In 2013, private equity consultant Aron Gelbhard started to spend weeks personally measuring hundreds of letterboxes. His aim: to find the perfect size for a home-delivered bouquet.
Soon, he was going to leading UK florists with a proposition to make home flower-arranging easy and fun. The result was Bloom & Wild, a British business whose mission still is to make sending and receiving flowers "the joy it should be" for both the sender and the recipient and which has racked up an impressive 60,000 five star online consumer reviews.
The company now has around 30 staff, has raised £3.5m in venture capital and angel funding, claims to be Europe's leading and fastest-growing direct to consumer flower brand and has operations in the UK, Ireland, France and Germany. And despite being all about buds and arrangements, the company sees itself as a technology player, being an alumnus of Tech Nation's Future Fifty. Gelbhard has stated that he and his co-founder thought technology would be "just one of the things" they'd need - but it's turned out to be at the heart of what Bloom & Wild does:
We now have a decent-sized in-house tech team. I wish we'd realized earlier that this would be what could - and now does - set us apart from the many other flower companies out there.
Apart from tech, the firm is powered by what it calls its five core values of: care, customer-first, delight, innovation and pride. These values came into play, its Head of Brand, Marisa Thomas says, when what should have been a major straightforward business opportunity, Mother's Day 2019 (which in the UK is formally known as ‘Mothering Sunday' and is timed to fall on the fourth Sunday during Lent), suddenly got a lot more complicated:
Mother's day is our biggest peak of the year so, like many other brands we send a variety of emails to inspire and remind our customers around this date. But we heard that some of them found these communications upsetting. For many, Mother's Day is a happy time to celebrate, but for others it's a painful reminder of individual struggles. When planning the Mother's Day email campaign, our focus was not on driving revenue or hitting sales goals, but on doing the right thing by our customers.
As a result, she says, the brand decided to reassess and change the way it talked to customers around occasions that could be sensitive. A practical way of doing that would be to offer the ability to opt-out of all its Mother's Day marketing comms, which Thomas says has been made possible by working with an agile customer engagement platform from a supplier called Braze.
Repeating the process for all potentially sensitive occasions
What this looks like in practice is: an email is sent out with a link to a simple opt-out landing page, which adds those customers to a custom segment so they didn't receive generic messages about Mother's Day. Instead they receive tailored emails, without any Mother's Day content.
Did it work? It seems in two ways: that customer preference was honoured-but also that engagement with the brand benefited too. In the end, says Thomas, nearly 18,000 customers opted-out of the 2019 Mother's Day Bloom & Wild campaign… but on the day the opt-out campaign kicked off, customer interaction with Bloom & Wild on Twitter more than quadrupled (from an average of 4-5% to 20%).
We received positive customer feedback through phone calls, and emails increased by five times normal. Despite it not being our aim, the opt-out also received national press coverage, and was even mentioned in the House of Commons, with an MP praising the offer of opt-out and calling for more brands to do the same.
On the back of all this success last year, for 2020 the company went further with personalisation: if you opted-out of hearing about Mother's Day by email, you'd see no mention of it on the firm's website either-neither on the homepage, the navigation menus or even in products when you log into your account.
The company has also repeated the process for all potentially sensitive occasions, like Father's and Valentine's Day. It has also launched a new preferences section to make it easier to opt-out of reminders to what you might see as a sensitive occasion without having to wait to be asked.
For Thomas, using Customer Relationship Management technology in this way has enabled her team to be thoughtful in all communications, and at scale:
We were really overwhelmed with the response to the op-out, and we realised it had helped us to connect more deeply with our customers.
The company has now connected to what it sees as like-minded businesses and is asking them to take a truly customer-first approach, starting a campaign to get other firms to commit to offering opt-outs to potentially sensitive content and move to more tailored messaging. Over 130 brands have already signed up, including Paperchase, The Telegraph and Treatwell, with Bloom & Wild committing to making its knowledge open source and sharing advice with the marketing and tech community to be "more thoughtful".
‘Even smaller brands have the power to shape their industry'
Summing up the experience of working with CRM this way, for Thomas the opt-out campaign really reinforced for the company's leadership that "even small gestures can be so impactful":
We didn't consider the impact on customer loyalty when we launched the initiative, so we were surprised to hear so many customers tell us that our approach to this sensitive issue would be a reason to keep shopping with us in the future.
We've also learnt that even smaller brands have the power to shape their industry.
What's next for this kind of "thoughtful" CRM, then? Thomas says she and her team want customer choice around the marketing messages they receive to become industry best practice. This drive has been strengthened, she states, by the impact of COVID-19 and the nationwide lockdown:
The current situation has forced us to think harder about what more we could do as a business. Our strategy has been focused on making sure that how we behave as a brand is helpful to our community during this time: living by our values helps us generate ideas and stay true to ourselves as a business, which has included us raising money for charity, offering discounts to over 89,000 frontline workers and giving away 124 bouquets to key workers.