May 10, 2013, 9:20 AM

E-retailers look to mom for money

Retailers sell to shoppers seeking gifts beyond the typical bouquet.

Lead Photo

Many consumers have a soft spot for Mom, and e-retailers are doing their best to exploit it this week to gain online sales as her special day approaches. Several are ramping up their e-mail campaigns, sending messages with personalized subject lines and other unique elements in hopes of attracting clicks. Others are increasing spending on paid search in an attempt to gain sales. Meanwhile, many sons and daughters are looking beyond conventional flowers for Mom’s big day.

Edible Arrangements, which sends edible fruit bouquets, often dipped in chocolate, says its 2012 Mother's Day sales were up 19% year over year. Lisa Malo, online brand director, adds that retailer has not yet hit its peak traffic and sales days for the holiday this year. Those days are typically the day before Sunday and Mother’s Day itself.

“Without fail, year after year we see more and more last-minute shoppers, and we’re ready to handle all that site traffic over the next few days,” Malo says. “Edible Arrangements has always offered same-day delivery. Local Edible Arrangements stores are open and delivering both online and direct to store orders throughout the weekend.  Our stores are experienced in accommodating same-day orders because they do it every day, and our customers are used to being able to order same day because they do it every day.”

The retailer says traffic is up so far over Mother’s Day last year and mobile traffic is up 100% compared to the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day last year. Malo says Edible Arrangements’ most popular Mother’s Day product this year is its new Mother’s Day Bouquet with dipped strawberries. “We hear so frequently that people love to buy something with purpose, and our customers are responding really well to the custom keepsake pitcher that this arrangement is presented in,” Malo says.  “The after-market use of the pitcher makes it a great choice.”

Consumer search queries also point to the retailer’s growing popularity around Mom’s holiday. Last year, the top search queries around the holiday were, in order: flowers, flower delivery, flower, mothers day, and edible arrangements, according to paid search firm AdGooroo.

“Notably, ‘edible arrangements’ moved into the Top 10, showing the growing popularity of the Edible Arrangements retailer and suggesting that gift givers may be starting to explore options other than the predictable flower bouquet,” AdGooroo writes on its blog. “If this trend continues in 2013, this would be very good news for all merchants whose gift catalog extends beyond flowers such as Harry & David and UncommonGoods.com.” Edible Arrangements is No. 100 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide

AdGooroo predicts flowers and mail order gift retailers will spend more than $11 million on paid search terms this month. Those retailers were likely bidding early this month on top flower and gift keyword search terms related to Mother’s Day. Among the big gainers in search query popularity between 2011 and 2012 according to AdGooroo were “mothers day gifts,” moving from No. 44 to No. 9, and “fruit baskets,” shifting from No. 39 to No. 20

But paid search isn’t the only tool in e-retailers Mother’s Day arsenal. E-mail is another big one. One aggressive e-mail campaign from online retailer ProFlowers hit past customers’ mailboxes on May 4, employing a subject line containing the name of the person the shopper had purchased flowers for around Mother’s Day last year. “Your past order for Mother’s Day qualifies you for 45% off another bouquet for Frances!” one e-mail subject line read. Another from the florist this week read “Thanks for your past Mother's Day order for Mom! 43% off!”  The retailer also attempted to make past shoppers feel important by sending e-mail from a special ProFlowers VIP e-mail address. And, the retailer, No. 5 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide used graphics including stars and flowers next to the sender field in messages as a tactic to make its messages stand out in shoppers’ inboxes.

Flower e-retailers used such e-mail personalization techniques to try and nab a piece of the $2.3 billion on flowers that doting children plan to spend on Mom for the May 12 holiday this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s more than Valentine’s Day’s $1.9 billion, the NRF says. Nearly three in 10 Mother’s Day gift buyers will be heading to the Internet to make their purchase, it says.

The Christmas shopping season “far and away” leads other holiday periods in the volume of e-mail marketing messages, says Chad White, principal of marketing research at ExactTarget, which sells e-mail marketing technology and services to such retailers as Best Buy Co. Inc. and The Home Depot Inc. But Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Halloween effectively tie for second place.

Typically, he says, “gift suggestions and gift guides coupled with lots of urgency, especially once we’re into May, are usually pretty effective” for Mother’s Day e-mail messages.

But that doesn’t mean retailers focus all their Mother’s Day attention on moms, he says. 

“Retailers are trying harder this year to expand Mother’s Day beyond just gifts for mom,” he says. “For example, Gap and Vera Bradley are among the brands promoting gifts for new moms, which also means gifts for the baby. Uncommon Goods suggests buying gifts for grandma. Staples is promoting gifts for ‘Moms & grads, part of a still nascent trend to match the common ‘dads and grads’ messaging we’ll see next month,” for Father’s Day.

Among the most interesting e-mail campaigns according to White is from women’s apparel retail brand Ann Taylor (Ann Inc. is No. 88 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide). It is inviting its e-mail subscribers to book a styling appointment for their “mothers, daughters and friends,” a tactic designed to get groups of shoppers inside the stores.

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