3 florist tech tips for helping customer relationships bloom

As technology continues to evolve at what feels like light-speed we're always on the lookout for hints and tips from experts to help local, independent florists navigate the minefield. Here Hetal Patel, Marketing Director at First Data, tells us three ways that she reckons will keep business running smoothly despite digital disruptions.

Increased competition from supermarkets and online marketplaces offering deep discounts and easy one-click online services is forcing high street florists to up their game. If you're an independent florist how can you make sure that you're first choice for shoppers looking for expert advice, personalised service, and the perfect arrangement for any occasion?

From marketing to delivery, the "insert name here" approach will not cut it anymore. Florists must get creative in order to retain a loyal customer base and attract new fans.

Today's consumers live 'double lives' – online and offline. They may engage with your Facebook or Pinterest posts, but they may also appreciate an invite to an evening party to your shop. With this range of touch points across digital and physical channels, there has never been so many opportunities to connect with customers. However, in order to provide a seamless customer experience, florists must turn to technology. When it comes to keeping track of all these interactions, a cash drawer and spreadsheets will no longer do.

Here's my top three tips to create personalised service with tech:

1. Getting personal...and profitable

Today, the idea of a 'good service' is one that takes minimal effort on the customers' behalf with convenience paramount. By getting to know your customers, their buying habits, preferences and recurring occasions - like anniversaries and birthdays - you can not only improve service but also encourage loyalty.

Wouldn't it be lovely to be sent a text reminder when it is nearing a recurring event, like a birthday, with the right amount of notice time to order a bouquet? Or if florists were to remember what flowers customers picked out before? Or even, sending offers for extras like candles, cards or chocolates depending on previous purchases. Creating a unique and personalised service like this is possible with the help of software that allows you to dive into your data.

An understanding of past behaviour coupled with conversations in store and social media interactions can help florists tailor their offers and promotions to ensure they are relevant, timely and welcome. Appropriate cross-selling will not only let your customers know you are in tune with their needs, but will also help drive additional revenue.

2. 25 hours in a day?

With events to prepare for, a store to run, a business to promote, staff to oversee, and stock to manage and order, you already have a lot to contend with. But you don't have to be tied to your shop to run your business and monitor the impact of your marketing efforts.

By adopting cloud based software owners and senior managers can monitor data from afar rather than being cooped up in the store day and night. Having access to your business data whenever and wherever means you don't need to be physically present at all times, easing overtime, and making for easy administration – whether you're out on a delivery or taking a well-earned holiday. Cloud based software can also prove an extremely valuable test ground when adopting technology without disrupting the day-to-day running of a business.

3. Reducing the admin burden

From checking stock on the shop floor, to ordering from the wholesaler – knowing what's in store, what's selling and what's ageing is key to running a profitable florist. Again, using technology can help manage these tasks including automatically synching up the point of sale with your inventory – making the end of day stock take a thing of the past. Automating these tasks not only can help free staff up but ultimately allows you to spend more time doing what you are great at, and set up the business to bloom!

For business owners looking to improve efficiency and customer engagement it's imperative they move away from the old fashioned 'till' that does nothing more than count money and look to adopting a system, like an EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale), designed to monitor and tackle the wide gamut of challenges facing businesses today.

An EPOS system can hold the key to insights that will better connect a business with its customers. Open platforms can allow business owners to inject innovation into their customer service, and acquire 'add ons', rather than committing to a whole new proprietary solution which can be an expensive move. Just like on your personal smart phone, apps in a cloud environment bring the opportunity to select the tools that are required to run the business today, with the option to add others as the business grows.

It's no longer good enough for small businesses to do just what it takes to get by. As competition heats up, florists must use all the tools at their disposal in order to ensure that they differentiate themselves – competing with bigger players, and adding an extra personal sparkle that customers don't find elsewhere.