How the Floral Industry Bounced Back in Times of Uncertainty The digital era shaped the future of the floral industry and planted a seed of hope.

By Murali Nethi

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

2021 was a year of challenges in many shapes, sizes and forms. Several industries experienced unprecedented uncertainty concerning the future state of their businesses. The floral industry was no exception — taking an immense hit as many companies were forced to close their doors and others, the ones that survived announced massive layoffs.

With weddings delayed, proms canceled and social gatherings drastically restricted — local florists' regular orders were canceled back to back, resulting in massive product dumps and overall loss. Issues flooded retailers and spread across the whole supply chain, from farms in the Netherlands, Ecuador and Colombia to importers in Miami and warehouses all over the United States.

Amid all these challenges, one stood out the most — an overworked administration trying to reengineer processes to help adapt to their new reality and survive in the market. So, what did we do about it?

A bloom of hope

To understand how the floral industry was able to rise from the ashes, let's take a quick overview of their process throughout the pandemic.

When lockdowns first arrived, many consumers worldwide frantically flocked supermarkets to stockpile essential household items such as toilet paper, water and food. However, key floral players noticed a pattern with consumers and how importers and wholesalers responded to this massive wave of frantic spending. The pandemic turned the focus back to humanity, and for the flower industry, this was good news.

Bouquets were on display at local supermarkets in hopes of helping spread positivity and a sense of tranquility in otherwise distressed homes. The gesture of sending flowers and arrangements was a way of saying "everything will be alright," while everyone, including myself, found a way to navigate through these uncharted waters. The industry shifted its focus to mass markets, mainly benefitting suppliers. At the same time, retailers and local shops stood idle analyzing consumers' responses and what they meant for their future operations.

As demand slowly started to make its way to floral, logistic operations such as cargo agencies finally began to reactivate flights and product dump slowly, but steadily, and importers found a way to get their product through to supermarkets and the few surviving customers, event planners, retailers and shops worldwide.

Related: Meet the Husband-and-Wife Duo Disrupting the Billion-Dollar Floral Industry

Rebirth of local florists and retailers

As product scarcity started to decrease with the reactivation of floral supply chain logistics, we knew that many local shops had to find a way to quickly adapt to the new digitization era to remain competitive against giant supermarket chains. This meant changing their approach and allocating marketing efforts to an online presence to better suit the needs and comforts of their customers since many were social-distancing.

E-commerce stores, along with the slow but steady return of in-person events, gained noticeable relevance, allowing local shops to broaden their audience and reach. It was then that I realized how catering to business can be optimized to increase orders and sales.

An online presence represented an extended channel to traditional brick-and-mortar stores and the introduction of modern-day technology to error-prone manual tasks. The optimization and, in some cases, automation of taking orders and handling shipping information created the opportunity for businesses to reach higher sales, even in pre-Covid times. Just like in the general retail industry, ecommerce was the lifeline that many companies needed to attract new customers and retain existing ones.

Related: How An Above-and-Beyond Floral Experience Led to a Lifetime Customer

The unlikely nature of tech in the floral industry

In a segment as traditional as the flower industry, many owners were reluctant to change, while others were simply skeptical. In my many years of experience working with family-owned companies, I've realized that this introduction of technology, while viewed as a logical step for tech-savvy individuals, was really a leap of faith for most business owners. Just like the introduction of AR-based apps in the travel industry, tech platforms represented new clientele, opportunities and availability for companies with staff shortages and limited operations.

Despite many of my first customers not being tech-savvy, the rise of online sales was both inevitable and undeniable across many industries, with ecommerce sales reaching an unprecedented $759.47 billion in the US in 2020 alone, a 31 percent year-over-year increase from 2019's $576.53 billion. The numbers alone spoke for themselves, and continue doing so.

As orders started to roll into the floral suppliers and farms from the increasing demand coming from floral retailers, there was greater availability and accessibility to small businesses that couldn't otherwise compete with industry giants. Surviving the pandemic was one thing, but surviving its aftermath was a whole different feat. Service providers offering tech guidance and solutions helped create the base for the rise of small shops and retailers.

The biggest lesson from the pandemic was that businesses have to act on the pressure of building resilience for the future. This means adapting to survive, reengineering processes and business models quickly and embracing the digital era. This digitization helped shape the future of the floral industry and planted that seed of hope in times of uncertainty.

Related: The Playbook to Negative Reviews

Murali Nethi

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO & Founder

Murali K. Nethi is the founder and CEO of SnapBlooms, a flower-delivery marketplace. His 24-plus-year background in enterprise architecture and IT allows him to explore business solutions in the retail industry.

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