Given the fact that Valentine’s Day is still fresh in our memories and Mother’s Day is looming large ahead of us, it’s most definitely the season for flowers. And yet ordering flowers – especially as a gift – is no bed of roses; somebody has to be in to take delivery and often the blossoms, which look so vibrant on arrival, wilt all too soon. Fortunately, in bringing a touch of tech to the humble bundle of flowers, Bloom & Wild has hit on a fresh approach that promises to make gifting bouquets a breeze.
Bloom & Wild’s co-founders Aron Gelbard and Ben Stanway certainly aren’t lacking in professional experience; Stanway had been a senior partner for Habrok Capital, whilst Gelbard had worked in various consulting roles for retail consumer products and tech companies. After being introduced by a mutual contact, the future founders got the entrepreneurial itch and realised that they’d identified fertile ground for innovation. “We had both independently looked at the flower business and thought that there was an opportunity to create the first flower brand that people genuinely love,” Gelbard explains.
The seed for Bloom & Wild was sown when its founders realised there was a lack of a coherent brand in the flower delivery market. “When you’re looking for jeans, you probably don’t go to Google, type in jeans and buy the cheapest ones,” Gelbard says. And yet this is precisely how customers shopped for flowers, leaving the founders of Bloom & Wild to believe there was space for a brand that consumers felt a real loyalty toward. “We just thought it was unusual that, when you’re expressing to somebody that you really care, you’re trusting Google to come up with an option for you, rather than there being a brand that you trust and love.”
Recognising it was time for their idea to germinate, Gelbard and Stanway decided to put their money where their mouths were. “We put in a little of our own savings to start with; not a lot but we did take a little bit of a risk just to get it off the ground,” says Gelbard. With this they created the first iteration of the website, made up the first batches of flowers and rented some space by the hour at New Covent Garden Flower Market to help get the word out. “We then raised some seed funding from angel investors and that kept us running,” he says.
To begin with, the growth in the company’s user base was relatively organic, relying on word of mouth to generate buzz around the company. “We asked our friends to buy flowers and to tell their friends and co-workers about it,” says Gelbard. Since then Bloom & Wild has employed a sophisticated marketing mix, forming partnerships with other startups and corporate brands, as well as using targeted ads on social media. It also has a refer a friend system – which offers money off for referrals – and this has proven invaluable in getting the word out. “That’s really helped us to spread the word and encouraged people to tell their friends about us,” he says.
But what is it that makes Bloom & Wild stand out through the competition? One factor is that they have found a way to deliver fresher flowers for less cost. “Flowers go through lots of middlemen between when they’re cut at source and when they end up on your kitchen table,” says Gelbard. “Each of those steps mean that the flowers are getting older and that they’re getting more expensive.” Recognising how a more direct supply chain could benefit its customers, Bloom & Wild has established a direct relationship with a grower and importer, meaning it takes less time and less money for flowers to travel from cutting to the consumer.
Bloom & Wild’s biggest innovation, however, is how the flowers are delivered. One of the biggest pain points of sending flowers as a gift is the fact that somebody has to be in at the other end to receive them.
Fortunately, thanks to a chance observation, Bloom & Wild has hit upon a novel solution. “Ben was on a trip to the Netherlands and saw flowers being shipped around Amsterdam airport,” Gelbard explains. “He happened to be passing a cargo area and he saw the flowers laid flat in large boxes, rather than standing up in water.” Consulting with contacts in the industry, they found out that flowers are shipped in flat boxes and only arranged in the final steps of the supply chain. “We thought ‘if they’re transported like that anyway, then why can’t they be transported to the end customer like that as well?’”
When customers order Bloom & Wild’s flowers, they arrive in boxes that easily fit through the letterbox, meaning, even if you’re out, your flowers will be waiting on your doormat when you return. “If flowers can fit through the letterbox, receiving them is much easier,” says Gelbard. Consumers then get to arrange their own flowers, something that has been an unexpected hit with Bloom & Wild customers. “When we started, we didn’t know whether people would enjoy arranging their flowers,” he explains. “But they actually think it’s a great way to receive flowers; they like the condition they come in and giving them that care and attention.”
Not only does this innovation make receiving flowers easier and more aesthetically pleasing but it has also opened up a whole new payment model for Bloom & Wild. When the company launched, a lot of businesses were getting involved in gift subscription services. Requiring somebody to be in for delivery meant most flower delivery services couldn’t get involved but Bloom & Wild’s letterbox-friendly bunches made a regular delivery of posies a possibility.
And this is all to the good, as Gelbard believes flowers lend themselves particularly well to a subscription model. “If you send somebody flowers, you know they’ve got a finite lifetime,” he says. When looking to spend a little more on a gift, few are willing to stump up significant amounts of cash for something that will be little more than compost in a few weeks. But a subscription allows customers to give flowers on an ongoing basis, which can give the gift a more long-term value. “You’re giving somebody the experience of having flowers in their life for an extended period, rather than just something that lasts a few days,” Gelbard continues. “It takes flowers from being a really perishable gift to being something more enduring.”
A lot of Bloom & Wild’s focus is on making the giving and receiving of flowers as easy as possible and it has invested a considerable amount of effort simplifying its buying process. This is most noticeable on its iPhone app; released last November, it allows customers to order flowers in as little as ten seconds. Once the customer has selected one of its curated bunches, they can link to their phone’s address book to deliver to a contact and use stored card details to make payment. “You need to make it really simple for people,” Gelbard explains. “If you’re standing on a crowded train, you’ve remembered that it’s your mum’s birthday and you haven’t got round to buying a present yet, then you want it to be as easy as possible.”
In light of all of this, it’s hardly surprising how well Bloom & Wild has been received. “We’re already the top-rated flower company in the UK,” Gelbard says. The service has been showered with five-star reviews on Reviews.co.uk and has an average review of 4.79, showing just how popular it is with consumers. But it’s not just Joe Public that loves Bloom & Wild’s service; it’s proving a hit with journos as well, netting no end of press coverage and winning the Guardian Small Business Showcase logistics award. “We have been featured in a lot of national publications already and we’re really happy that people find us worth talking about,” he continues. “It’s really encouraging.”
Bloom & Wild is most definitely flourishing. It’s currently working on a new iteration of its app that will serve reminders and allow quick ordering for important events like birthdays, with an Android version to follow later this year. It’s also expanding its product line beyond flowers; it has recently added the ability to send luxury Belgian chocolates with your bouquets. Given the loyal fan-base the startup has built, it really does seem like Bloom & Wild is ready to enter a whole new stage of growth. “We’ve learned a lot so far and our customers really like the product,” concludes Gelbard. “Now we just need to develop it further and get the word out.”