1-800-Flowers.com prides itself on the quality of its customer experience. How could it help shoppers find the right gifts, fast, and provide seamless customer journeys across all brands and channels?
Working with IBM to rethink its master data management landscape has given 1-800-Flowers.com a more agile and flexible approach to customer data, and helped build faster, more responsive mobile apps.
Enablesa smoother user experience for shoppers across channels and brands
10 timesfaster response times for the 1-800-Flowers.com mobile app
Improvesthe quality of customer data and enables deeper insight
Business challenge story
Delivering on a promise to customersFor retailers like 1-800-Flowers.com, defending market share and fostering customer loyalty depends on being able to provide a rewarding user experience for shoppers. How could 1-800-Flowers.com ensure a first-class customer experience every time, and meet its aim of always delivering a smile?
Arnie Leap, Chief Information Officer at 1-800-Flowers.com, picks up the story: “A best-in-class user experience has always been a core value for us. It’s one of the things our Founder and Executive Chairman, Jim McCann, and his brother, CEO and President, Chris McCann have focused on ever since the company’s foundation. In the past we’ve won awards for our customer service and we pledge to our customers that whenever they shop with us or receive a gift from us, they’ll be wearing a smile. Making shopping with us as simple as possible is a key part of delivering that promise.”
Central aspects of the 1-800-Flowers.com user experience are a mobile app—now on its fourth generation—and a series of loyalty programs, in which customers earn points that can be used across any of the 1-800-Flowers.com brands to apply towards their future shopping experiences and other discounts.
Leap continues: “Being able to share reliable, up-to-date customer data between our family of brands became vitally important for us—especially with the acquisition of the gourmet food and gift basket company Harry & David® in 2014, and the introduction of our new multi-brand website and loyalty programs.”
Managing data and keeping a single, accurate record listing customer details such as website interaction, card payments, purchase history and address books proved problematic. 1-800-Flowers.com attempted to manage its customer data by feeding details from each of its channels and brands into a master record as a central store of information.
“Our approach to master data management was to try and develop a centralized bank of customer information,” says Leap. “This ran into several problems, though. It was slow, for a start, and needed to be constantly updated and corrected. We never quite knew whether the data in the master record was accurate or if it had become outdated.
“We hit security issues too with this approach. Certain types of data need to be segregated and stored separately and with greater security than others. Credit card details, for example, need to be handled differently to records of web interaction. We needed to build greater flexibility into our data architecture to cater for this.”
The slowness of the master data management system also limited the performance of the 1-800-Flowers.com mobile app.
Leap explains: “For a mobile app to provide a good customer experience the API needs to respond within 200 milliseconds. If it gets much slower, users will quickly lose patience; they may even decide to look elsewhere for flowers and gifts. Our API was responding in around 2,500 or 2,800 milliseconds at times—and we were concerned about the impact on the shopping experience for our users.
“If we were going to meet our promise of delivering a quality experience for our customers, then we needed to find a smarter approach to master data management.”
Engineering a more agile, intelligent approach
To solve its master data management problem, 1-800-Flowers.com turned to IBM and decided to re-engineer its existing IBM® InfoSphere® Master Data Management solution.
Leap continues: “We had been using InfoSphere Master Data Management for the past eight years. The feeling at 1-800-Flowers.com was that we needed to address the problem now or we’d really pay for it further down the line. Data governance issues tend to get more severe over time as data volumes grow, so the sooner you can correct them, the better.
“We had an existing relationship with IBM, and we trusted in their expertise to help us redesign our InfoSphere Master Data Management system. The aim was to boost the performance of our master data management systems and improve the quality of the end-user experience.”
The upgrade enables a shift in how the 1-800-Flowers.com master data management system operates. Previously, each customer was assigned an enterprise ID profile for each 1-800-Flowers.com brand whenever they made a purchase, with the data collected by each brand feeding into the centralized master record.
With the upgrade in place, customers receive a single, unique ID for all of the 1-800-Flowers.com brands. This individual ID profile interacts with the data held by the brand records to draw out information on payments and addresses, for instance, to act as a single source of truth relating to that particular customer.
Leap explains: “We had things back-to-front before. We were trying to move data collected across all of our family of brands into one record. Now we have more of a master-index approach—the enterprise ID does the work of pointing our applications to the data services they need from the information held by the brands.
“This has lightened our MDM implementation hugely. We now have a more light-weight, agile enterprise-focused and intelligent system that can cope with managing the data from millions of individual customer records.”
In total, 1-800-Flowers.com has more than 70 million customer records to work through and validate during the project. “It’s been a really valuable process to go through,” says Leap. “From the point of view of data governance, it gives us the opportunity to run through and verify the customer information in our records. We can weed out redundant, outdated and inconsistent data, and make sure the records we keep are actually valuable to the company.”
Better for the business, better for customers
With an upgraded master data management system in place, 1-800-Flowers.com has enjoyed major benefits— both from the business efficiency standpoint and for end-users.
Leap states: “From the business perspective we now enjoy much better data quality relating to our customers. The validation process means customer information such as addresses and payment details are up-to-date and any duplicate records are removed. We’re no longer worrying about whether the data we have on our customers is accurate and the time we used to spend correcting and verifying can now be better spent working to ensure those same customers enjoy our services.”
The MDM upgrade has also boosted data security, keeping sensitive customer information in safe hands. “With the new enterprise ID profiles we can locate and draw out payment details only when they’re needed,” says Leap. “They don’t have to be stored alongside other, less sensitive data. This way there’s minimal risk of the data being exposed.”
Since the upgrade, the experience for customers shopping with 1-800-Flowers.com has greatly improved. Users are now able to view all previous purchases made across the 1-800-Flowers.com brands, addresses they have sent gifts to, and payment details in one place with their enterprise ID.
The 1-800-Flowers.com loyalty programs are also better able to connect with customers. “We can monitor purchases across the family of brands now and ensure loyalty program points are accurately calculated,” says Leap. “Moreover, any particular shopping trends are easier to detect, so we can prepare better special offers to suit customers’ gifting needs.”
The company has also achieved its aim of reducing mobile app API response time to below 200 milliseconds. With a more agile master data management system in place, response time has been reduced from 2,500 milliseconds to just 100-120 milliseconds—an order of magnitude improvement.
Leap continues: “We’re really pleased with how great the improvement has been for our mobile app. It’s such a key part of how customers interact with the company today, and the increased performance makes it a much more satisfying experience for our end-users.”
The upgraded system is also enabling planning for various future projects. “With the improved data we now have, we can begin to build more sophisticated marketing campaigns,” says Leap. “More intelligent mailing lists will be possible, and we can get smarter with our householding tactics—helping us save on marketing costs by avoiding sending multiple catalogues to individuals living at the same address.
“We’re also hoping a similar project could help us with our product data management. We have nearly 200,000 SKUs across the 1-800-Flowers.com brands. Managing these at an enterprise level has traditionally been a challenge. We’re aiming now to create a business-wide vision of our entire product catalog—a vital move now that we have a website offering products from across nine brands.”
Leap concludes: “We set out to improve our master data management and the end-user experience for our customers. Working with IBM helped us achieve both those goals—and gives us the platform to continue delivering smiles just as we have for the past four decades.”
Founded in 1976 by Executive Chairman Jim McCann with a single flower shop, 1-800-Flowers.com has grown into a multi-brand, omni-channel gift leader, offering unmatched gifts for every occasion. 1-800-Flowers.com brands include gourmet food gifts from Harry & David®, popcorn and specialties from The Popcorn Factory®, cookies and baked goods from Cheryl’s®, chocolates and confections from Fannie May® and Harry London®, gift baskets from 1-800-Baskets.com®, English muffins from Wolferman’s®, carved fresh fruit from FruitBouquets.com and quality steaks from Stock Yards®.
- InfoSphere Master Data Management Server
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