Mark Kolster, CEO of the Dutch Naturals floristry chain and co-founder of Flowerboxx, confidently predicts that the imminent launch of this award-winning software platform will shake up the floriculture industry, writes Rachel Anderson.
After several years of tirelessly developing and fine-tuning Flowerboxx with co-founder Pieter iHufen of software platform Grexx, Mark Kolster reveals that the new product is due to be officially launched onto the market this spring (2022) at www.flowerboxx.nl
Kolster explains that Flowerboxx has been designed with florists or – as he aptly describes them – “local heroes” in mind.
From his own experience running six floristry chains in the Rotterdam area, Kolster explains how local retailers, especially florists whose bouquets and plants brought some much-needed cheer to our homes, were among the unsung heroes of the coronavirus pandemic. During the lockdown, people depended more on the shops within their community – and this newfound appreciation arguably continues.
Yet, against the backdrop of rising energy costs and a bigger global demand for flowers due to the pandemic, florists are paying 25 per cent more for flowers than they were last year (2021). And last year, they were 15 per cent more expensive than the year before, states Kolster.
During post-Corona times, Flowerboxx’s arrival will help florists fortify their business by enabling them to improve their margin and sales by creating their own online shop and targeted digital marketing campaigns.
The Kolster, who is the son of a tulip grower, explains: “Firstly, we offer the florist a good data-based webshop. And then we have a campaign manager. The big online platforms are currently walking away with the turnover because they pay a lot of money to Google, which a local florist cannot afford to do. So, what we have made is a solution that’s effectively a library of digital local marketing campaigns on specific target groups.”
He adds: “With one push of the button, the florist can create a campaign that uses social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to target people in their local surroundings. These channels offer local florists many possibilities, but they are not currently well-known or successful to them. So, we can improve their online sales.”
Having successfully trialled Flowerboxx on his chain of six florists in the Rotterdam area, Kolster reveals that he no longer uses Fleurop (Fleurop.nl ) as a means of receiving online orders – a move that Naturals’ new webshop and digital marketing campaigns have given Kolster the confidence to make. “The big platforms are pushing a lot of orders to the florists now. Fleurop in Holland, for example, has been growing very fast during the pandemic. But we calculated that we have been losing more than 30 per cent of our turnover to Fleurop and these costs are not feasible.
We’ve had a lot of discussions about this with the Fleurop board, but it cannot change the way it operates because it has to pay Google for its results,” he states.
Kolster explains that Flowerboxx uses a cheaper and more targeted approach rather than a broader and more expensive “shooting with hail” tactic. “For example, my business pays Facebook €2-5 a day for a five-day campaign, and these are viewed at least 10,000 times. And then Flowerboxx sees that, okay, 10,000 people like this campaign – how many of these 10,000 are coming to your website? And how many are really buying products from your website or are coming to the shop? It measures and analyses these campaign data for the florist. Large retail organisations already have this type of data and IT facilities to help them with their profession. So, if we can provide local florists with this service, then we are helping them to future-proof their business.”
Flowerboxx will, predicts Kolster, begin to alter the current supply chain so that, in future, it will start at the demand with marketing and inspiration – these will drive sales and shopper activation so that purchasing will be demand-driven. As florists begin to steer their own digital marketing campaigns, they are also likely to form close relationships with growers. “If a grower or breeder has some new varieties that they would like to trial in a certain area, they could select 50 florists based in that area and ask them to work with them. The grower would then pay for the social media marketing – the information for which they can gain from the Flowerboxx florist.”
Soon, flowers in The Netherlands are increasingly selling through digital, rather than traditional, auctions. And so, with the future in mind, Kolster and Hufen have connected Flowerboxx to Floriday, Royal FloraHolland’s platform, which facilitates and enables digital trading for the floriculture industry. Kolster explains: “Using this API [application programming interface], we can connect the florist with the grower.
“The florist can order flowers while the grower can search for market information.
So, the two are connected again, just as they were some 100 years ago when the auctions first started. By bringing them together again, we’ve come full circle.”
Utilising Floriday will also better help florists to keep track of what they have bought and sold, adds Kolster.
Flowerboxx uses this data to create tools such as its ‘Budget Coach’ – a budgeting tool that helps the florist plan for the week ahead. “It analyses historical purchasing and sales data, considers the weather and any upcoming special events such as Valentine’s Day, and then calculates the florist’s budget for buying flowers, florist articles and other plants.
“What we’ve seen is that Flowerboxx’s artificial intelligence is always more capable of planning the turnover than the florist himself.
“The Budget Coach realises 10 per cent more margin than usual.”
Indeed, the arrival of Flowerboxx, which has already won a Dutch Computable Award in the SME category, looks set to change the business of floristry in ways that will ultimately help many local businesses to remain buoyant during these exceptional times.
This article was first published in FloraCulture International in March 2022.