Having a POS system specific to your flower shop can help you save and make money while building customer satisfaction.
By Andrew Joseph
At one time, a point-of-sale (POS) system referred to the cash register within a retail shop. So, by that definition, pretty much every brick-and-mortar retail shop has a POS system.
The purpose of a good POS system is to save the retailer time, money and effort, all the while helping keep the infrastructure of the business up to date. Oh, and providing the bonus of developing customer satisfaction. And yet, many a retailer has opted to go without one.
In today’s world of business, if you aren’t using digital technologies, like a POS system, to your advantage, you are not using your time effectively. And all you need is an internet-enabled device like a computer, tablet or smartphone—and POS system software that is specific to the retail florist sector.
The important thing for any flower retailer to know is that the POS system must meet the specific, unique demands of his or her flower shop. Although there are companies that offer POS systems developed more for wholesale florists, such as Komet Sales, there are others who specialize in POS systems for retail florists, such as GotFlowers, QuickFlora, Floranext, FloristWare, BloomNation, Flower Shop Network, The Floral POS, MAS Direct Network, IRIS Software Systems, Hana Florist POS, POSiFLORA and Floral Frog, among others.
For this article, I spoke with Sundaram Natarajan, founder and CEO of GotFlowers, a Freemont, Calif.-based florist software developer. He explains that there is a big difference between general retail point-of-sale systems and retail-florist-specific POS systems that his company and others have developed: A florist POS system has more features than what might be found in other retail POS systems, and there are many flower-shop-specific challenges that a florist POS system needs to get right.
WORKING FOR THE CUSTOMERS
Customer satisfaction is a key element of a florist POS system. Natarajan says it could be something as simple as being able to support the latest payment methods, such as Apple Pay. Within the POS, it needs to be “very simple and straightforward, and it should work for the merchant and the customer,” he points out.
For many customers, there’s a very real concern that they won’t get what they paid for when ordering a floral product for gift delivery. For example, a customer in California wanting to send flowers to his mother in New Jersey wants to ensure that what he orders and what is received are the same. Without a proper POS system in place, the customer will have to call his mother, ask her to take a photo of the gift, and then send it to him so that he can view it against what he saw on the florist’s website. The common—and often unavoidable—practice of flower substitution is what typically causes consternation for customers.
It’s also possible that the arrangement received had only six red roses instead of the eight that were shown in the web photo, and the filling flower shop might be unaware that the customer chose that specific arrangement because of the number of red roses—the number eight has special meaning for the recipient.
With a good florist POS system, specific notes from or about a customer can be input so that the filling designer sees them when constructing the arrangement. For example, within the conversation—whether in person or on the phone—a retailer may learn that the recipient has cats and, therefore, the filling florist should refrain from including daffodils or lilies. Or the order could note that the recipient dislikes the color orange or has allergies to a particular plant. At some future date, for another order going to this recipient, this type of information could be important. That is why customer notes remain within the POS system—or at least they do within a good system.
As well, to ensure customer satisfaction, via a POS system, a shop can provide a photograph of the completed arrangement to the purchaser before delivery—either gratis or for a nominal fee. That can be done—and cataloged—in GotFlowers’ Florist POS System, Natarajan says. Because the photo is sent to the purchaser, it creates customer satisfaction. Should there be an error in the design and the customer asks that it be changed, there is a place for that on the POS system, as well. “A good florist POS system should be able to handle every scenario that a florist could—not necessarily will—come across, regardless of frequency,” he explains.
Another way a POS system can generate customer satisfaction is via its card/message-generating capabilities. Some systems offer pre-generated common messaging—“Happy birthday!” or “Sorry for your loss”—while others are richer and more complex and can even use a translator to convert English into another language. With the GotFlowers Florist POS System, Natarajan informs, “The message can be in any language. It’s pre-translated, colloquially, and should the desired language be Russian, the message would appear in Cyrillic Russian.”
ALWAYS UP TO DATE
“A good florist POS system will be cloud-based and will have inventory controls that are updated immediately when flower design recipes are accessed,” Natarajan says, adding that the GotFlowers system is, indeed, cloud-based. “Within the gifting industry that is the florist sector, point-of-sale means that I cannot sell something I do not have,” he relates. “It’s why flower retailers need to be able to tell customers immediately what they have in stock or inform them if a product is out of stock before they make the purchase.”
If you think this sounds ridiculous, think of it from an online shopping experience. Why allow a customer to go through the process of picking out a floral product they want, only to have to inform them later that you are out of the specific item he or she selected? When this happens, your customer’s satisfaction is gone, and he or she is unlikely to return for subsequent purchases.
“A POS system should not only process your transactions but also be specific to what a florist has to do in a flower shop from a workflow perspective,” Natarajan explains. Once a shop’s inventory of a specific item is sold—regardless of whether it was sold via the website, telephone or walk in—the inventory should be automatically updated in the POS software as well as on the website.
Typical florist-specific POS programs should include order management, customer tracking, customer communication, payment options, recipe storage, flower design tools and a delivery management system. The GotFlowers Florist POS System, for example, includes a recipe system that, once a design’s flower count is input, enables designers to follow, to ensure that there are no cost overruns and that the design looks the same for every order. “By following a recipe, the customer always gets value for what he or she paid, and the floral retailer provides only what they are supposed to provide,” Natarajan says.
Tony Fiannaca Jr., third-generation co-owner of Sparks Florist, with two retail locations in Sparks and Reno, Nev., and a floral design and delivery center in Sparks, told me that his company uses the GotFlowers recipe system and thinks it’s great. “It is a thorough and efficient way to make sure our cost-of-goods numbers are where they should be,” he explains. “This system has the flexibility to view each recipe in terms of markup or margin and will explicitly charge for labor, if desired.
“Each recipe can have a picture added to it for easy reference by the designer,” Fiannaca continues. “We also add specific variety tables for each flower, which helps guide designers in using the correct products to make the recipe and makes creating a shopping list effortless.”
Before using this system, Fiannaca says that Sparks Florist encountered duplication by having to use its POS system and Excel worksheets, which needed constant attention. He adds that they seldom received system updates—something the cloud-based GotFlowers system does automatically.
“With GotFlowers, we have streamlined the recipe process because we can keep all of our data in one system,” Fiannaca elaborates. “The staff at GotFlowers are always open to addressing our concerns. As a result, we constantly work with GotFlowers to suggest and help create new features or update old features that make a real difference to our business.”
Natarajan also notes how the POS recipe system has a counter. When a floral designer is tasked with creating an all-inclusive arrangement—for example, something for $200—a good florist point-of-sale system will, with input from the designer, count the flowers and foliages, container, miscellaneous items (ribbon, etc.) and maintain a running total of costs to ensure the designer does not exceed the design’s price. A good POS system will also calculate a fee for design labor.
Fiannaca says that, for floral designers, the system is as easy to use as a calculator and that management can easily change any of the prices of the individual components, when desired. “Gone are the days of updating separate price lists on different computers, printed books or multiple websites/POS systems,” he enthuses.
Knowing where the floral product is to be delivered can play heavily in the size and scope of the arrangement. If it is to be delivered around the block, a lower delivery fee is incurred by the customer; however, if the product is being delivered across town for a specific early morning function, for example, the delivery fee is higher. A good florist POS system can calculate such fees.
As are all companies, retail florists are in business to make money, and one way to do that is through appropriate delivery charges. “Many florists charge a delivery fee based on ZIP Code,” Natarajan notes. “While acceptable, it’s not a sure way of covering your actual delivery costs.”
Not all ZIP Codes are created equal; some are larger areas and farther away from a shop than others. And that is why the GotFlowers Florist POS System provides a different way to calculate the delivery fee. Natarajan describes it as being based on the distance from the shop and the time of delivery (rush hour, for example), to create more accurate delivery fees that ensure profitability on this service. The system has an initial minimum delivery fee—for example, a circular area within three miles of the shop for $10. It can be more or less; the amounts are set by the flower shop and the POS system provider. For every concentric mile farther away from the shop, the system developer will build a price or a per-mile fee.
At Hilly Fields Florist & Gifts in Tallahassee, Fla., owner Janet Davis and operations manager David Mayne, agree with Natarajan about the best way to charge for deliveries. “No two ZIP Codes are identical and can vary in size and distance,” they explain. “By switching from ZIP Code-based delivery fees to distance-based delivery fees, we are able to ensure profitability on each delivery. With higher gas prices and inflationary costs associated with labor, the distance-based fees have been a boon.”
Natarajan assures that any POS system that offers a distance-based delivery system rather than a ZIP Code-based system will make extra money on every order for the retailer.
For retail flower shops looking to simplify the way they do business and to utilize cost-saving measures and money-making opportunities, they need only to seek out a flower-shop-specific POS system that will also help increase the opportunity for customer satisfaction. A win-win all the way around.