Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

NetFlorist first established itself as an online florist, but it has grown to become a major player in the online retail space, offering a variety of gifting items across the board. Not surprisingly, Valentine’s Day is a particularly busy time for the company. On average, the business grows by more than 1,000% during this period.

Marketing manager Thalissa Pillay explains that Valentine’s Day is not a hard sell for the florist. Unlike holidays such as Easter and Christmas, most brands don’t tend to advertise around Valentine’s Day, which means any communication put out by the company is relatively free of competing messages.

Getting online customers to treat their loved ones on Valentine’s Day is not a challenge. What is a challenge is ensuring that all orders are met. Enormous demand on this one day means NetFlorist stands a significant risk of damaging its brand if it disappoints customers.

According to Pillay, the major challenges include staff and storage space. To meet the staffing challenge, she says, temporary staff are brought in from the middle of January to ensure that there are enough hands on deck and that they have sufficient time to learn the operational side of the business. Staff members are also provided with bedding so they can sleep over the night before Valentine’s Day, allowing them to work late and make an early start if need be.

The challenge around storage space for the additional 200,000 red roses brought in for Valentine’s Day is met by hiring additional warehouse space and cold-room containers to store the additional stock over this period.

NetFlorist’s marketing efforts around Valentine’s Day are relatively consistent. Over the years consumers have come to know “Harold”, the voice of NetFlorist and its brand persona. Harold’s quirky personality and distinctive voice instantly bring attention to the brand across its primary advertising platform, which is radio.

In recent years, NetFlorist’s radio advertising has been complemented with outdoor and social media campaigns. This year, for the first time, outdoor advertising will be combined with Twitter.  “We have rented space on digital billboards, and we’re encouraging our customers to tweet their Valentine’s messages to @Netflorist [under the tag] #freelove, which will then appear on the billboards on Valentine’s Day,” says Pillay. This, she says, creates an element of added value for customers. At the same time, it entrenches NetFlorist’s positioning as a brand that helps its customers to show their loved ones how much they care about them. 

There are lessons to be learnt from NetFlorist: while it’s a win to experience massive growth, it can be a double-edged sword if effective planning and sufficient resources are not put in place to manage the growth and ensure customer satisfaction.

The big take-out: It takes a great deal of planning to ensure that a brand is able to cope with growth and that it is geared to serve additional customers without making mistakes that could harm its reputation.

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