Tech Innovation Blooms at 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.

Cutting-edge technologies like augmented reality, artificial intelligence and hyperconverged infrastructure help businesses thrive for the e-commerce gift retailer.

By Charlotte Jensen

By Charlotte Jensen June 10, 2020

Even when it was just a budding business, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. had innovation in its DNA. An early adopter of new technologies, the company put down roots in 24/7, toll-free “800” numbers in 1986, then added e-commerce over the internet, long before most other retailers.

In the nearly four decades since, the company has remained innovative. Most recently, its focus on utilizing technology to enhance the customer experience continually helped the company sell approximately 21 million stems for Mother’s Day, the biggest floral holiday of the year for its brand.

Some of the ways the company provides a best-in-class shopping experience include: through its integration of artificial intelligence (AI), automation, augmented reality (AR) and hyperconverged data centers to provide shoppers with an impressive level of service and fresh ways to engage with its family of more than a dozen brands.

In an interview with The Forecast, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. explained its approach to growth, why technology and innovation have always been front and center, and how it plans to transform customer service in the future.

Tell us a little about 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. and how you would describe the company today.

1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.: 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. is a leading provider of gifts designed to help customers express, connect and celebrate. The company’s Celebration platform features truly original products from our all-star family of more than a dozen brands, including, Harry & David, Cheryl’s Cookies, The Popcorn Factory, Shari’s Berries, Simply Chocolate and more. 

With so many gift-givers trusting us to send gestures of love to the important people in their lives, we lean on innovative technologies to help us engage with our customers and make it easy for them to connect with others.

Why are new technologies so critical to your success?

1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. has been at the forefront of technology since our inception more than 40 years ago. Over the years, we’ve reinvented ourselves countless times to stay ahead of consumer behavior. This is illustrated through our groundbreaking use of “800” technology, being the first merchant partner of AOL and CompuServe in the ’90s, and our rapid expansions into mobile and, more recently, conversational commerce.

Simply put, our investments in technology have always helped us adapt and adjust to both consumer and industry change. We’re grateful to have an agile hybrid cloud infrastructure that empowers our teams to operate efficiently – and even remotely – without having to manage and maintain physical servers.

How have investments in technologies helped you continually elevate the customer experience?

As a company that prioritizes innovation, we are proud to be early adopters of emerging technologies that help us enhance the customer experience. This year, we’ve identified, built and implemented a variety of new, cutting-edge tools and features that will benefit gift-givers as they seek to express, connect and celebrate with the important people in their lives.

These enhancements lean on AI, automation, augmented reality and more to provide shoppers with new ways to engage with the brand, discover products, transact, receive elevated service, and connect with others. For example, we recently integrated a 3D and AR product visualization tool that enables web shoppers to preview top-selling arrangements from our brand in 3D and then bring them to life in their own spaces with augmented reality using the camera on their mobile device. This tool helps customers better visualize the size, recipe and other specifications of our products, ensuring they can confidently select the perfect gift.

Nutanix helped us streamline our IT infrastructure in ways that help our developers, designers and other team members move swiftly to usher in innovation, building and integrating new features.

What are some of the ways Nutanix has helped 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.  evolve its IT capabilities in recent years?

Our company has leveraged Nutanix technology to establish a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), combining our compute and storage into one solution. Our on-premises data centers had previously relied on traditional infrastructure, which was more time-consuming to deploy and manage.

Now, with the help of Nutanix, we’ve modernized and simplified our infrastructure. We were able to deploy HCI in our facilities much faster while also utilizing fewer IT resources, freeing them up for other important projects. The speed of deployment, resilience and security of HCI have proved to be important in helping us implement new initiatives, serve our customers and continue to grow our business.

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With the HCI solution, we’ve moved to a more agile, resilient and modern infrastructure with cloud-like simplicity. Our IT teams are now able to take advantage of simplified management, streamlined day-to-day operations and can also work more efficiently with easy, one-click upgrades.  

How do customers benefit from these technologies?

With simplified IT operations, our teams, including the developers who help us build and iterate on features and enhancements across our consumer-facing channels, have been able to maximize their capabilities and focus on ushering in constant innovation to advance our commitment to continually elevate the shopping experience for customers.

Without the complexity of our legacy systems, we can apply the time and resources we’re saving to benefit our shoppers. At one of our facilities, we’ve also used Nutanix technology to implement a pre-printed labeling automation solution that has helped enhance the productivity of our assembly line and, in turn, get gifts to our customers more rapidly.

What priorities will the company focus on in the coming years?

At 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc., we are focused on deepening our relationships with our customers and engaging with them in new ways. In addition to providing our customers with innovative gift solutions, we will continue to offer them resources and experiences that enable them to build relationships, share with others, express themselves, connect in new ways and celebrate moments big and small.

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Charlotte Jensen is a contributing writer who specializes in business topics. She is the former executive editor of award-winning Entrepreneur magazine. Find her on Twitter @JensenChar.

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