might work for you.
• Third, design the look.
When you reach the design phase, Mr. Freeman says to make sure
your Web site reflects your business’s image. He says 100 times
more people will see your Web site than walk through your doors.
ESTABLISH A VOICE
Personalize your site with the voice of your business. This
should be apparent through the wording of text as well as the
Customizing your Web site will help you avoid becoming what Mr.
Freeman refers to as a “vanilla shop.” This type of business has
no significant distinction from others and doesn’t give
consumers a reason to remember it.
Mr. Freeman also encourages his clients to make their sites
as diverse as possible so they will pop up when consumers do
online searches. He explains that Google has duplicate content
filters to ensure that its searches return a diverse group of
To help its members create unique Web sites, Mr. Pauley says
FTD offers access to a variety of templates from which they can
design their pages. Choices include different formats for
product photos and descriptions as well as an assortment of
color options. Members can upload their logos, add custom
products and categories, and include information about their
businesses and services.
Mr. Pauley recognizes the importance of FTD members supporting
and building their own brands, and he encourages members to
include both FTD products and their own customized designs on
their Web sites. Customers find both on Schnucks’ floral pages.
Schrader says having items online that are also seen in the
stores creates a sense of familiarity for customers.
INCLUDE HELPFUL CONTENT
Another way to give your site a personalized touch is to
incorporate user-generated feedback. Solicit reviews from those
who have ordered flowers from your site, and include the
responses in your content.
You also can enhance your content with informative articles.
Schnucks’ site includes care information for making floral
arrangements last longer.
STAY OPEN MINDED
Mr. Freeman encourages his clients to try new ideas on their
sites. He says it costs very little to test an idea and then
change it back if it doesn’t work. One way to test ideas is to
have more than one version of your site and see which one gets
the best results.
These are some recommended features for an effective Web site:
Mr. Pauley says you are missing out if you don’t have
e-commerce capabilities on your Web site. And if you do, Mr.
Freeman insists you must have proper e-commerce setup. Consumers
put a high priority on secure sites, so you want the proper
certification. Keep in mind that consumers get nervous if the
URL (the Web site name) changes to an unfamiliar address when
they go to the shopping cart. When they realize transactions are
handled by a third party, Mr. Freeman says, they become
concerned and may not follow through on the purchase.
Schnucks uses FTD software to process all its online
credit-card orders. Mr. Schrader believes most people recognize
FTD and are comfortable with its services. In addition to
security, Mr. Schrader explains, it makes more sense for
Schnucks to turn to experts for this type of technology rather
than going to the expense of designing its own software.
Use only professional photographs on your Web site to ensure
customers see your products in the best light. Mr. Schrader says
this is an advantage to partnering with FTD, which always has
high-quality images of its arrangements for members to use.
FTD’s WebGifts also provides members access to high-quality
images of gift items from a variety of leading brands, such as
Mrs. Fields, Burt’s Bees and Build-a-Bear. When a customer
purchases one of these gift items through a florist’s Web site,
it is shipped directly from the manufacturer to the recipient,
so the florist does not have to invest in inventory or handle
Give information about your delivery area on your Web site. Also
include specific locations to which you will deliver, such as
funeral homes and churches.
Do not rob your customers of the opportunity to have personal
service if they want it. Mr. Schrader says Schnucks’ floral site
includes a number for the main design center, where customers
can place orders or ask for care and handling information. It
also has the phone numbers for all Schnucks stores under a “How
to Find Us” button.
Make it easy for customers to find you. Although the overall
company site may include the store location, it is more
convenient for customers if you give directions to your store,
with a map, somewhere within the floral portion of the Web site.
Another section to consider for your site is “Meet our Team” or
“Meet our Lead Designer.” This could include photos of all staff
members and/or the designer as well as short paragraphs about
them. This helps develop a familiarity between consumers and
staff before their first in-store visit.
After all the research, planning, designing and launch are
completed, you cannot just move on to other business concerns
and forget about your Web presence. Mr. Freeman recommends
making a commitment to view your Web site as another storefront.
Place the same importance on your site as you do on the displays
in your department.
Here are some post-launch considerations for your site:
Just having an up-to-date Web site is not enough. You can’t sit
back and wait for people to find it. Mr. Pauley says there is no
reason to have one if you don’t intend to market it.
To help with promotion, FTD offers its members the option of
being part of an online directory of florists. When online
consumers go to
they can retrieve a listing of neighborhood FTD florists in
their search area. Mr. Pauley says the directory is designed to
drive traffic and orders to partnering florists’ Web sites. FTD
promotes the directory in its advertising to give members more
FTD also has an online directory of florists that it places
on all major online Yellow Pages directories. Mr. Pauley
explains that this targets the increasing number of consumers
who no longer use the printed Yellow Pages.
To promote its Web site, Schnucks’ floral division includes
its address in all advertising as well as on its business cards
and letterhead. A button that sends visitors to the floral Web
site also has a prominent spot on the Schnucks home page,
A Web site must be up to date and visually appealing at all
times. As with in-store displays, you have to give customers
something new if you want them to visit frequently. That is why
Schnucks recently put a floral person in charge of updating its
floral presence on the Web site, a task previously handled by
the company’s information technology (IT) department. Mr.
Schrader says this also will enhance the floral department’s
presence on the Schnucks site.
Mr. Freeman recommends testing your Web presence by getting
feedback from users after it is up and running. He suggests an
exit survey. Ask about consumers’ goals when visiting and
whether your site helped them fulfill those goals. If your
survey is in depth, consider offering an incentive, such as a $5
gift card for anyone who completes it.
Today, when people need information, most turn to Internet
search engines. This could be the way many potential customers
will find your Web site. Mr. Schrader stresses the importance of
being among the top choices that pop up in such searches.
Unfortunately, the expense of ensuring your Web site comes up
as a top choice in these searches is too costly for many floral
businesses. To address this, FTD has developed a more affordable
option called FTD Local Search. It is designed to help
florists compete for the top spot on the search results page of
the five leading search engines. The service is customized for
each florist and localized to keep the cost down. An added bonus
of the service is reports that florists can use to determine
their cost per order.
Inevitably, after your site is up and running, you will need
technical help to address some issues or problems. You may find
your company’s in-house IT department has difficulties
understanding your challenges from a floral perspective. To
eliminate this barrier, Mr. Schrader has found it easier to have
the Schnucks IT department deal directly with FTD’s technical
support, a perk of Schnucks’ partnership with FTD.
FTD has a support and implementation group that can provide a
site and/or help set up Web sites, as well as assist with any of
its other online service products. After the initial setup, this
support group also is available at no additional cost for those
who want to make changes to their Web sites. These experts also
provide free Web site optimization consultations. You can set up
FTD online services by calling (800) 576-6721 or e-mailing
five keys to a
successful web site
If you decide to develop a Web site or upgrade the one you
have, consider these suggestions:
1. Spend time planning. Decide your goals and how the site
2. Create a design that projects the image you want the world to
3. Market your site. After spending so much time developing your
site, make sure your customers know you
4. Update your Web site frequently. Don’t let it get stale.
5. Ask customers for feedback.
Contributing Editor Monica Humbard at (800) 355-8086.
features in your future
If you have checked out a significant selection of Web sites,
you probably have seen a wide range of function possibilities.
Over time, you may want to add features to your own site to
enhance your customer service. Here are two features Mr. Freeman
expects to become increasingly popular this year.
More shoppers are becoming familiar with blogging. According to
The American Heritage Dictionary, this is the act of
making entries on a “weblog,” which is a Web site that displays
in chronological order the postings by one or more individuals
and usually has links to comments on specific postings. You can
use this feature on your own Web site to develop a closer
relationship with customers and to learn more about their needs
As more and more consumers gain access to high-speed Internet,
Mr. Freeman says, florists should consider instructional online
videos. He suggests such topics as how to arrange a
cash-and-carry bouquet at home. The key here, he remarks, is
“interacting with clients.”
As with anything you put on the Web, Mr. Freeman says, it is
important to keep videos current. He suggests changing them at
least monthly and targeting holidays.
Mr. Schrader has discussed developing videos for Schnucks’
floral site with his public-relations department and hopes to
have some ready to include by the 2009 Christmas holiday season.
He would like to feature videos on such topics as how to
decorate your home for the holidays and how to make an
arrangement from flowers purchased at Schnucks. He reminds, “The
public is hungry for this.”