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Helping you say it better

company profile

Helping you say it better Editorial: Lauren Grey Production: Ajuanne Payne

Valentine’s Day is the busiest and most challenging day of the year for online flower delivery service, NetFlorist, with over ten times its average daily deliveries due on just one day. IndustrySA speaks to Managing Director, Ryan Bacher to find out how the company copes with the sudden influx of orders. There are just two words, that when spoken in front of a man, will make him break into a cold sweat; Valentine’s Day. Traditionally, February 14th is a day to celebrate love and togetherness with the simple exchange of a dozen red roses, but over recent years Valentine’s Day has become more of a challenge; a day for women to really test their partner’s affections. Luckily, for all of the forgetful, uninspired men in the world, NetFlorist is on hand to provide a wide range of flowers, floral hampers and gifts, promising to keep any man “out of the dog house” on Valentine’s Day!

TWIST OF FATE Following an interesting start-up in 1999, NetFlorist is now South Africa’s leading florist and flower delivery service, with a wide range of gifts to match. The company is focussed on growing its global market share in floral and gifting, and partners with globally focused


software and service companies to ensure that it remains at the cutting edge of the industry. However, Managing Director, Ryan Bacher says that the vision for NetFlorist wasn’t to achieve nationwide success; the company was actually set up as a dummy website with no intention to go live on the internet. “At the time of the company’s beginnings I was working for an internet service provider, and one of our bigger clients asked us to build their ecommerce website. Unfortunately at that time, ecommerce in South Africa was very new and we didn’t know much about it. “Instead of backing away from the proposal, we told the client that we were very happy to build their website, but first we wanted to build one of our own so that we understood the process and were familiar with the way it worked. They were happy for us to do that and that is where NetFlorist started. “It was never our intention to have a business that sold flowers and gifts in a sustainable way. Our intention was to build a website which we could learn from and eventually close


down, then go back to the client and say ‘yes we know exactly what we are doing now’.” After successfully building their first ecommerce website, Bacher and his team found that there was a gap in the market for NetFlorist’s services, and decided to launch the website as an independent business, with Bacher taking over as Managing Director. “We now have two physical stores in Johannesburg, and we have played with the idea of building more, but we are much more excited about the online space. Our physical stores contribute a very small percentage to our revenue; the vast majority of our revenue comes from our online presence.”

TARGET MARKET NetFlorist’s product range is vast, and covers anything from bouquets of roses and potted plants to jewellery and perfume, with many, many more in between. However, Bacher says that as a percentage flowers make up 70% of the company’s product range, something that is set to

change in the near future. “We focus equally on all of our products but our flower department had a massive head start; our expectation over the next five years as we intend to grow is to reach a 50/50 split between flowers and gifts because we believe gifts are a fast developing category.” As for the company’s target market, the percentage is pretty evenly split between corporate customers and consumers, “We have a large corporate sales division to tailor for our corporate customers who use our website to send flowers and gifts to its employees and partners. “For example, the message on the card may read ‘Get well soon from all of us at…’ So the corporate market makes up for half of our business.” To ensure it is providing customers with the highest quality service, NetFlorist sources many of its products locally or from within the African continent, as Bacher explains. “We buy a lot of our flowers locally and from other African countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia, which are two of the


company profile biggest flower exporters in the world. “Most of the gifts we buy are local but not necessarily local brands. So although we stock international brands such as Ferero Rocha, we buy them from local agents within South Africa.”

MARKETING STRATEGIES The vastness of the internet has, over the years, provided companies with endless possibilities and allowed them to reach consumers from much further afield. However, with the average person spending less than one minute browsing a webpage, marketing a product or service to such a vast audience with so much choice at their disposal is challenging. NetFlorist has therefore taken a more unique, tongue and cheek approach to marketing, which sees the company poking fun at the consumer and ultimately getting their attention. “Advertising and marketing strategies can be wasted on the internet because of its sheer size, so we have a tongue and cheek approach to our marketing, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We like to make our marketing memorable, rather than just state what we sell and for what price,” says Bacher.


One of the company’s marketing campaigns for Valentine’s Day this year pokes fun at the idea of women being ‘one of the world’s greatest unsolved puzzles’, but that NetFlorist has the solution to solve that puzzle. “…there is a rather simple explanation in the form of an equation which might just rival Einstein’s Theory of Relativity; perhaps not quite in terms of its complexity, but rather because of its sheer brilliance which uncovers a truth, which has, for centuries eluded the male gender.” The equation, as one might have guessed, is that “You + a gift from = Happy Significant Other.” No flashy advert, no celebrity endorsement, just good humour with a high-quality brand to back it up, which Bacher says has worked extremely well in favour of the NetFlorist brand. “We poke a bit of fun at people and we find that as a result of our unique marketing strategy the NetFlorist brand is actually bigger than our business.”

VALENTINES DAY February 14th is a busy day for many florists, confectionary outlets and restaurants around the world, but for NetFlorist it

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If its worth saying . . . It’s worth saying with flowers

South Africa’s biggest flower market cnr Vickers St & Fig Place (was Marjorie), City Deep, Johannesburg Telephone: (011) 613 4011 Fax: (011) 623 1974 email: Web: JAN 14 PAGE 5

company profile is the busiest and most challenging day on its entire calendar. As an online flower deliver service, many customers choose NetFlorist to surprise their loved ones at home or at work, and on Valentine’s Day the company delivers over ten times the amount of flowers and gifts than any other day of the year. “Valentine’s Day can be a real challenge because you are simply taking the work load of an average day and multiplying that by ten. It’s not like Christmas where the rush tends to be staggered over one or two weeks; Valentine’s Day is just one day, and everyone wants their flowers delivered fresh and on time. “Some people will be well prepared and make their orders early, so we know in advance how much work we will have, but others leave it right until the last minute. It’s extremely busy for us, and operationally it is challenging, but our goal is to make sure we deliver all our roses on time. It is also a significant revenue source for us.” Fortunately for customers, NetFlorist’s operations have been carefully crafted over 14 years and the company has exactly what it takes to handle extremely busy periods. “We don’t use any ‘off the shelf’ packages when it comes to technology, we have built everything from scratch and carefully crafted it over the years to suit our needs. “Standard inventory packages are available for most retailers but they don’t work for us because we’ve got a particular product. So we haven’t had a choice, we have had to build everything we need, there really was no option.” Although building the business from scratch has been a difficult and time-consuming process, it has been extremely rewarding for NetFlorist and contributed hugely to its success, as it is able to offer customers a new, more reliable shopping experience.

MANDELA’S FUNERAL The company’s innovative packages for processing orders and ensuring the smooth running of operations has contributed to


NetFlorist “As a company we felt privileged to be part of what turned out to be a global celebration of Mandela’s life and legacy. We knew Mandela was loved all around the world, but as South African’s I don’t think we realised just how far reaching his impact was, it was truly astonishing.”


Ryan Bacher its success over the years, and very recently the company was honoured with the responsibility of providing the flowers for Mandela’s memorial. As South Africa observed a national 10 days of mourning, the task to provide the flowers for each event during this time was a mammoth task, but one in which NetFlorist was both prepared and privileged to do. “We won the contract to supply all of the flowers for Madiba’s memorial, funeral and burial. There were seven or eight different parts to the contract and all of them were exclusive to us from a floral point of view” explains Bacher. “We had the most extraordinary and unique experience, and were honoured to be a part of celebrating the greatest person we have ever produced as a country.

Going forward, the NetFlorist brand is set to expand even further, as the company is looking to extend its range of products, particularly in the confectionary market. “We have been investing our time on an extension of our brand, covering confectionary in a big way. We have already started to deliver cakes, cookies and other confectionary goods, so that will be a major focus for us going forward, and we are very excited about it” says Bacher. The company is also investing a lot of time and effort to ensure that it is producing the highest quality product available on the market, by assessing its operations such as cold storage, transport and delivery methods. “On the floral side we are investing a lot of energy into the freshness of the product to ensure that our flowers are fresher than any of our competitors. “We may already have the freshest produce on the market, but we want to consolidate that and make sure that from an operational side we are doing all we can to ensure freshness. We will be looking at areas such as storage, transport and delivery and assessing whether we can make any improvements.”


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