Business is blooming for online florist

20 Mar 2009

While many companies are suffering in the current economic climate, one internet-based florist is enjoying a boom.

“Fortunately, we’re not seeing a downturn at all, we’re up on orders on last year,” said Eamonn Grant of Flowers Made Easy.

“Our business has grown substantially since we launched in November 2006.For Valentine’s Day this year, we had the most hits we’ve ever had in one day. We’ve also had a huge volume of business in advance of Mother’s Day.”

Despite the constant talk of recession in the media, Grant is adamant that it’s not all doom and gloom. “There are lots of good businesses out there doing well, and they’re going to continue to do well, and hopefully we’ll hear more about them in the future.”

Grant believes much of Flowers Made Easy’s success is due to a change in attitude by Irish consumers, who have learned to trust the web. At first, the majority of customers would have phoned the company with their credit-card details, but now 80pc of orders come from online.

“We’re getting many more people who are trusting the online website process and are ordering straight through the website. One reason for that would be that our site is constantly improving, but it’s also to do with trust in e-commerce sites in general – people are becoming more confident about placing their credit-card details on secure websites. Our own website is completely secure – we have a Realex system in place and we also have a PayPal option. We don’t hold any credit-card details on our own server.”

Operating out of a 5,000 sq ft warehouse in Sandyford, Dublin, Flowers Made Easy doesn’t own a traditional shop – all sales come from online.

“We have a full admin team fielding phone calls and managing the online orders, so the orders are processed instantly. We’ve got it down to a fine art at this stage! We put together a bouquet on the spot and deliver it the same day. We also have network of florists throughout the country.”

According to Grant, embracing all aspects of the internet is a cornerstone of the business. A veteran blogger since 2003, he currently keeps a blog on the company website, and also uses social-networking sites as a tool to drive awareness of the company.

“We started on Bebo and then everyone who was cool moved to Facebook, so we moved too! We were the first business in the country to build a Facebook application. It’s called virtual flowers and it’s on our Facebook business page, so you can send virtual flowers to all your Facebook contacts for free. We also Twitter pretty much every day.

“We’ve also got a Flickr account so that customers can browse through photos of our work. We mainly use it to display our wedding arrangements. We have almost 1,500 photos up, all taken either by ourselves or by photographers of our flowers. Brides love it because they can see the quality of our work.

“I think if you’re a serious internet business, you’re on social-networking sites, and if you’re not, well, then you’re not. I don’t think Web 2.0 is the be all and end all, but I do think it’s a key differentiator at the moment, and that’s really important in the current climate. It’s important to do something a little bit different and touch base with your potential customers and interact in different ways. It’s also very cost-effective, compared to paying huge amounts of money for advertising.”

Grant sees embracing new web technologies as an ideal way of creating brand awareness. “It shows people what you do and keeps them up to date with what’s going on. From our blog and Flickr account etc you can get a better idea of who we are than if we just had a really nice website. We’re trying to be a real business with a real website that people can interact with. It’s a new way of getting close to customers, as they can’t just walk into a shop and get to know us.”

Grant assures me that even on Mother’s Day itself he’ll be taking orders and doing same-day deliveries in Dublin, so even the most errant child will have no excuse for neglecting Mammy.

By Deirdre Nolan

Pictured: a bouquet from Flowers Made Easy’s Flickr page