"You guys are divorced. Why do you care? You're not reading those co-parenting books again, are you?" My daughter turned 17 last week and seems to believe that she is now too old for divorced parenting tactics. She's never too old to be a wiseass, however.
Once we get past the snideness (yeah, I was trying to be a good co-parent, so sue me), I toss her my iPhone and tell her to check out the 1800Flowers app. "Try flowers," I say.
Which may or may not be a gift for Kevin Ranford, director of Web marketing at 1800Flowers. Ranford, who has seen some encouraging momentum from his mobile strategies, tells me he will be working 24/7 in the coming weeks. The company has had a WAP site for two years and now has apps in both iPhone and Blackberry stores, all enabled for m-commerce and thriving, he tells me. Shopping via the mobile data channel has accelerated in the last 12 months, he says, "and there is some nice growth on the app side."
I asked Ranford the same question my daughter first asked me: Why order by the mobile data channel when a Web site screen usually is close enough for such things? This actually is something I wonder about when it comes to mobile commerce. How many instances are there when I need to order a book, flowers, or other mainstays of the Web e-commerce world in such a hurry that I can't wait to get to a bigger screen and the deeper catalog of a Web site? "It is convenience and on-the-go shopping," says Ranford. "We have a very loyal customer base, and we've been taking the opportunity since launch to make sure the customers are rewarded for the mobile offering."
For this Mother's Day, for instance, 1800Flowers has a "SpotaMom" promotion across platforms. But if you text "spotamom" to the "Flowers" short code, Ranford and co. will give you a 20% discount. He says that so far the mobile part of the business is additive. He isn't seeing evidence that he is simply moving customers from one ordering platform to another. Mobile keeps the brand more top-of-mind for existing customers and the mobile platform is opening a new customer base.
"For strong repeat users, the apps are great," he says. In fact, there may be evolving a two-tiered approach to m-commerce strategies. The WAP site could become a destination for occasional buyers and new customers, since that is traffic that would be driven more by campaigns and direct typing of a URL. The apps could appeal more to that loyal base and so be designed differently. "From an applications standpoint, the apps are a home run," he says. He says repeat purchases are good off of them and the average order price is "nice and strong."
For now, the design and offerings in both apps and WAP are driven by the online bestsellers, about 6 to 10 top sellers in seven to nine categories. The apps may offer the opportunity to go deeper, however.
The iPhone app is nothing fancy but direct and straightforward. Illustrations and merchandising are pretty much absent from a very text-driven interface that gets you into the right category and down to a dozen selections (each with a full screen image and description) in about three clicks. "We really [design] around how to keep this easy and on-the-go," Ranford says.
Unlike Amazon's more elaborate m-commerce experience, this is less about browsing and more about getting the right choice quickly. I am imagining frantic husbands and absent-minded kids alleviating guilt after that "doh" moment (forgot about Mom!). You could wait until you get back to the office or home, but then of course you run the risk of forgetting again.
I am not only divorced but a quick study, so I don't seem to be making quite as many mistakes with my new partner, or at least not the kind that demands a bouquet. So I am not much of a flower buyer. But if I were, then the next obvious steps for 1800Flowers for me would be SMS alerts for key events or some form of personalization. Right now the SMS reminder service is presented to new email reminder subscribers, but further integration of the program is planned. Randford says the SMS alerts worked well last Valentine's Day. Ultimately, he expects to build out the program to include personalized events like birthdays and the critically important anniversaries.
In these early stages of mobile commerce, being there is key. But as this platform evolves and people's comfort with mobile ordering solidifies, then service and customization could be the real differentiators.
A service-oriented and personalized m-commerce product might even help me remember the details I so conveniently forget.
"Wait a minute," my daughter says. "Isn't Mom allergic? You should know that, shouldn't you?"
"Oh, really? Hmm. Is she? It must have slipped my mind."
"Alright, Dad, knock it off. Remember, I'm the one who has to bring her the Advil and Claritin now. Isn't there a chapter on this kind of thing in that book of yours?"