How AI, AR and Venmo are reshaping 1-800-Flowers

As an early adopter of e-commerce in the 1990s, 1-800-Flowers.com is pushing the envelope again with 3-D and augmented reality technologies to sell floral arrangements with new payment options, including Venmo.

In preparation for Valentine’s Day, the e-commerce operator is rolling out AR-enabled floral options that for the first time enable shoppers to view prospective arrangements in 3-D on desktop or mobile devices, edit orders through an AI-powered “intelligent virtual assistant” and pay with expanded digital wallet options.

The new AI-powered agent gauges the buyer’s intent through conversation and provides suggestions, with options to visualize the flower arrangement in the intended setting using a mobile device, even if the shopping session began on a desktop, said Amit Shah, chief marketing officer for 1-800-Flowers.com.

1-800-Flowers.com has also expanded a broad array of payment options to include Venmo for the first time, following a test during the 2019 holiday season.

“When we recently began testing Venmo as a checkout option, we became one of the first retailers in the gifting space to offer mobile web shoppers the ability to check out with Venmo,” Shah said.

The company already supported PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Chase Pay, Visa Checkout and Amex Express Checkout, but saw strong demand for Venmo, according to Shah.

The result is a highly personalized experience that “learns” shoppers’ floral and payment preferences to streamline the ordering process for new and returning customers.

Customers can still speak to a live agent, but during pilots of the platform in recent months, most preferred the new natural-language voice recognition system that responds to conversation-style customer requests, Shah said.

Developed in the last six months with a combination of in-house expertise and third-party technology, the 3-D and AR viewing options are launching with 1-800-Flowers.com's top-selling arrangements, with plans to expand to more products in the coming months, according to Shah.

The feature eliminates several problems for buyers who couldn’t envision the final product, he said.

“Digital shoppers often inquire about the size and specifications of our arrangements, but with this visualization feature, they can see how floral products will look on tables, desks, shelves or virtually any other surface in their physical spaces,” Shah said.

Another goal for 1-800-Flowers.com was to bridge legacy technology with the latest features, because older customers typically rely on desktop shopping and younger buyers are almost exclusively looking for flowers on mobile devices.

Desktop users can see floral arrangements in 3-D, and they can also click on a QR code with a smartphone to instantly hand off an image of the product in AR, enabling them to switch between desktop shopping and a mobile device.

“It’s still early, but we’ve received excellent feedback from customers using these tools,” Shah said.

Staying at the forefront of technology has been a core principle since Carle Place, N.Y.-based 1-800-Flowers.com was founded in 1976, according to Shah. The company introduced its first iteration of conversational commerce in 2016, followed by chat-based ordering on Facebook.

Steadily expanding through acquisition over the years, 1-800-Flowers.com’s subsidiaries include Harry & David, the Popcorn Factory, Shari’s Berries and several other gift and gourmet products.

“Our newest moves tie back to our culture of innovation, which is deeply rooted in the company,” Shah said.

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