1-800-Flowers.com, Inc. delivers 20 million stems on Mother's Day, contributing to 6% of the company's total annual revenue.
What does the IT department do to prepare for the traffic influx? Not much.
"We have 360 some odd days a year to practice for the one or two days that we really hit our peaks," said Arnie Leap, CIO of 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc., in an interview with CIO Dive.
1-800-Flowers.com, Inc. houses brands like 1-800-Flowers, Harry & David and Moose Munch. For the holidays, the company has some "creative scheduling," but the process and systems from a scalability and expansion standpoint are nearly identical. Technology is woven into the culture at 1-800-Flowers and staying true to process, running like a small IT business, the company can anticipate and meet demand on peak traffic days.
"It's important to be able to do the same things over and over again in your execution, repeat the same sort of steps, so you have predictability in your operations, and that's something that we really strive for," said Leap.
Before a holiday, Leap and his team take about an hour to walk through a checklist, then move on, he said. Operating the same way 1-800-Flowers does on a daily basis is key.
Leap is careful not to inject anything new into 1-800-Flower's technology environment when gearing up for a holiday.
"We lock things down a week before or two," he said. Shying away from change "allows for the investigation of an event to be very mundane," if an incident does occur.
The only difference between the days leading up to Valentine's Day and Mother's Day is volume, said Leap.
An innovative history
Before 1-800-Flowers was a digital company it was a small flower shoppe on the Upper East Side of New York City.
About 10 years later, the flower shop acquired the 1-800-Flowers phone number and rebranded. By 1994, the company launched on AOL for its first merchant partner; in 1995, its e-commerce website went live.
The company was founded and began as a flower shoppe in New York City.
The company acquired the 1-800-Flowers phone number and undergoes a rebrand.
1-800-Flowers partnered with CompuServe.
AOL signed on as the company's first merchant partner.
1-800-Flowers.com went live as an e-commerce site.
The company became publicly traded.
The company acquired The Popcorn Factory.
1-800-Flowers launched BloomNet and acquires Cheryl's Cookies.
1-800-Flowers launched mobile app and FruiteBouquets.com.
The company acquired Harry & David.
1-800-Flowers is accessible on Apple Business Chat and Google Assistant.
The company launched on Samsung's Bixby.
Timeline of 1-800-Flowers' business evolution
The company evolved into the digital platform it is today by listening to what customers wanted, how they were behaving, and asking, "is there something else it can do to better their engagement?"
The answer to that question "leads you down the technology path," said Leap. "You don't want to tell your customer how to do business, you want your customer to tell you how to engage with us … if that's through technology, so be it."
Meeting customers where they are has contributed to 1-800-Flowers' longevity, even if that meant moving away from calling 1-800-Flowers to place an order. The company is now trying to predict the next vehicle after smartphones.
Leap expects communication through text to dissolve in favor of voice-first communication. The next wave for 1-800-Flowers' technology is conversational commerce, which includes Facebook's Messenger, Amazon's Alexa, Google Assistant, according to the company's latest annual SEC report.
The company has gone through three or four technology cycles, said Leap, referring to the evolution from voice call, text, and now back to "talking into a device to place an order."
1-800-Flowers announced its integration with Samsung in January, right before Valentine's Day. Customers could simply say "Hey Bixby, I want to send flowers to my wife" and pay for the order with Samsung Pay.
The company already has experience communicating with customers over email, online and phone lines. Now there's a convergence of conversation and voice-enabled technologies "as natural language processing continues to become more mature."
Customers want to use mobile messaging, augmented reality and voice technologies for every aspect of their lives. 1-800-Flowers is meeting them on their phones, offering the "Quick Meets Easy" tool for personalized floral recommendations.
Finding the right balance between assisting with custom orders while maintaining privacy is still a priority because companies can get "into a little bit of trouble being too far out in front," said Leap. "Being side by side partners with the customer" is the preferred strategy.