When freelance consultant Dennis Karle sought out to help struggling local businesses in Cologne, he found himself crossing paths with local flower shop, Blütenträume. The owners of Blütenträume, like many others around the globe, had been thrust into a pool of uncertainty in the wake of the global pandemic. As a store that thrived on its local charm, regular face-to-face customers and a minimal online presence, the business didn’t naturally lend itself to the environment of a widespread shutdown.
However, Blütenträume’s days of struggle were short-lived. From getting an online storefront up and running in 24 hours, to receiving (and completing) 300 orders within the 5 days that followed; theirs is a story that champions the power of technology, rapid adaptation and local communities more than ever.
We recently sat down with Dennis to uncover how he managed to transform the game for Blütenträume. Here, he breaks down the strategy that allowed the business to successfully move their operations online in record time. He also shares his 5 top tips for small businesses that are looking to replicate such success and not only survive these uncertain times, but come out stronger on the other side.
“We went live with the online store just 2 weeks ago. We combined it with a targeted influencer marketing campaign, and to our surprise, ended up with about 100 visits per minute on our store shortly after. The next day we were hit with 140 orders - the shop owner was almost afraid of how many orders he was receiving!
This is when we decided to start getting people we knew to help out with fulfilling the orders. We personally delivered the flowers to each and every customer. It was an amazing feeling because people were so happy to receive them - especially those who were disconnected from their family and friends due to the shutdown. Since they were missing that physical connection from the people they love, receiving the flowers was kind of the next best thing to a hug.”
“I initially played around with some larger platforms like Shopify to set up the store. However, I quickly found that while their platform is powerful, it was perhaps too big and overwhelming for a small local business. I needed to find a platform that would not only be easy for the shop owners to use themselves, but something they could easily update on a daily basis. As a flower shop, Blütenträume’s products change everyday - so we ultimately needed to set up a backend system that would allow the owners to quickly and easily update product details.
That’s when I came across Paperform. I’d played around with a few different form builders but found most of them were not intuitive enough and connecting payment methods was extremely difficult. With Paperform, however, I found that the process was quick and painless, and connecting with PayPal was a breeze.
We set up a Paperform store with 4 bouquet sizes and colours to choose from and used the PayPal integration that allowed anyone to pay for their order in a matter of seconds. We also set up automated confirmation emails to be sent via Paperform as soon as the orders were paid for. Another convenient aspect of the platform was the invoicing feature, which sent receipts to anyone who made an order and basically automated the entire sales process for us."
“We use Trello for order management. Connecting Paperform and Trello through Zapier was a total game changer. Through Zapier, every Paperform order automatically turns into a Trello card. Trello’s onboard automation butler automatically sorts and organises these orders according to a variety of data points - like the customer’s zip code, or whether they’ve opted for delivery or collection, allowing every card to be assigned to the right person.
The combination of Paperform and Trello has made the entire process super scalable. The entire team at the flower store is now working through Trello, including the employee who prepares handwritten greeting cards. Trello automatically assigns her with the customers who want a greeting card, which means she has all her work streamlined in one collaborative place where she can record it’s progress.
Having worked with a lot of enterprise software, it was a breeze to automate the entire online shop with tools that had such powerful features, yet were still so approachable and easy to master. It actually made the process fun.”
"As part of the campaign, we delivered flowers to some of the top Instagram influencers in Cologne as a surprise. As part of the delivery, we asked them share the flowers to their social platforms with the hashtag #supportyourlocal. What we didn’t expect was to be inundated with orders within a few hours!
As flowers are an aesthetically-geared product, we found that Instagram was the perfect platform to promote the business. It’s amazing how the combination of Instagram, influencers and our mobile-first Paperform store created an incredible conversion rate.
eCommerce conversion rates tend to average around 2% on mobile devices - even though there is high traffic on mobile, there is a false sentiment that mobile is just for looking while desktop is where the sales actually happen. Our campaign managed to overcome this, as we reached a staggering 10% conversion rate on our Paperform store."
"It can be common that when you are so attached to something - like your own shop where you're creating handcrafted things with your own blood, sweat and tears, you focus too much on perfection when it comes to building your first website or online store. I’d suggest not taking too long to fuss over the small details. But from my experience, at times like these, the focus needs to be on just going live and getting started!
There will always be room to perfect as you go along. The first version of our online store wasn’t perfect, but we were able to learn from our errors every day and adapt elements quickly. For example, after our first day of sales, we realised we needed people's phone numbers for orders to be able to contact them quickly. Improving that one element only took a few seconds - we just needed to add a new field type to our form to perfect that process. Adapt, go live and don't be afraid.”
“Business is all about emotion - and we knew that the people of Cologne would want to get behind supporting a fledgling local business through these tough times. We used the hashtag #supportyourlocal, which really resonated with the community.
The photos that were shared by our influencers really helped showcase the value that you can get from a local flower shop. By displaying the quality of the product, we made it clear that no large conglomerate or flower company could create something so personalized and unique. It was really about championing local businesses and showcasing why it’s so important for all of us to keep them alive.
Small business survival during these times is a matter of adapting to your current climate. One of the local restaurants in my neighbourhood is completely changing their menu every couple of days to bring some change, to share joy and really break the monotony of current life for their customers. The businesses that are quickly adapting to the climate are the ones that are ultimately thriving. That’s why I’ve started Köln liebt Blumen, a service that helps other flower shops around Cologne that might be struggling to adapt and translate their business to a digital medium.”
Lofty ambitions are often hindered by a lack of necessity. As businesses continue to grapple with the effects of COVID-19, it is their ambition, adaptability and innovation that is largely driving their survival. Those that are successfully adapting to the current environment are embracing technology and finding new ways to reach both existing and unexplored audiences.
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