After nearly a decade of underinvestment in its tech stack, FTD began making significant solution investments in early 2020 centered on its upgraded Mercury HQ (MHQ) solution. The next step for the 112-year-old floral and gift brand is offering its partner florists updated features within its new MercuryOnline (MOL) platform, powered by Shopify, which FTD CTO Matt Powell describes as “how digital commerce interfaces with store operations.”
Through its MOL, MHQ and Mercury Network, FTD has integrated wire service, POS and ecommerce to offer:
- A mobile-first user experience;
- Intuitive tools that create faster and search-friendly experiences for greater traffic and customer conversion;
- Real-time order updates across devices;
- Delivery fee adjustment capabilities;
- Order cutoff times;
- In-store pickup scheduling; and
- A customizable platform that affords greater control to each florist.
Over the next six months, FTD plans to add capabilities such as automated customer email follow-up, social media integration, digital zoom-in tools and payment integration with Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal.
“One of my strategic pillars is to attract the highest quality members via inspired applications that support the different ways they do business to drive margin per member, improve customer experience and drive network health,” said Powell in an interview with Retail TouchPoints.
Part of FTD’s growth plan is to expand from the approximately 2,000 florist member customers currently using the platform to at least 5,000 within the next two years.
“Our mission is to lower the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs, and one of the ways we achieve that is by helping businesses around the world find the best ways to engage with their customers and reach new audiences,” explained Mark Bergen, VP at Shopify in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “FTD demonstrates a similar passion in their latest endeavor [with] MercuryOnline, which will unlock new opportunities for growth for thousands of individual florists.”
How FTD is Easing Digital Adoption for Florists
Helping florists adopt digital capabilities that align with consumers’ new shopping habits is a priority for FTD, and the company is trying to both speed and ease the transition for the florists it works with. As Powell noted, 30 years ago, most gifting retail business relied on walk-in customers.
“Now, just to access the same amount of opportunity that is in your geography, you have to do walk-in, phone, SMS, social, your website and other people’s websites and maybe you want to do DoorDash, Uber and other marketplaces,” said Powell. “Just to get a shot, you have to be in [all] those places.”
Given the scale of change and the relatively low level of tech savvy within its network, FTD realized that simply providing a platform for its members wasn’t sufficient. The company needed to integrate technology that would serve the specific needs of the gifting retail space, such as the ability to update catalog and business information across commerce channels, manage delivery services and oversee inventory while remaining in complete control of business operations.
“MOL provides ‘commerce-in-a-box’ for these small business florists,” explained Bergen. “Through MOL, florists without technical experience or large teams can set up a fully operational online store, powered by Shopify, with access to FTD’s network, product catalog, and more.”
For its part, FTD is using the platform to pull together customer details that will allow its member customer florists to provide exceptional service, including being able to better anticipate customer demands.
“If you have a relationship with a local florist and you bought flowers for your mom online last year because of the pandemic and you think she really liked them, maybe you want to get something like those, but different,” said Powell. “In our system, if you go to that same florist and ask, ‘What did I send my mom last year?,’ they see everything, cross channel.”
Applying New-School Technology to Old-School Customer Service
While FTD began as a collective of florists dedicated to their craft, Powell noted that the company lost its way for a bit, eventually treating its members as “frenemies.” Since Powell joined the company in 2020, this mindset has shifted back to the original intention of serving florists, but with a high-tech twist — empowering them with the latest tools that will yield the best service for their customers.
“Our attitude is the members are most important,” said Powell. “They are what make us, and we want to give customers and consumers great experiences. Our whole vibe is different now. We’re obsessed with how we can bring in the best members with the best tools. That’s how we believe we will attract the people who let us do best for our customers.”
To expand upon the work that has already been performed, Powell has big ideas to keep these smaller businesses in the gifting game. Continuing to build digital capabilities for members, Powell wants to automate workflows so that customers can visit a local florist and place an order that will actually be fulfilled by a different business, in another city, through its network. The florist through which the order is placed receives a percentage for wiring the order and the customer experience remains simple. Powell’s mission is to create a space for these smaller businesses to grow while competing against larger corporate sellers.
“From our perspective, healthy members mean a healthy network and there is more than enough to go around for everybody,” said Powell. “If we don’t work hard to keep these folks in digital commerce they’re just going to get destroyed by boring gray boxes. There’s a place for that, but there’s a place for the dynamic small-business person, too.” Florists Telegraph Delivery, for which FTD was the original acronym, “was founded on the idea of shifting love across time and space. That’s what the word ‘Telegraph’ was for. Now, the way to do it is totally different.”