The retail industry changed drastically in the 1990s, when the invention of the World Wide Web allowed shoppers to place orders at any hour of the day with the touch of a button. Since then, it’s continued to morph at a rapid pace as new technologies emerge, including social media and smartphones, and innovative companies, like Netflix and Amazon, promote business models that alter how people consume goods and services.
Although keeping up with technological and cultural trends can feel dizzying for florists, it’s imperative to stay informed and plot strategies to incorporate them into your business, said Renato Sogueco, vice president of digital strategy for BloomNet. “You can’t be the proverbial ostrich that sticks its head in the sand and hope the challenges go away,” he said. “If you don’t address them, you’ll get buried by the competition.”
During SAF Palm Beach 2017, the Society of American Florists 133rd Annual Convention Sept. 6-9 in Florida, Sogueco will lead a panel of three retail florists — Jo Buttram, AAF, of Shirley’s Flowers & Gifts in Rogers, Arkansas; Chris Drummond, AAF, PFCI, of Plaza Flowers in Norristown, Pennsylvania; and Jodi McShan of McShan Florist in Dallas — in “The Future of the Retail Florist,” a program that tackles current and developing trends to help businesses plan for what’s next.
Sogueco offered E-Brief editors a sneak peak of what florists can expect during this can’t miss session.
E-Brief: What are some of the topics you’ll cover?
Sogueco: We’ll discuss the undercurrent megatrends, including changes in e-commerce, mobile technology and consumer demographics. In each of these categories, we’ll dig deeper, analyzing things like how Amazon modifies consumer behavior, the popularity of mobile payment and coupons, ways consumers use devices to virtually augment real life experiences, and ideas to reinvent brick-and-mortar shops as destination spaces.
E-Brief: With Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods earlier this year, retailers in all industries seem a bit anxious of the company’s domination. Rather than fear the giant, what are some concepts florists can steal from Amazon to be more competitive?
Sogueco: It’s staggering how much Amazon has shaken up the retail market space. The company has made a lot of headway through its loyalty program, Amazon Prime, which has approximately 80 million members in the U.S.
One of Prime’s biggest perks is free two-day shipping, which motivates a lot of shoppers to bypass Google and start their search on Amazon. This is huge. In terms of delivery, Amazon has trained consumers to expect multiple options at different price points, as well as tracking information. Florists should definitely take note of that.
An emerging trend is voice. Amazon is pushing its Echo product, which allows consumers to do things without even interacting with a screen. A customer could simply say, “Hey Alexa, order my mother some flowers.” This sounds ambiguous, but because Amazon is so tuned into big data, Alexa knows the mother’s identity, what the customer has bought her in the past and can offer recommendations for the best gift.
E-Brief: Isn’t virtual reality just something of interest for video game enthusiasts?
Sogueco: It sounds like fantasy, but it’s a real thing with everyday consumers. Look at how crazy popular Pokemon Go became last year. And there are around 150 million Snapchat users who send images and videos with customized filters every day. Those are just a few examples of ways regular people use smartphones to augment reality. It’s hard to say exactly how florists will tap into the trend, but this session will be all about crowdsourcing ideas, so it will be interesting to hear what panelists and audience members suggest.
E-Brief: What do you think is a misconception about the current and future retail culture?
Sogueco: There have been loads of articles written about addiction to smartphones and social media, for instance. But the future isn’t all about technology. In fact, one of the biggest trends is a pushback to technology. As more and more activity happens online, people are craving more meaningful experiences “in real life.” This is what’s driving the “buy local” movement. When people take the time to go to a brick-and-mortar business, they want to find more than just products on a shelf. They want to be engaged. In the retail floral industry, this might mean offering design demos and classes, setting up a do-it-yourself flower bar or having a café area, where people can come hang out or work while being surrounded by gorgeous flowers.
ritten about addiction to smartphones and social media, for instance. But the future isn’t all about technology. In fact, one of the biggest trends is a pushback to technology. As more and more activity happens online, people are craving more meaningful experiences “in real life.” This is what’s driving the “buy local” movement. When people take the time to go to a brick-and-mortar business, they want to find more than just products on a shelf. They want to be engaged. We’ll share ideas on ways florists can create meaninging experiences.
Be a part of the conversation by joining Sogueco at SAF Palm Beach 2017. Register here.