1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. helps customers express, connect and celebrate with SAS Viya on Azure
Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays or “just because” – now more than ever, consumers have a plethora of options for sending gifts or floral arrangements to loved ones. One way for e-commerce retailers to stand out from the crowd is by providing a unique and thoughtful user experience. And 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. is an innovator in this area.
What started in 1976 as a single flower shop in New York City, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. has grown into a $2.12 billion enterprise with more than a dozen gifting and sharing brands in its portfolio, including Harry & David, PersonalizationMall.com, Cheryl’s Cookies and more. The company has essentially doubled the size of its business over the past three years.
Throughout its history, the floral and gift retailer has embraced new technologies, always with an eye to where customers are going next. The original storefront eventually evolved into its namesake floral brand, where shoppers could order flowers by phone. Next came the web, then mobile, and today the company is trailblazing innovative approaches in chatbots and conversational commerce.
“The SAS team has always been fully engaged to understand where we are on our digital transformation journey and helps us stay ahead of the trends,” says Arnie Leap, CIO at 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.
The company previously deployed its SAS Analytics platform on-premises, a move that worked well at the time. But to meet the demands of an increasingly dispersed workforce and a rapidly scaling business, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. turned to SAS Viya hosted on Azure for a more scalable and flexible architecture.
The ability to layer in the SAS portfolio on top of Azure gives us the ability to be flexible in unanticipated times. We’ve been able to appropriately govern our processes in a way that we’ve never done before. Arnie Leap CIO 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.
Personalized marketing with AI and customer intelligence
Over the past couple years, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. has undergone a major effort to further strengthen its analytical capabilities and enhance the customer experience. By adopting SAS Viya on Azure, the e-commerce retailer now has a modern, scalable, cloud-based analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and data management platform to support its growing business.
Every analytics story starts with data, and 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. consolidates its databases and feeds them into Snowflake, a cloud-based data warehouse. From there, the data is ready for analysis.
“Our data lakes are within the Snowflake environment, providing that information in real time to every aspect of what we do with SAS,” Leap says. “We have at our fingertips a very large set of data as it relates to an e-commerce retail provider. And we see the right data go to the right processes and the right people at the right time at a much higher rate and pace than ever before. We see a wonderful partnership among 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc., Snowflake and Azure, and it’s been a tremendous step forward.”
“We execute millions of queries on a daily basis,” Leap says. “That ranges from monthly models to two-minute models, multiple iterations, Customer Intelligence 360 campaigns and capabilities, grid reporting and standard reports that we base business decisions on.”
For 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc., personalized marketing isn’t lip service; it’s how the company continues to provide a best-in-class customer experience.
For instance, daily models that 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. runs power digital marketing activities such as calculating the next-best offer across a myriad of digital marketing channels. In fact, the majority of analytics usage at 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. goes toward personalizing marketing activities.
This work involves a fair bit of AI, particularly machine learning. This technology, which is embedded in the SAS platform, helps 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. automatically select the best model based on the use case. For example, when a customer arrives at a website, the company can test and execute models within a web session to show personalized gift ideas based on the customer’s known preferences and buying history.
“We have scoring mechanisms for each model,” Leap explains. “That score is fed into the next model, which gives us another scoring set, which drives personalization on the website. You can’t do that without the capacity to iterate models quickly, and Viya in the cloud gives us that.”
Acting on analytics also contributes to the overall personalized marketing efforts for 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.
“SAS Customer Intelligence 360 is a very important piece of the customer experience puzzle. Our objective is to make sure that we can execute and maintain campaigns for marketing at levels that we haven’t previously been able to do,” Leap says. “As part of the cloud capabilities, we have the ability to execute campaigns at a whole different level; more complexity, more frequency and more data can all be provided to campaigning efforts.”
SAS helps us work cohesively across all our brands. And as new brands are added to the business, we can apply the same proven analytics and methodologies to understanding our new customers and better communicating with them in our marketing campaigns. Arnie Leap CIO 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.
Enhanced flexibility to meet employee and customer needs with Viya on Azure
Though 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. began its digital transformation before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the global health crisis accelerated its efforts. Like many companies, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. had to quickly adjust to a large portion of its workforce leaving office buildings to work remotely from home.
“Cloud provides immediate access to the tools necessary for people to do their jobs,” Leap says. “Whether employees are sitting in a corporate office or their home office, the objective is the same, and the tools are accessible through the same way.”
As staff adapted to the changing work environment, customers adapted to the changing retail environment.
“Since the pandemic began, there has been a tremendous behavioral shift in how our customers engage with us and the products that they’re consuming,” Leap says. “The analytics we use day in and day out from SAS gives us the ability to make adjustments on the fly and in near real-time. Our merchants do a fabulous job of making sure that the right trends are being hit at the right moment and getting the sequences correct, which in the end provides a wonderful experience to our customers.
“The ability to layer in the SAS portfolio on top of Azure gives us the ability to be flexible in unanticipated times. We’ve been able to appropriately govern our processes in a way that we’ve never done before. SAS is a critical piece of our day-to-day activity. By providing our marketing and business operations teams with online reporting, cloud capabilities, machine learning and model building, we unlock new opportunities every day relating to how we engage with our customers.”
By running SAS Viya on Azure, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. gets the flexibility it needs to meet business requirements. The solution stems from a strategic collaboration between SAS and Microsoft to shape the future of AI and analytics in the cloud.
The move to cloud was imminent for 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. “With our speed of growth over the past 18 months, the scalability we needed to operate at the highest level wasn’t possible without cloud,” Leap says. “SAS has been a wonderful partner in transitioning to the cloud, and the platforms themselves are exceeding all expectations.”
1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. has acquired multiple brands, including three in the past five years. By putting its data and analytics in the cloud, the company can easily onboard new analysts and get them up and running quickly.
“SAS helps us work cohesively across all our brands,” Leap says. “And as new brands are added to the business, we can apply the same proven analytics and methodologies to understanding our new customers and better communicating with them in our marketing campaigns.”
Azure gives 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. near-infinite capacity to scale analytics up and down as needed. When holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day bring the need for added computational oomph, Leap can add capacity at the click of a button.
“The ability to ramp things up or down is a big plus from a CIO’s point of view, because it helps us maintain our costs and accelerate the value proposition in other areas,” Leap says.
1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. – Facts & Figures
brands spanning flowers, gourmet foods and personalized items
gifts delivered annually
in annual revenue (FY 2021)
Seeking continuous improvement and seeing impressive growth
Continuous improvement is the aim for Leap and his team – a culture of excellence that’s reflected in the premium user experience at 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. and its brands.
“The single source of truth, ‘the holy grail,’ is all about governance. But it’s also about trial and error, and actually surviving the trials and the errors,” Leap explains.
For Leap, experimenting with data isn’t just encouraged – it’s vital to success.
“Continuous improvement is not about having all the answers,” he says. “Continuous improvement is about obtaining those answers through experimentation, some level of analytics, empirical data, reporting capabilities and so forth. Running SAS Viya in Azure gives us the opportunity to test often, fail quickly, learn from our mistakes and continuously improve the customer experience.”
Leap credits the company’s data-driven approach for its ability to innovate and evolve.
“SAS’ next-level analytics and expertise help us meet the challenges of tomorrow,” Leap concludes. “It’s a fascinating time for us, and I can’t wait to see what we’ll accomplish next.”