Capping off a busy week filled with partnerships and deals involving its cloud, mobile and systems technology, IBM today announced that 1-800-Flowers.com has selected IBM’s Commerce on Cloud solution to provide the retailer’s customers with a seamless experience across all of its brands.
The move to the IBM Cloud will make it easy for customers to transact business across all 1-800-Flowers brands, which include Harry & David, Wolferman’s and Fanny May, and deliver customers a unified omni-channel experience across the Web, mobile or call center channel, Adam Orentlicher, director of IBM Commerce told eWEEK.
“1-800-Flowers is an interesting example of an omni-channel retailer—one that has developed or acquired often brands and retail operations with thematic affinities, and operates them as individual businesses,” said Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT. “In the case of 1-800-Flowers, those retailers include its own florist services, Harry & David (fruit gifts), Wolferman’s (gourmet goods) and Fanny May (chocolate and candies). That can make great strategic sense—say, in being able to serve a customer who decides to add a box of Wolferman’s baked goods in addition to the 800-Flowers bouquet he or she just purchased.”
Before IBM Commerce on Cloud 1-800-Flowers.com had to deal with the complexity of having separate fulfillment processes for every brand and providing customers ordering from more than one brand the visibility into the status of their multi-brand orders online.
“They can use the cloud to take data as well as apps and integrate them together,” Orentlicher said. “And they can do so across clouds—public, private as well as on premises. If you look at what they’re doing from an omni-channel perspective, they’re using the IBM Cloud to enable their shoppers to get the ‘perfect order’ independent of brands. So, for instance, if you’re a shopper wanting to bundle flowers from 1-800-Flowers with Moose Munch from Harry & David, you can do so, and the fulfillment on the IBM Cloud enables the shoppers to get what I would call a perfect order delivered to them.”
By implementing its order and fulfillment solution on the IBM Cloud, 1-800-Flowers not only enhances its customer experience, but also reduces the amount of time and costs associated with managing large infrastructures and more efficiently managing seasonal spikes of the florist and gift giving business.
“The key reasons we won this business is that ‘Flowers’ said they saw IBM as the only company that could deliver the end-to-end services for them to enable this type of experience—both from a shopper perspective and from the company’s perspective,” Orentlicher said. “Because they’re a company that has a lot of peaks in demand especially around occasions like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. So you’ve got the services, the scalability, the elasticity, the security and privacy in the IBM Cloud to enable that kind of experience to be delivered to shoppers on the most peak days of the year for them as a company.”
The move to IBM Cloud comes as many retailers are focusing on gaining insight on data patterns through cloud analytics and services to better target consumers, know their preferences and provide faster customer service.
In fact, Orentlicher said 1-800-Flowers is planning to use IBM’s Watson cognitive computing to provide its shoppers with a highly personalized and relevant experience. For example, a customer interested in purchasing a bouquet of flowers for Valentine’s Day could interact with a Watson-powered app to make a purchase. The shopper would then interact with Watson in natural language and carry on a conversation to achieve a personalized experience.
1-800-FLOWERS.COM Taps IBM Cloud for Digital Transformation
“For instance, you know your spouse likes red flowers and you only want to spend $75. So they’re looking to enable with natural language, so you can go to their site and say I’m interested in flowers,” Orentlicher said. “Watson would ask if there are any flowers that interest you or do not interest you and you could say I don’t want red roses. Watson will then ask if you have a price range and you would say $75 or less. Then Watson would ask if this is for Valentine’s Day or another reason. And you would respond again like you are talking to a human person in natural language. And then you’ll be presented with an extremely content rich experience that shows the flowers that meet your needs that can be delivered in the time frame proposed.”
Using Watson-based software and solutions like the Fluid Expert Personal Shopper (XPS)—also based on Watson—1-800-Flowers shoppers gain a very natural human, interactive experience and “you can even expand this to other use cases like funeral flowers that need to be delivered in eight hours to a specific zip code,” Orentlicher said. “You can ask very natural questions like that online and get back personalized responses back for what you’re looking for. It’s almost like talking to a human being, but you’re not—it’s all through Watson. We have other brands that are doing this today. This is all in the IBM Cloud.”
1-800-Flowers has been a longtime IBM customer, using both IBM WebSphere Commerce and other pieces of IBM software, he said. In this new deal they are integrating IBM software with third-party software in the cloud to be able to deliver on this highly rich personalized experience where they can integrate apps across their supply chain.
“Our customers are coming to us, across all of our brands, to help them address their many gifting and celebratory needs,” Chris McCann, president of 1-800-Flowers, said in a statement. “It’s our job to deliver a convenient and enjoyable customer experience every time we interact with them. We do this through a combination of truly original products and an expanding range of services—and IBM’s Commerce on Cloud solution is helping us deliver on that promise.”
According to 1-800-Flowers’ CIO Arnie Leap, the company is seeing a massive shift of buying from mobile devices and major spikes in sales over the weekend and is looking for IBM to help handle that.
“Attempting to manage the IT resources necessary to support the Web, mobile and customer services offerings for an omni-channel business can be nightmarishly expensive and complex,” King said. “That’s where IBM Commerce on Cloud comes in—seamlessly supporting the order fulfillment processes needed across all of 1-800-Flowers’ brands, and adding IT assets whenever necessary, including during seasonal peak.”
Earlier this week, IBM announced a partnership with Box to deliver an enhanced IBM MobileFirst for iOS app to empower sales organizations. Big Blue also announced the expansion of an existing partnership with SAP to use IBM Cloud, cognitive and Power Systems technology along with SAP offerings to help organizations with digital transformation. In addition, IBM and pharmaceutical maker Pfizer launched a research project to use the Internet of things to help with the treatment of Parkinson’s disease patients. And the company also announced plans to expand its Linux-only portfolio of OpenPOWER systems.