Don’t Deliver a Product, Deliver an Experience
COVID definitely changed parts of our business. Our online shop went from a space used once a year to sell subscriptions to a daily ordering and delivering system.
Last March when (the first) State of Emergency was declared in Ontario by our Premier we had to figure out how we would get our soon-to-blooming flowers to our customers. It was unclear whether farmers’ markets would open. Weddings were being postponed and cancelled. How could we get the flowers to our customers safely and profitably?
To preface, I know this system is not feasible for everyone. We are lucky to be surrounded by a few small towns, a medium city, and a larger metropolis. The population within a 35-40 minute drive from us would total over 500,000.
In May 2019 we realized that using our personal minivan with multiple children’s car seats was no longer efficient for a growing flower farm business. We searched local classifieds and found a used 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan. We had been renting cargo vans from the local car rental business but they moved their cargo van department 30 minutes from us, and picking up and returning vans became a lengthy process.
Our “new” delivery van was from a repair shop/dealership, which stood by on a three-month warranty after purchase. The cost was $3999 before taxes. It was in good condition even with medium to high number of kilometers. It was still good and sound with a nice-looking body. Within the first couple months the van paid for itself to replace the rental costs, and the time spent picking up and returning the van.
Our delivery van handles wholesale accounts, wedding deliveries, and plant moving. It is a very valuable piece of equipment.
When COVID hit and we decided that it was best for us to deliver our flowers direct to customers, we naturally used the delivery van. The van has delivered so many smiles. Flowers cause smiles.
In 2021, we hired a helper for our team specifically as a delivery driver. She is insured with our insurance company, and has abusiness debit card she uses to purchase gas or small things that we need picked up. Having someone to deliver means that I don’t have to leave the farm during the day, or load up the kids after the workday is done. She is also able to pick up supplies or curbside orders (because we are in State of Emergency #3 here in Ontario). We do charge a minimal delivery fee to the customers for their orders. Sometimes we make extra, especially when orders are close by or multiple in the same area. Sometimes the delivery fee is probably short but it equals out, and it’s far better to be able to offer delivery.
We have a business cell phone that stays in the van. We use an awesome app for delivery routing called Circuit. There is a free version, but we have the paid version because we can have many routes and more stops. We input the addresses into the app and it optimizes the route. When the driver gets to a stop it records the time. If there is any discrepancy with the delivery I can tell what time she was there. The app will save our subscription routes. We have three routes each month. There isn’t fumbling, it’s all there every month. The app can also be accessed from multiple phones at the same time.
We get a 6 x 6 x 5 cardboard delivery box from the local florist supply, and place tissue in to steady the vase. I have had a water colour painting printed greeting card (painted by my aunt) made that can be added to the order for a personal note to the recipient.
Our online shop functions as almost a full-service flower shop. There are three size options on the website. We have generic photos posted and a description explaining that the flowers and colours change with the season. You are welcome to check out our online shop at www.harrisflowerfarm.ca. We get orders daily and from customers worldwide. One day we had orders from people in three provinces and two countries to deliver locally. It is so great to be an option for people to send locally-grown, unique, in-season and amazingly beautiful flowers from anywhere in the world.