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Harry & David poised for mobile boost from 1800Flowers

September 3, 2014

photo[5]_opt-18Harry & David’s mcommerce strategy could receive a jolt from 1800Flowers, with the mobile-savvy florist’s agreement to acquire the seller of gourmet foods.

1800Flower agreed to acquire Harry & David, known for its Royal Riviera pears, Wolferman’s English muffins and Cushman’s HoneyBells citrus products, for $142.5 million. The deal, expected to be completed next month, underscores the significant role mobile is playing for ecommerce and catalog retailers.

“Revenue growth from mobile will grow dramatically over the next few years,” said Sheryl Kingstone of Boston-based Yankee Group. “It’s essential that these companies create a mobile-first approach when trying to leverage the assets from both companies.”

Mobile realm
The acquisition includes Harry & David’s brands and Web sites as well as its headquarters, manufacturing and distribution facilities and orchards in Medford, OR, and its 47 retail stores around the United States. Harry & David’s will become a unit of 1800Flowers, based in Carle Place, NY.

Harry & David is seen as benefiting from 1800Flowers’ aggressive mobile program, tied to the florist’s search for new ways to reach a growing audience whose purchasing increasingly happens in the mobile realm.

Harry & David’s efforts in mobile have been carried out with the customer in mind.

The retailer has opted to maintain separate Web sites for mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers despite the added costs because it feels the strategy allows it to better control the customer experience.

While it weighed the implementation of responsive design during a years-long overhaul of its legacy technology systems, the company decided such technology was not quite ready for prime time.

Although it is more time-consuming and costly to maintain separate Web experiences for each type of device, Harry & David felt it did not want to gamble on a technology that has not yet fully proven itself.

In late 2012, Harry & David introduced a Web site experience optimized for tablets to take advantage of a significant increase in traffic from tablet users.

1800Flowers mobile application.

1800Flowers mobile application.

The site was designed to simplify navigation and, ultimately, to increase conversion rates for tablet shoppers.

In July, 1800Flowers added to its reputation as a bold player in mobile, by announcing a plan to start accepting bitcoin payments this fall.

In March, Neil McKenna, 1800Flowers’ director of online marketing, told eTail West 2014 in San Antonio, TX, that initial tests around mobile fingerprinting were successful to the extent that the brand may have underinvested in the technology.

1800Flowers tested mobile fingerprinting last year, but now the brand’s investments suggest that its investments in the tactic are growing and getting more aggressive in targeting cross-channel shoppers, Mr. McKenna said.

Unique experience
“These companies must not only ensure the mobile web is optimized for a unique experience, but also a mobile app since 60 percent of consumers’ time on a mobile phone is spent interacting with applications,” Yankee Group’s Ms. Kingstone said.

“With 250 million smartphones and 280 million tablets in use in the U.S. by 2017, apps represent a large opportunity for businesses to win new customers and engage their existing client base.

“Rich media catalogs, ease of mobile checkout, mobile click to chat will all be essential for ensuring a positive mobile engagement,” she said.

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.


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