Faced with labor shortages and increased costs, more and more florists are turning to third-party delivery services to grow their business and save money.
Last week, progressive retailers gathered virtually to share their experiences, best practices and cautions for using third-party delivery services during the Society of American Florists’ Idea Exchange, a monthly peer-to-peer learning event open to all SAF members. (Watch a recording of the event here).
Many of the more than 30 florists who participated described how services such as Roadie or DoorDash have improved their business, from helping them service customers outside their delivery area and fulfill late same-day orders, to finding an avenue to market to younger consumers and decrease costs for labor and vehicles.
“It’s like magic,” said Cameron Pappas, AAF, of Norton’s Florist in Birmingham, Alabama, which uses Shipt for some of the shop’s deliveries. “They just show up.”
Few participants reported customer complaints about delivery or problems with the flowers being damaged in transit, but they did offer the following strategies to make the most of delivery services.
Be selective with the product you offer, and keep it up to date. Florists agreed that offering a limited selection of smaller arrangements was the best approach because it makes it easier to fulfill and deliver orders. Many drivers arrive to the shop in a sedan and don’t have room for large arrangements, such as those made for funerals. “You can be very selective on the items you put up [on DoorDash],” says Brian Kusuda of Jimmy’s Flower Shop in Ogden, Utah. “Anything that’s deliverable — gift baskets, plants — and you can change that at any time.”
Test out delivery services on a small scale, on your schedule. If you are having a busy day, you can simply turn off DoorDash orders, says Arisha Hawkins of Lee’s Flowers and Cards in Washington, D.C. Hawkins has already turned off DoorDash for all major holidays this year. She and others also suggested trying the services on a small scale before deploying large volumes at holiday.
Pass on the cost. DoorDash charges a commission, and Roadie charges per delivery (with discounts for bulk deliveries). Whatever the cost, florists agreed that it needed to be passed on to the consumer. Kusuda has increased prices on his DoorDash bouquets by 20 percent to cover the commission, and so far, not one customer has complained that those flowers cost more than the same bouquets on the shop’s website.
Use delivery services with a shopping platform as a marketing tool. “This is a different customer than our normal customer,” says Kusuda. “We don’t feel like we are losing our normal customer to DoorDash. It’s a younger customer.” Florist Jason Bigham, of Penny + Clover in Detroit, points out that a lot of people use DoorDash to do their shopping. “There are so many people who use DoorDash as their platform for a lot of things, and they have disposable income to pay extra [for delivery].”
Think outside the box. You don’t have to have an agreement with a delivery service to have flowers delivered, as Patrick Houck, of Sugarland Blooms in Sugarland, Texas, discovered on Valentine’s Day when a customer outside of his delivery area called to order. Houck let his customer know when the order was ready, and the customer sent an Uber to pick it up. Houck was pleased that he didn’t have any contractual obligation to a delivery service, but was still able to fulfill the order.
Treat the drivers well. Nic Faitos of Starbright Floral Design in New York City greets his drivers with a smile and provides tips for a job well done. In doing so, he’s cultivated a following of loyal drivers who have learned about his business and the proper care and handling of flowers. If you have a bad experience with a driver, Faitos cautions against giving them a one-star review because the drivers talk among themselves and will stop showing up to take deliveries. Instead, talk directly to the driver about how they can improve.
Tap younger employees to monitor orders coming through delivery service platforms. Those employees are likely already using platforms such as DoorDash or UberEats for their own purchases, so they are more likely to understand the customer experience and how it works on the back end, says Lori Wilson, PFCI, of Flower Clique, a floral marketing and consultancy.
Don’t rule out local delivery services in your area. They might be more willing to negotiate commissions or costs per delivery, be more professional and expend more effort because they are startups trying to make it in your community, says Hawkins. However, their systems and processes might not integrate with yours and could require more back end work, she says. Houck has also has had good experiences with local delivery services. “I highly encourage you to at least hear what they have to say,” he said. “You might find that it will work out.”
Interested in learning more about delivery? SAF’s Floral Education Hub has several resources on delivery, including on-demand webinars about strategies for profitable deliveries and how to train new drivers, as well as an article about using contract labor. Access those resources here.
Amanda Jedlinsky is the managing editor of SAF NOW.