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    Friday, August 19, 2022

    Analytics helps Old Saybrook floral delivery business bloom

    Customer Service representatives work in cubicles at From You Flowers on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, at their offices in Old Saybrook. The nationwide, same-day flower delivery company saw a 30% increase in sales this Valentine's Day. The company employs about 400 people. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

    Old Saybrook — Mike Chapin chuckles to himself when he talks about how his company, From You Flowers, got into the jewelry business a few years back in expectation that there would be synergy between bouquets and bangles.

    Ah, not so much.

    But when it comes to data and delivery, he's hit a home run.

    Chapin, chief executive of From You Flowers floral-delivery service as well as a group of other business under the Tenth Avenue Commerce umbrella, said last week in an interview at company headquarters off Mill Rock Road that Valentine's Day sales were up about 30 percent over last year's numbers, thanks largely to analytics.

    "Our forecast had to be incredibly accurate, otherwise you end up throwing away a lot of flowers," Chapin said. "We have down to the hour what kind of stuff we need to have on hand, how long it takes to pick the product, put it in a box and put a label on it."

    Chapin said that in 2011, after he sold a majority stake in his company to the private-equity firm Tenth Avenue Holdings LLC of New York City, he disbanded a small flower company that the parent firm had started. On the team, he discovered a business analyst capable of mining large reams of data that illuminated areas of From You Flowers that Chapin had never seen before.

    Number crunching allows the company both to predict how many orders will be coming through in various geographies but also to experiment with different marketing techniques and price points to determine the sweet spot for sales.

    "Selling my business to Tenth Avenue Holdings was one of the best things I ever did," Chapin said. "It gave us access to a very talented group of people."

    The now four-person Business Intelligence Group and his firm's belief in data has helped From You Flowers make nearly every day similar to Valentine's Day in terms of sales increases over last year. Chapin said he expects to do more than $225 million in business this year.

    Chapin said he currently has about 400 employees, including about 45 in New York City and 100 in newly opened Hartford offices in space formerly used by The Hartford Courant. During the lead-up into major floral events such as Valentine's Day, the totals swell to about 700, he added.

    "It's growing rapidly," he said.

    In addition to delivering flowers, the company sells and services jewelry orders for products from Eve's Addiction, which specializes in silver products. About three-quarters of these products are customized with engravings or birthstones, Chapin said, requiring about 40 people in a separate room at the expansive 25,000-square-foot office space. 

    The company also recently started from scratch the online jewelry firm Brook & York, which specializes in gold designs and whose products, like Eve's Addiction, are made in Rhode Island, giving it a "made in America" imprimatur.

    In addition, From You Flowers owns the social influencing company Social Media Link, which works to create a buzz about products by encouraging people to write reviews. The group of about 30 runs out of the same office building in New York occupied by Chapin's Business Intelligence division, jewelry photography studio and most digital marketing personnel.

    "It's much easier for me to get talented people in New York," he said.

    And that's important to a guy who started From You Flowers as largely an online purveyor of flowers — 92 percent of his business is done on the Internet — and believes in analytics. The pressures of the business are immense, with people ordering online at all hours of the day and night, and the impact of bad decisions are magnified on the biggest days of the year such as Valentine's Day.

    "Our Monday (the day before Valentine's Day) was 40 percent higher than our biggest day ever," Chapin said. "We had to prepare everything for that one day."

    And, while other flower-delivery services have largely ignored analytics, Chapin said he has brought it to a new level, spending about $100,000 annually for up-to-the-second reports from Google Analytics. This allows his team to make the complicated calculations required to work out strategies on a wide range of fronts, from ordering to labor force requirements at the company's six warehouses nationwide.

    "Our tech team is incredibly nimble," he said.

    Analytics support also helps the company when it does "split testing" — trying out several different online marketing tactics to see which one works best. By running the tests on a real-time basis and getting instant analytic feedback, the company can then decide to go with the one tactic that works best, Chapin said.

    "Online, it's all about conversion rate," he said. "If you can move the needle even one quarter of 1 percent, that translates into thousands of orders."

    Now running three shifts in the 150 seats at his headquarters, Chapin said his biggest issue is staffing a 24/7 operation. He opened the Hartford office as an experiment because he needed to find more sales people during a time of 30 percent growth.

    On Mother's Day, he said, the business expects to be handling 5,000 to 6,000 orders an hour, the largest volume of the year. But Mother's Day is a much more manageable holiday than Valentine's Day because women do most of the ordering and tend to plan ahead, whereas men typically wait until the last minute, he said.

    Customization has always been big on the jewelry side of his business, and Chapin said he now offers a similar service when people order flowers. They can upload a photo from their phone or Facebook and have it printed on waterproof paper and inserted inside a vase with a special message on it.

    l.howard@theday.com

    Jewelry inspector Phyllis Pagano, of Essex, sorts through orders from Eve's Addiction at From You Flowers on Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at their offices in Old Saybrook. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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