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How 1-800-Flowers’ Delivery Partnership with Walmart GoLocal has Blossomed into Real Results for Local Florists

A florist prepares an order for 1-800-Flowers.com.
Image courtesy 1-800-Flowers.com

Any retailer will tell you delivery is complicated, whether what’s being delivered is office paper or sandwich bread. But outside of all the logistical challenges already inherent in the delivery moment, imagine this: the product you are delivering is incredibly fragile, highly sensitive to temperature changes and absolutely must be delivered in the promised time frame. That’s exactly what 1-800-Flowers.com and the network of local florists do thousands of times every day across the country.

“Florists have been doing same-day, door-to-door delivery for as long as flower shops have been around,” said Abhay Patel, Brand President at 1-800-Flowers.com in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. But now the new raft of delivery service platforms that have sprung up in the past few years are now helping florists do it faster and more efficiently. 1-800-Flowers.com works with many of them to help the florists in its BloomNet network take their service to the next level.

“When someone gives us the privilege of placing a gifting order, making sure that it gets there in a timely manner that meets their expectations is a really important part of the overall experience,” said Patel. “From my vantage point, same-day and next-day is only becoming a bigger part of customers’ expectations. Ultimately we want to ensure that the customer feels like they can get floral anytime they want, so finding the right partners is crucial for us.”

One of those partners is Walmart’s white-label delivery solution, Walmart GoLocal. Through their work together, the partners have been able to expand local florists’ delivery reach while in many cases decreasing delivery costs, through order batching and other types of optimization. In fact, during the recent Mother’s Day rush (which beats out even Valentine’s Day as the company’s biggest sales moment of the year for flowers), despite order volume increasing 4X, Walmart GoLocal deliveries had a 99% on-time delivery rate.

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Those are some impressive numbers, so we sat down with Patel and Walmart GoLocal VP Rina Hurst to find out more about the partnership and how it’s driving results for 1-800-Flowers, its local floral partners and the end consumer.

Floral Delivery: An Age-Old Offering Enhanced by New Tech

1-800-Flowers delivery van
Image courtesy 1-800-Flowers.com

Before technology reimagined delivery, most of the independent florists that make up 1-800-Flowers’ BloomNet network had their own driver to handle that last, important mile. It worked, but it wasn’t always efficient.  

“These local florists want to be able to optimize and get as many deliveries as possible out at the same time, but orders flow through the day sporadically,” said Patel. “Having drivers sitting around all day [which is what used to happen] is not necessarily the most cost-effective. So as we think about a partnership like the one with GoLocal, being able to schedule a time for someone to come and pick up orders in a batch allows florists to get to a much better place in terms of cost savings on labor.”

Here’s how it works: An order comes in through 1-800-Flowers.com and is routed to the best-positioned local florist based on the delivery zip code. Within that florists’ POS system, where online orders are received, there are various delivery service options that are based on where the shop is located and the partnerships 1-800-Flowers has negotiated. The florist then chooses the best service for its needs and finances (which could still be their own driver). “One of the things that we’re trying do is give the florist options so they can choose the best way to support their businesses,” said Patel.

Expanded Delivery Ranges Help Florists Grow Their Business

At the moment, GoLocal is available to about one-fifth of BloomNet florists nationwide, with more coming online all the time. One of the big benefits GoLocal has been able to bring to florists over other providers is expanding shops’ service radius, said Hurst, with the GoLocal delivery network covering 93.5% of the U.S.

Being able to expand the coverage area makes a really meaningful difference to a florist in terms of taking more orders,” said Patel. “[Some of our florists] have been able to expand to reach customers on the outskirts, so like 20, 30 miles away. Making that available in a cost-effective manner for them allows us to really enhance our business and the florist business.”

The GoLocal solution also allows for scheduled, batch pickups for drivers, which “allows the drivers to then optimize the delivery and for the florists to manage costs more effectively,” said Patel.

“It’s also great because we’re only going into the florist shop one time, instead of two or even 10 times a day,” added Hurst. “We like it from a cost and operations perspective, and the florists like it from a cost perspective.”

Like many other delivery service platforms, GoLocal drivers are gig workers who use their own vehicles but “our service is white label,” pointed out Hurst. “So for the customer, everything is about 1-800-Flowers. They’re interacting with 1-800-Flowers and the local florists.”

“These services, like GoLocal, are services that we bring forward to our florists,” said Patel. “Ultimately they choose if it’s something they want to bring on. But I think the [GoLocal] offering, in terms of the professional, timely nature of their drivers plus the cost efficiencies, just makes florists’ lives a lot easier, so it’s gone over quite well within the network.”

Mother’s Day 2024 put the system to the test. “When you have your biggest season, that’s when you see the highs and lows of a business,” said Hurst. “But our on-time number from Mother’s Day was at 99% despite a 400% increase in volume, and we also saw a decrease in canceled orders and returned orders. When you have big volume days, those are the things that you usually see spike, and we saw them go down. That kind of quality timely operation is so core to what we’re building and how we show up for our retailers and their clients.”

Delivery Built  for Retail, Not Restaurants

Walmart launched GoLocal in 2021, part of a broader movement among retailers to package solutions built (or bought) for their own needs and sell them as services to fellow merchants: Amazon (Fulfilled by Amazon, FBA), Target (Shipt), American Eagle (Quiet Logistics), even Misfits Market and TikTok have all done something similar.

However, Walmart seems to be having particular success with its offering, perhaps because the tech was built in-house rather than being acquired, as Shipt and Quiet were. Or perhaps it’s because GoLocal also can work alongside some of many other tech services Walmart is now making available to others, including route optimization tools, store fulfillment solutions and POS offerings.

“This business started as a delivery network for Walmart,” explained Hurst. “So we really think about retail seasons. What do retailers need to succeed, how do you nail the experience and the operational performance? And where should you continue to evolve your technology and operations in order to best serve retailers? In the sea of delivery providers, many of which specialize in delivery for restaurants, we are made by retail for retail, with a huge focus on the customer and a white-labeled offering that really lets the retailer themselves shine.”

For example, GoLocal recently added a new proof-of-delivery feature that Patel said has been a “big win” with florists. “We created a way to have 360-degree communication around the delivery,” said Hurst. “From the time an order is placed to the moment that beautiful bouquet is ready for a driver and gets delivered, it’s fully tracked. We’ve been able to reduce bad deliveries, cancellations, returns, and it really helps us ensure a high quality for each and every delivery. With floral, every single delivery counts.”

Helping Small Businesses Where it Counts: Costs

Perhaps the biggest advantage to all this though is cost savings, particularly for the small businesses in the middle of the equation. Not only do these delivery services often provide local florists with more cost-effective and efficient delivery options, but those that are part of BloomNet network get the benefit of better rates negotiated on a national level by 1-800-Flowers.com.

Patel said that some BloomNet shops have reported saving tens of thousands of dollars annually on delivery costs by leveraging 1-800-Flowers’ delivery partner solutions, which of course includes Walmart GoLocal. “That’s meaningful when we think about many of these independent shops and what they’re able to then keep for themselves, invest in their businesses and give back to their employees,” said Patel.

And this is only the beginning for the partnership between 1-800-Flowers and Walmart, according to both Patel and Hurst. “This is a partnership we’re really proud of, and we’re just getting started on scaling,” said Hurst. “There’s a lot more opportunity here and we’re starting to explore how we might partner together in even bigger and bolder ways. We’re on a mission to help 1-800-Flowers delight customers across the U.S., and with our nationwide coverage I feel like we’re in a great spot to help them grow their business. We are always looking at how tech and operations work hand in hand to really drive the business forward and drive growth for our retail partners. I’m excited about where we’ll take this.”

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