What 1-800-Flowers’ Search Dominance Means for Local Florists

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With consumer spending reaching record levels this Valentine’s Day, floral retailers pulled out all the stops to capture their share of the nearly $2 billion consumers spent on flowers. According to an analysis of search ad trends conducted by the search intelligence provider Adthena, 1-800-Flowers pushed more search ads than any other retailer in the floral industry this Valentine’s season, eating up more than one-third of all ad clicks.

In analyzing more than 2,700 text search ads that ran between January 15 and February 15, Adthena found that 1-800-Flowers pushed nearly 900 ads during the month.

“1-800-Flowers and ProFlowers were evenly matched on impressions. But 1-800-Flowers was overpowering in terms of click share. They were more than 20 percentage points higher, for example, than ftd.com. They beat everyone—by a mile—on clicks,” said Ashley Fletcher, vice president of marketing at Adthena.

To reach those conclusions, Adthena analyzed brand domains for keywords and created a unique keyword universe. The company then mined search engine results pages for those terms, creating separate keyword universes for each of a brand’s competitors. Adthena collated the data to create detailed maps of each brand’s entire search market and generated a customized search landscape. The company also created a specific search term group for Valentine’s Day, looking at how people were bidding and using specific Valentine’s Day-related terms.

1-800-Flowers’ dominance over the competition—which included ProFlowers, FromYouFlowers, Bouqs, and FTD—was due in large part to the number of keywords the company bid on. If a consumer was searching for “flowers” or “Valentine’s Day gifts” during the month of February, there’s a good chance he or she clicked on an ad from 1-800-Flowers.

With more consumers researching purchases online than ever before, and major e-commerce retailers like 1-800-Flowers and ProFlowers flooding the playing field with paid search ads, there’s a looming question of what will happen to local florists. After all, a mom-and-pop floral shop can’t compete on volume when it comes to text search ads, particularly when the industry’s heaviest hitters are bidding on thousands, or even millions, of keywords and phrases.

“1-800-Flowers is a billion-dollar company. They have money to spend and have used it to build an impressive search strategy for customer acquisition. They relied on a higher volume of search ads but also bid comprehensively—across generic and niche keywords,” Fletcher said. “Not every competitor—especially smaller, challenger brands—will be able to do that.”

Adthena found that 1-800-Flowers was consistently bidding on generic terms, which can be expensive because they’re what’s considered “evergreen.” Evergreen keywords are terms that will always be relevant to the audience regardless of how much time has passed. For example, terms like “flowers” and “bouquets” are relevant to a florist regardless of which holidays are coming up. Evergreen keywords are typically considered too expensive for local mom-and-pop florists to bid on because the competition for those keywords is so strong.

To make matters tougher for one-location shops, major floral retailers, like FTD and From You Flowers, are also bidding on location-specific keywords, making it difficult for local florists to get noticed even when they appear near the top of organic search results.

Fletcher’s recommendation is for smaller brands, including local florists, to think smarter than the big guys, particularly when it comes to search-enabled customer acquisition.

“It demands the use of AI [artificial intelligence] and machine learning to unlock opportunities and deliver much-needed competitive clarity on what is happening in your auction,” he said.

Search advertising isn’t the only place where 1-800-Flowers is asserting itself over its local competitors. The multinational retailer partnered with Facebook and integrated with the company’s Messenger platform to communicate with customers automatically via chatbots, joining the ranks of other behemoths like Bank of America, Burger King, and Staples, in 2016. The company also introduced a recommendation engine called Gwyn, which uses artificial intelligence to offer personalized gift suggestions to shoppers, that same year.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.