Private equity firm Apollo Global Management will take Rackspace private in the all-cash deal.
Starting in San Francisco, the e-retailer is testing same-day delivery service and technology provider Deliv. Deliv lets customers track orders in transit via Google Maps and record video messages for couriers to play back for recipients when dropping off orders.
1-800-Flowers Inc. is no stranger to same-day delivery—about two-thirds of its orders today, mainly coming from its network of florist shops, are fulfilled that way, says president Chris Maccan. But it’s always looking to make its service better, he says. That’s why the retailer recently began testing new technology and a network of “crowdsourced” couriers from Palo Alto-based startup Deliv in the Bay Area.
“We have been doing same-day delivery since the beginning of time, so that really is a point of differentiation for us,” Maccan says. “As capabilities advance, we want to be an innovator.”
Deliv enlists professional drivers, students and other consumers with spare time and a gassed-up vehicle to fulfill local online orders from area stores. It uses GPS to track deliveries—allowing customers to see where their item is in transit—and offers other features, including letting customers to take pictures or record video messages to go with a gift, or as a thank-you from the recipient. For example, a customer could record herself singing “Happy Birthday” to her sister to go with a bouquet arriving on the sister’s birthday. When the courier arrives with the flowers, he can then play back the video to the sister from his smartphone while standing at her front door, says Deliv founder and CEO Daphne Carmeli.
Another perk for 1-800-Flowers, she adds, is that Deliv couriers can share photos of the items they pick up on the retailer’s behalf, enabling client retailers to monitor order quality and consistency. Additionally, because its courier network is organized by driver locations and product availability, Deliv is able to offer 1-800-Flowers customers more precise, two-hour delivery windows—perhaps “delivery between 2:00 and 4:00” versus “delivery by 7:00 PM,” she says.
Don La France, 1-800-Flowers’ vice president of operations, adds that he expects the retailer’s delivery costs will go down as it uses Deliv’s services, since the courier might also be making deliveries for Macy’s Inc. or Target Corp. in the same city. “Using a crowdsource partner who is deriving delivery densities from other customers will drive down our costs overall,” he says. 1-800-Flowers pays a per-delivery cost to Deliv, he says, without giving the exact amount.
The retailer has been piloting Deliv’s services in the San Francisco Bay area since November, with expansions into two other markets coming within the next three months, La France says. After that, the retailer will evaluate how else it might work with Deliv—which could in some markets include connecting its existing drivers with Deliv’s technology platform for GPS tracking and personalization, he says. “In some markets, we believe we can actually be the ‘crowd’ for Deliv,” he says.
1-800-Flowers is No. 58 in the Internet Retailer 2013 Top 500 Guide.