Surfers are always on the lookout for big waves.
The most desirable waves often occur when the weather is stormy and uncertain. Surfers courageously enter raging swells and "take the drop." Just one epic ride provides motivation to keep trying and to perfect the approach.
And so it goes with Retail Innovation. It seems simple. But underneath the simplicity is an incredible amount of hard work that requires us to get back on that board and try again. The voice of consumers and markets are the wind building into the waves that entice industry leaders to innovate and produce new solutions. These "waves" then propel new ideas to the market.
Are you ready to ride retail’s waves of change? Cowabunga!
1800Flowers is continuing to invest in deepening customer experiences across touchpoints. We are very bullish on artificial intelligence and believe that our early investment in AI is starting to pay off for personalization and voice search. The next year of innovation will be customers demanding deeper and deeper experiences. For customers, it’s not just about asking for data but doing something with the data.
Voice is the most exciting platform.
First, I will tell you about the company background to provide some context. 1-800-Flowers started out in 1976 as a florist based in New York. Even then it was all about the human experience -- we were involved in the ebbs and flows of our customers' lives. Over the years we made a number of moves in the right direction. We were one of the first retailers to begin using a toll-free telephone number (1800Flowers), which allowed us to have conversations with customers at scale. Then in the 1990s we purchased the website domain 1800Flowers.com. Customers could access the online catalog, but this channel resulted in fewer conversations with customers. Nowadays, we see more and more retailers giving up on the core relationships they worked so hard to build with their customers. Our goal is to maintain and grow our customer relationships. In support of this, we were one of the first companies to offer a voice-enabled skill on Amazon Alexa. The ability to reach customers at scale and have distributed conversations is critical for us. Early adopters in Alexa and voice assistants enjoy a critical advantage over competitors. Why? Because the artificial intelligence (AI) is learning how to better service customers on the platform and therefore provides useful insights for retailers. For example, customers engage better if you say “hello” versus “hi” on Alexa. Over time, the experience becomes more personalized as the platform learns and tunes the experience based on who is engaging with the platform. For retailers, AI-enabled voice assistants offer personalized conversations at scale.
At 1800Flowers, we never make choices about technology. We let our customers tell us which choice they make - and we think our customers have spoken and they are adopting voice en mass. Retailers need to be ready to service their customers on their platform of choice. We believe the LQ (or learning quotient of the company) is critical. In order to stay competitive, it’s important for retailers to hire people who are interested in learning and keeping up with these new technologies. Everyone’s business is going be machine learning in a few years time. If companies are not open to learning, they will not be able to keep up. In fact, we believe that voice will dominate in less than 10 years.