Here's How 1-800-Flowers Leverages AI to Streamline the Customer Journey

It all began with a single flower shop bought for just $10,000 in Manhattan way back in 1976, but over the years 1-800-Flowers has bloomed to become the largest gifting retailer in the US, now making well over $1.2 billion in sales a year.

Today, the retailer is far from a high-street florist. Rather, it’s largely an ecommerce company, with 88% of its business residing online. And flowers no longer take the lion’s share of sales either. Numerous acquisitions, including The Popcorn Factory, Cheryl’s Cookies, Fannie May and Wolferman’s – all separate, yet integrated into the 1-800-Flowers website – have resulted in 60% of the company’s revenue coming from food gift sales. Indeed, the business has now completely transformed itself from a flower delivery service, into a multi-branded gifting powerhouse.

With the multiple sites and multiple banners under which the company operates online, you might think that asking shoppers to navigate the thousands of products scattered across numerous subdomains is nothing but a recipe for a confused and frustrating customer journey. And on a lesser site you would be right. But there is some great technology at play on that streamlines the experience for customers – and artificial intelligence (AI) is leading the way.

Meet Gwyn – Your Personal Gift Concierge

Last year, 1-800-Flowers partnered with IBM to leverage the company’s Watson program – an AI technology designed to transform the online customer experience with a smart virtual shopping assistant. The 1-800-Flowers incarnation of Watson is Gwyn (Gifts when you need them), which helps the retailer’s customers find the perfect gift to send to loved ones by using cognitive capabilities to present customized product suggestions to online shoppers.

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Essentially a high-powered chatbot, Gwyn intuitively guides 1-800-Flowers mobile and desktop customers throughout their buying journey. Gwyn can handle all sorts of questions – from the vague “I need to find something for my mother,” to the more specific “Show me the best roses you’ve got.” In all cases, Gwyn asks several follow-up questions to ensure that the right product suggestions are given. For instance, if a customer wants to find a gift for his mother, Gwyn will ask about the occasion, what the sentiment is, and what types of things Mother likes. What’s more, the more the customer interacts with Gwyn, the more intuitive it becomes, meaning that the shopping experience becomes even more refined over time.

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Dave Taiclet, President of the Gourmet Food Group, explains that it’s “conversational commerce” that is driving 1-800-Flowers’ innovation strategy, and it’s Gwyn that’s guiding the way.

“, Inc. has promoted a culture of innovation since its inception, leading the way in the new wave of conversational commerce that speaks to our company’s DNA. Gwyn further enhances our customer experience providing a personalized approach to solving gifting needs. Whether it’s selecting the perfect gift basket from Harry & David for a holiday gift or choosing Cheryl’s Cookies to say thank you, Gwyn provides our customer with the perfect way to deliver a smile.”

Attracting New Customers with Facebook Chatbot

And Gwyn isn’t the only digital concierge that 1-800-Flowers has at its disposal. Last year, when Facebook announced that its Messenger app would now support branded chatbots, 1-800-Flowers was the example Mark Zuckerberg used in his very first demo. “I love this one,” Zuckerberg said. “It’s pretty ironic: To order from 1-800-Flowers, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again.”

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The bot was an immediate success, and was particularly efficient at attracting new shoppers to 1-800-Flowers. Digiday reported that just two months into the launch, 70% of the company’s Facebook chatbot orders came from brand new customers, who in fact were younger than the company’s typical customer.

“They are already using the Messenger platform, so it’s been easy to engage them,” Chris Mcann, President of 1-800-Flowers, told Digiday. “They’re able to place an order in a minute; it’s gives them that fluidity.”

The Best Product Is Customer Experience

Also last year, 1-800-Flowers teamed up with Amazon to enable customers to order gifts by voice using Amazon Alexa on the Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, or Fire TV. All a customer needs to do is say “Alexa, ask 1-800-Flowers to send a box of chocolates to my wife on Valentine’s Day”, and the retailer will process the order and arrange the delivery.

It’s all very convenient, very futuristic, very cool – and the three AI technologies combined, McCann says, have together attracted tens of thousands of new customers. Indeed, 1-800-Flowers is providing one of the most seamless ecommerce AI experiences out there, integrating numerous technologies across multiple channels and multiple websites – and all with the utmost focus on providing convenience and a standout service for the end customer.

The last word goes to Jon Mandell, Vice President of Multi-brand Customer Marketing for 1-800-Flowers.

“Ingrained in, Inc.’s cultural DNA is a willingness – even eagerness – to innovate and embrace new technologies that disrupt the status quo in the gifting industry. It is what has helped us grow from a single floral shop 40 years ago into the multi-brand gifting leader we are today. We see AI as the next wave of technology to assist us in providing our best product – our customer experience. We view AI as another tool in our arsenal to provide ease and convenience for our customers to act on their thoughtfulness and deliver smiles to the important people in their lives.”

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