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Personal conversations at scale; How 1-800-Flowers.com engages customers like they’re in their original Manhattan storefront

1-800-Flowers.com has grown from a single Manhattan-based storefront to an international delivery service that continues to grow. They employ several Twilio products to achieve the same delightful, one-on-one conversations they were able to have on their original store floor, at scale, to serve its growing customer base.

The Results
18.5
million stems expected to sell on Valentine's Day
~60
% of Valentine's Day traffic expected to come from mobile

Expanding from a single store on the upper east side of Manhattan, one that relied on in-shop conversations and personal interactions for its success, to a $1.25 billion dollar international business means you’ve got to rethink the way you interact with your customers—probably more than once.

For 1-800-Flowers.com, that growth took 40 years and happened during the proliferation of the internet, mobile phones… and now, advanced messaging technology, voice computing, AI, chatbots, and much more.

With the advent of every new technology, leaders at the growing company had to rethink how they engaged with customers, all while aiming to get back to those personal, delightful, and contextual conversations they had with customers who walked into their small shop more than 40 years ago.

Thanks to ever-emerging technology and a strong partnership with Twilio, the 1-800-Flowers.com team and its partners are now able to have those enriching, enjoyable conversations—and accomplish much more—with customers all over the world.

Enriched communication that led to two-way conversations via SMS

As CEO Christopher McCann tells it, the company is constantly looking for new ways of using technology to make the buying and delivery process more personal.

It made sense then that they became one of the first brands in the world to integrate Twilio’s RCS Business Messaging into their customer communications, and is using the channel to send rich order confirmations and delivery updates, allowing customers to easily modify their order, delivery window, and more without ever having to sit on hold to speak with an agent.

With RCS, users can share their location, attach hi-res photos and videos, add and remove members to a group chat, and enable read receipts and typing indicators. These rich messages are delivered to users’ default messaging app on their device; all you need is a phone number.

“Thanks to terrific bets on partners like Twilio, we are able to have these one-on-one conversations at scale,” said Amit Shah, chief marketing officer at 1-800-Flowers.com. “RCS is now being used to enhance our customer experience by allowing customers to modify orders, track shipments and place additional orders within the message. Twilio allows us to deliver that experience using the same API we already use for SMS.”

When someone—especially an anxiety-ridden significant other trying to do well on special occasions like Valentine’s Day—places an order with 1-800-Flowers.com, they want to know the order went through—and to be able to track its progress—especially given the product is perishable and time-sensitive, Shah explained.

With Twilio SMS and Twilio Autopilot, as well as integrations with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, customers are not only able to see their order went through and is being processed; they can also respond to those notifications to make modifications to their order in a conversational, delightful way—a new feature that has been incredibly powerful for the company and its customers.

Need to talk to a live agent? Customers can do that too, right from their messages, with a single tap, and they’ll be routed to an agent who has their order history and profile on-hand.

Then, the same API is used to send delivery notifications, both when the florist completes the order and when the recipient receives it. It makes for a reliable, contextual interaction that can also be customized—just like on the floor of their first shop 40 years ago.

“We’re not starting at ground zero with any customer,” Shah said. “We are empowering enriched conversations… because everywhere your customers are, you need to be.”

We’re not starting at ground zero with any customer. We are empowering enriched conversations… because everywhere your customers are, you need to be.

Amit Shah, chief marketing officer at 1-800-Flowers.com

Using technology to connect, 40 years later

Communication, then, on all platforms and the way customers want—with context, history, and a personal approach—is at the core of every successful order with the company, Shah said. It’s been that way since they first opened up shop and continues today, 40 years later.

It all comes back to conversations that are one-on-one, delightful, and unified, he explained—and Twilio helps make that happen every day.

“40 years later we find ourselves at a very different place—a place where we can have these [one-on-one] conversations at scale,” he said. “Having a partner like Twilio that can be equally robust at scaling up in the critical times we need them is an absolute necessity for us.”

“Twilio is really bringing us back to our roots,” he added. “As our customers have changed and are reaching us in multiple ways, we can take one technology, one platform, and cater to all of those needs.”