NetFlorist: Growing a new business under lockdown
by Louise Burgers. We speak to the NetFlorist leadership team after the brand teamed up with Fruitspot to deliver fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as essential groceries in urban areas during lockdown due to the global pandemic.
by Louise Burgers. If ever innovative thinking was needed for any brand, it is now. NetFlorist is one of those brands that is entrenched in South Africa’s retail ecosystem, one of the first to sell online with the delivery of flowers nationwide and then gifts; and now taking on the distribution of fresh vegetables during South Africa’s lockdown to face down this global pandemic and ensure it stays in business as its core offerings remain off limits.
The 20-year-old brand has shown how growing partnerships during crisis times can help serve South Africans and allow the business to continue trading and providing employment. The traditional flower and gift hamper delivery site has partnered with Fruitspot to deliver fresh fruit and vegetables, extending the essential goods delivery service to add pantry staples as well, such as teas, coffee, baby products, pantry and refrigerator essentials. All non-essential orders that include flowers, gift hampers, personalised items and more can still be placed for future delivery after lockdown. The business came up with its new strategy within 36 hours, rolling out the fresh produce delivery service in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. This radical transformation was necessary to adapt to the new temporary trading environment, explained Thalissa Pillay, marketing manager at NetFlorist and Ryan Bacher, managing director of NetFlorist, in an interview with Retailing Africa.
Q&A: Ryan Bacher, NetFlorist Managing Director
Please explain how you managed to turnaround your business strategy? What was your process?
We wanted to list fresh produce a few years ago and did all the legwork back then; that came in very handy. Key supplier relationships, our existing site infrastructure and a very agile team, led to us launching fresh produce in only 36 hours.
What resources did you mobilise to ensure such a quick response?
We’re blessed in that our teams have always had an “all hands-on deck” attitude. A great team and a few sleepless nights is all it took.
What has the impact been to date?
While the numbers have been great, we’re still experiencing very negative growth. Our goal was never to shoot the lights out though; it was to use our current resources to help fellow South Africans over an unprecedented time and make sure that our employees have jobs to return to. Right now, we are just hoping to flatten the curve as quickly as possible so that we can all return back to “normal”. It hasn’t been easy taking a company from long term strategising and planning into the short term.
How has this ability to be agile transformed your business for the future?
Being an occasion-based business forced us into being very agile and thankfully so! If anything, this has reminded us about the importance of learning, unlearning and relearning.
What is next? We are in an economic recession, flowers and gifts may not be a priority, even after lockdown?
It’s hard to tell when nobody knows what “normal” will look like. We could remain in the groceries industry, return to gifting, do both. or go into something completely different. For now though, our teams are looking at ensuring successful deliverables of essential goods during this period; as well as achieving set goals for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Q&A: Thalissa Pillay, NetFlorist Marketing Manager
What was the reaction to the launch of this new NetFlorist service?
Our customers (who are both senders and recipients) have taken to the new offering really well. We have had great traction around it. We’ve also been delivering a few surprises along with their deliveries which have been very well received. It was finally an opportunity for us to spoil them for a change.
Where are you operational and how does the service work?
Fresh produce is available in Gauteng, KZN and Cape Town; while groceries are only available in Gauteng (for now). All items can be found on our website.
Which areas are you seeing the biggest uptake in?
Gauteng. Most of our database is in this region so this is no surprise to us.
Which goods make up the largest volume of orders?
We’re still seeing lots of sales for our food related gifts, but our #1 bestseller in groceries is our mixed fruit and vegetable box.
What is your current marketing strategy under lockdown?
Besides survival, it’s to increase the communication that’s performing the best while being very price conscious. For us, that’s email. We’ve put a hold on all other advertising for now.
How will this exceptional pivot in the business transform the brand?
We have received some incredible coverage which has helped support our minimal marketing efforts over this period.
Please provide context on NetFlorist as a brand prior to this crisis in terms of marketshare?
Our personalised range was our fastest growing range before the COVID-19 outbreak. We owned the majority of the share of the flower and gifting market. We’re a medium to large sized business – this only changed in the last few months as we started operating 24 hours from around June last year.
Louise Burgers (previously Marsland) is the Publisher and Editor and Co-Founder of RetailingAfrica.com. She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.
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