Tucked away in the Miami suburb of Davie is one of the largest flower shops in Florida. Field of Flowers—with its 10,000 square feet of fresh-cut flowers—is a sight to behold, an experience that customers and visitors travel far and wide to witness in person.
Third-generation florist Donn F. Flipse worked hard to make Field of Flowers a destination business (now with a second location in Boca Raton). Not only are the stores filled with flower arrangements, orchid plants, flower bunches, and fancy potted “grower” plants, much of their success is devoted to service ventures, too: Lush Celebrations, which is the wedding and events department; the popular FLOWERBAR, where customers make their own flower arrangements under the guidance of a skilled floral designer; Interiorscapes, a business devoted to casino and hotel floral arrangements; and a service offering traditional funeral home floral arrangements.
But when the stay-at-home orders came in, the business did not. Everything came to a grinding halt.
“Nearly all of that business went away when we could no longer allow customers in our stores, when hotels and casinos had to close their doors temporarily, and when even funeral services were eliminated or curtailed greatly,” said Flipse. “We lost around 80% of our business.”
Flowers with a Side of Augmented Reality
The only significant portion of the flower shop’s business left intact were phone and online orders for delivered floral arrangements, but those represented only 20% of sales. That portion naturally increased along with the demand for flower and gift deliveries, but it wasn’t enough on its own. Fortunately, Flipse had already been dipping his toes into more innovative digital services and creative marketing before the pandemic hit and decided now was as good a time as any to experiment.
“For about a year we had been working with a leader in developing augmented reality or AR software,” he says. The software allows customers to send a personal video message that arrives to the recipient along with their flowers. “As far as we know, we’re not only the first florist but the first merchant of any kind to offer this service. We launched it a couple of weeks before Mother’s Day and received about a dozen orders per day.”
Additional pivots—like providing take-home DIY floral arrangement kits and partnering with other local businesses to expand their online delivery offerings (cookies, anyone?)—allowed Flipse to not only retain but more than double delivery sales.
Weird Homes at Home
A few states away in Austin, Texas, the folks at the Weird Homes Tour had their own excruciating decisions to make. Event businesses like the Weird Homes Tour have taken a huge hit: The cancellation of events like home tours, concerts, and sporting events has affected more than 83 million attendees around the globe.
The first order of business for The Weird Homes Tour was to postpone the tours scheduled this spring, including the seventh annual Austin tour, second annual Portland tour, and the inaugural Bay Area tour. Then, founders David J. and Chelle Neff and their team got creative.
“We took a long look at the best online strategy and pivot for our business and what would actually solve problems for our guests,” David told us.
To that end, they’ve been hosting a virtual home tour every Saturday live on Instagram. Viewers have gotten to peek inside homes like New Orleans’ Museum of Bad Taste and Austin’s Graeber House with tours led by the homeowners themselves. They just launched the second phase of their plan, called Weird Homes Tour TV, by selling/renting online classes and lectures taught by the talented artists, collectors and craftspeople who own the homes featured on the tour. It’s these homeowners, many who struggle to keep their homes amid rising property costs and other challenges even in the best of times, who have kept them motivated.
The online activity has kept the brand, the homes, and the homeowners visible during the shutdown, and has even helped generate some income via online tips from tour viewers and, now, the streaming classes and lectures. Sales from their coffee table book have helped, too. They’re currently investigating bringing the original Austin Weird Homes Tour online in June with a virtual tour via video chat for a set price.
Will the Online Pivots Be Permanent?
“It’s a lot of work for our small, social impact startup to do these extra activities, but I could see us keeping the lectures and online classes and adding to that over time,” David said. He adds that they wouldn’t discount planning an occasional Instagram tour for homes outside of their usual tour cities, including international locations.
Truth be told, though, they’d love to get back into people’s houses for the tactile experience but aren’t sure when customers will be up for it again. They’re currently partnering with MA+DS Modern Home Tours on a survey to learn how home tour fans feel about these types of events in what David calls “our new now” and when they think the tours should open back up in person.
Thankfully home tours aren’t as social distancing-unfriendly as, say, sports events and concerts. In a nationwide study, Seton Hall found 72% of Americans will not return to a sporting event until there is a coronavirus vaccine.
And as far as Field of Flowers is concerned, “it will be a long time before the world returns to how it was before, if it ever does,” Flipse says, adding that they plan to keep building on the digital innovations they’ve launched for that reason and more.
“Even if we did return to business as usual next week, these new and enhanced services and products [are innovations] that our customers value and which, one way or another, allow us to generate more sales and profits.”