History of the Online Flower Industry

The Internet boom brought online commerce to the forefront of the business world. Suddenly, commodities could be ordered from anywhere in a heartbeat and sent to anyplace in the world. However, perishable goods such as foods and flowers lagged behind.

The reasons why businesspeople did not feel confident investing are self evident: flowers have a very limited shelf life. They are fragile and require delicate handling. An online flower establishment would require a constant supply of flowers from distributers, which is costly. The online flower shop would need close ties with postal services all over the world, which requires a high volume of business to maintain. The objections seemed insurmountable.

However, a few chance events sparked the online flower business through a different avenue. A phone-based flower shop, 1-800-Flowers, bought advertising time with CNN, a US news network. Right before the US's 1991 Persian Gulf War, CNN began losing advertising contracts at an alarming rate. Ted Turner, one of the owners and anchors, personally requested that 1-800-Flowers stay with the network and increase their ads. 1-800-Flowers agreed.

This was incredibly lucky for the company. When the US got involved in the Persian Gulf War, CNN was one of the primary networks that covered the conflict. Consequently, CNN's viewer base increased drastically. 1-800-Flowers gained huge amounts of business, allowing them enough revenue and traction with CNN to buy a large number of ads during the 1992 Olympics.

The company's new status as the best known national flower company paid off. In the mid 1990s, 1-800-Flowers entered into partnerships with AOL and CompuServe, gaining a foothold in the Internet business world. Since the Internet business was just supplementing the company's main avenue of telephone orders, investors were not nervous. As sales skyrocketed, it became apparent that an Internet florist was not only a viable business, but an incredibly lucrative one. In 1995, 1-800-Flowers opened its online flower shop.


Other telephone mega-florists followed suit. In retrospect, the Internet was the logical continuation of the phone flower trend. Phone-based florists appealed to the public because consumers knew what to expect when ordering a bouquet. By ordering from a single corporation, buyers could rest assured that the bouquet they purchased at home and the bouquet they sent to someone across the country were both of the same quality. However, the bouquet was still ordered sight-unseen.

With the Internet, people could order a bouquet and know what it would look like. The site could also provide articles giving guidance on appropriate types of plant for various occasions. Considering the breadth of flower types and occasions requiring specific bouquets, it is amazing that investors did not see the potential in online florists far earlier.

With the success of online mega-florists and the increase in easy, do it yourself website building tools, many local florists began offering their own websites. While most websites were just image galleries and store information at first, an increasing number of florists began offering the option to either purchase flowers online or to email the shop a request and get a custom bouquet.

The digital age has made it far easier to find and send high quality flowers. Through high resolution photos, virtual customization of bouquets to see how flower substitutions will impact the final arrangement, and secure online payment options, online florists have become one of the most popular and efficient means of ordering floral gifts.