In his nearly 30 years as owner of Beneva Flowers, Art Conforti, PFCI, grew the Sarasota shop from nothing to one of the nation’s largest and most prosperous retail floral businesses.
At SAF’s 1-Day Profit Blast, July 22, in St. Louis, Conforti, president of Bloomerang Solutions, shared some of his secrets during a presentation titled “Delivering an Unforgettable Customer Experience.”
“It’s worth it to pull out all the stops to make customers say ‘wow’, because surveys show 86% of Americans will pay more money to have a better customer service,” Conforti said. “Step back and look at your business from your customer’s point of view. How can you make shopping simpler and more pleasant?”
Here are a few of his philosophies:
- Recognize your online presence as your second storefront.
“So many people shop online these days and they’ll discriminate based on the quality of a retailer’s website,” Conforti said. A professional site has high-quality photographs, categories that cover practically any customer want or need, frequently asked questions, and e-commerce functionality that works seamlessly. Customers should be able to navigate the site intuitively. “Test it regularly to find and remove pain points,” he said. (Conforti will cover this topic in more detail during his upcoming presentation at SAF Palm Beach 2017: “Analyze This: Google Analytics.)
Your shop website is only part of the equation, though. “Consumers expect businesses to be active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” Conforti said. “If you don’t do it, they’ll be suspicious.” Simply posting pretty flowers won’t cut it. “People expect more than that—and they don’t appreciate seeing sales pitches on social media,” he said. He suggests experimenting with different types of content to entertain, educate and excite customers. For instance, you could offer advice, whether that’s how to care for flowers and plants, what flowers to send to a funeral or tips for surviving the heat of an outdoor wedding. Real wedding photos delight former brides who will like and share the post. And behind-the-scene shots of the owner and staff go a long way. “Customers love these personal posts,” Conforti said. “The purpose of social media is getting to know you.”
- Make shopping easy.
“Customers are busy and want to be able to shop on the go,” Conforti said. “Anything you can do to offer convenience helps you compete with big box stores.” Must-haves include a mobile-optimized website and a registration field where customers can save their address and credit card information for a faster check out. Conforti also recommends having an app for increased ease. He launched his own version, FloralApp, back in 2010.
- Give them peace of mind.
Flowers are expensive and people have plenty of concerns when they order them. Conforti embraces opportunities to put their mind at ease. Websites using the Bloomerang template show the phrase “Need help?” and a reference code during each step of the shopping process.
About five years ago, Conforti added live chat functions to the Beneva site. “It was a huge hit,” he said. “People have questions, but they don’t necessarily want to dial up the shop to ask.” A lot of these queries, such as “What’s in my arrangement?” or “When will my flowers arrive?” don’t require an actual person to answer, so Conforti is in the process of developing an automated chat bot, “Bloomy,” that ties into florists’ point of sale system to generate answers. “If the question truly requires assistance, Bloomy will say, ‘We need a little more information’ and show the shop’s phone number,” he explained. “The idea is to provide an immediate answer without tying up your staff. This could be huge for Valentine’s Day when you’re slammed and most people simply want to track whether or not their order has been delivered.”
Of course, there are those customers who do prefer shopping in person or on the phone. To increase these shoppers’ comfort, Conforti trained his former employees to end the conversation with the phrase “We’ll take good care of that.”
- Reward them.
Beneva Flowers customers can sign up for a free program that tracks every purchase and offers “petal points” for every dollar spent. Customers appreciate accruing rewards and it incentivizes them to keep shopping with the retailer for all their gifting occasions to reach the prize sooner.
To hear Conforti share more strategies for success, sign up for SAF’s 133rd annual convention in Palm Beach, Florida. Click here to register.