March 3, 2010, 12:00 AM

1-800-Flowers sprouts a web video program to answer shopper queries

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but 1-800-Flowers.com believes more video posted on its e-commerce site and elsewhere will be worth a thousand customer phone calls, too.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. believes more video posted on its web site and elsewhere will be worth a thousand customer phone calls too. The floral and gifts retailer is plugging in more online videos to provide customers and viewers with answers to frequently asked questions.

1-800-Flowers collaborated with online media and video production company Howcast Media Inc. to create instructional videos that can be distributed across broadband, wireless Internet and TV networks and also posted on Howcast.com, Yahoo, Hulu.com, YouTube and elsewhere. Using video as a customer service tool and expanding its social media program is a priority for 1-800-Flowers.com, which the company will discuss at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in June. Vibhav Prasad, vice president, web marketing and merchandising, and Kevin Ranford, director of web marketing, will be speaking at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2010 in two sessions session entitled Putting on your best face: How to design effective brand pages on social media ” and Sites, apps, texts: Where to start, what to do and when to do it.

"1-800-Flowers.com has built its trusted reputation by leveraging innovative technologies and tools to further enhance the customer experience," says founder and CEO Jim McCann. "We recognize the power of online video to engage and educate customers and we will continue to work with Howcast to focus on our new media strategy, as it pertains to effectively communicating with our customers."

The new videos include material that shows viewers the best way to send flowers or express sympathy by choosing the right floral arrangement.

Howcast CEO Jason Liebman also says his company’s video programs can reduce the amount of questions consumers frequently ask customer service representatives.

"Companies like 1-800-Flowers.com recognize the opportunity that online video and instructional content hold for showcasing unique elements of products and services in a creative way," Liebman says "We expect retail to be a large growth area for our instructional content."

Howcast says fees for its services depend on a number of variables including the scope of a project, video creation, the number of videos a company needs to develop and the level of technical production. Distribution is another factor in pricing, says Howcast. , No. 31 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. is the company’s first retail customer.

More consumers are viewing videos online, according to web measurement firm comScore Inc. Nearly 178 million U.S. Internet users watched 33.2 billion videos in December compared to 158 million U.S. Internet users who viewed 21.4 billion videos in July.

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