IR: There are a lot of online gift retailers out there. What makes LVLY different and how do you curate your products?
HS: What started as a desire to spread joy and build a brand that people would love has evolved into a fast-growth e-commerce business that has disrupted the Australian flower category and set new standards for same-day delivery. Thanks to our market-leading 7-day, same-day delivery proposition, we’re proud to be a trailblazer in the e-commerce and logistics space.
Our playful brand, customisable products and world-class customer service mean we stand out from the crowd – which is exactly where we like to be. We’ve spent five years optimising our products, our packaging and our pricing strategy to provide customers with an experience that is unique. Our personalisation and customisation options add a whole new dimension of thoughtfulness to the gifting experience; you won’t find anything like the LVLY experience anywhere else in Australia.
Underpinning all this is a commitment to supporting local businesses. Most people don’t realise that about 40 per cent of flowers sold in Australia are imported from overseas. Flowers are flown in from all over the world, remaining in transit for up to a week, which not only creates a huge carbon footprint but also means nasty pesticides at border control and a reduced shelf life. Our Paddock To Posy promise means longer-lasting flowers for our customers, more support for Aussie flower farmers and better outcomes for our planet.
IR: How would you describe the gifting landscape in Australia and around the world?
HS: When I first moved to Australia from the UK, I thought same-day gifting would be relatively easy to set up. Boy oh boy was I wrong. Logistically, there was a lot of work to get it right and now I’m really proud of where we are. We have the best delivery proposition of any online retailer in Australia and we’ve pushed ourselves to keep innovating: extending our same-day delivery from five days to seven days a week, pushing back our order cut-off from 2pm to 5pm, adding new products to the range and launching new collaborations. Rapid delivery is becoming a customer expectation, not a nice-to-have, and that’s a trend reflected in online gifting around the world. Australia is finally starting to catch up.
Also, there are an increasing number of boutique-style gifting brands with a focus on local, great quality products. Customers are demanding more from purchases, they’re interested in sustainability and provenance and will pay more for brands that are doing good in the world.
IR: Given the extended lockdowns, what have your sales been like in the past year, since many Australians are missing their loved ones?
HS: The thing that always stands out when we get news of a lockdown is that deep sense of connection – that humanity and kindness amongst our customers. We exist to keep loved ones connected and with so many people isolated and struggling to ‘be there’ for one another, LVLY has never been more relevant or more in demand. It’s been great to see that during times of despair people are still staying positive and sending uplifting and cheeky messages to one another.
In 18 months, we’ve rapidly scaled the business. We’ve had months where we’ve been trading up to 500 per cent higher than the previous year. Naturally, there’s been a huge focus on the operational infrastructure required to support this. We’ve been on a hiring frenzy, tripled the size of our casual workforce, significantly increased our warehouse footprints in every state and really finessed our Covid-safe policy and procedures. The health and safety of our team and customers has been our number one priority throughout the whole experience.
IR: What have been some of the interesting customer insights you’ve gathered in the past year?
HS: We’ve learned so much over the last year. There are probably three stand-outs for me, in terms of customer insights.
The first is that we realised the need to add more choice and variety to our range. Back in March, we conducted research with over 3000 of our customers and the feedback was overwhelmingly in favour of more LVLY things, which has resulted in us extending our range into higher price-point premium flowers. In addition, we have just launched ‘LVLY loves’, a tightly curated selection of gifts from Australia’s best gifting brands.
The second big insight is around mental health becoming a trigger for gifting – people wanting to check in on one another’s wellbeing. ‘Just because’ gifting, as opposed to waiting for a special occasion, has grown as a category.
Lastly, we’ve been overwhelmed by customers’ response to our Thoughtful Marketing Movement, which aims to change the culture around brand communications and elevate empathy as a key consideration in how we talk to our customers. From a comms perspective, this year we gave people the option to opt out of Mother’s and Father’s Day emails. It felt important to acknowledge the potentially damaging effects of sending out ‘Don’t forget mum or dad’-style messages to people who may have lost a mother, father or child. We had an unexpectedly huge response from our customers, thanking us for being so considerate and supportive. It really validated our hunch about the importance of being a brand that has empathy.
It breaks all the usual marketing rules, but it feels like the right thing to do – the human thing to do. It’s what our values of being a goodie and someone’s day are all about. It felt really good to know we’d made a difference to those people.
IR: How do you think the marketing landscape has changed in the last 18 months and what have been the most interesting insights you’ve gathered from it?
HS: Everything has changed in the last 18 months. There’s been a huge shift towards online shopping and people have found a new level of confidence with home delivery services and click-and-collect. The change in how consumers are shopping has forced many businesses to pivot towards a digital-first approach (if they weren’t doing so already).
In terms of communications and content, we’ve placed a big emphasis on reassuring our customers that we have Covid-safe procedures in place, including things like contactless delivery, which has allowed us to keep operating safely throughout lockdowns. We’ve also noticed a big theme with mental health being a trigger for gifting – people just checking that friends and family are doing OK.
But underlying all this, our marketing mix hasn’t changed too much because we’ve always had digital at the core of our strategy. It’s part of our DNA as an e-commerce business.
IR: Why did you decide to add sex toys to your gifting options recently and what has the customer feedback been like?
HS: At LVLY, we’re constantly innovating to stay relevant to our customers and we know that sexual wellness and self-care is a hot topic. There’s nothing novel about the category, it’s expected to be worth $39 billion by 2024. Sexual wellness is a natural extension of people’s self-care, health and beauty routine and, thankfully, the conversation is moving beyond taboo to a mainstream global movement.
Whether a vibrator is a gift to yourself or a friend, it’s a playful and cheeky way to put a smile on people’s faces. Customer feedback has been incredibly positive; in fact, sales have been so strong we’ve had some problem scaling supply to meet demand.
IR: What are your plans for LVLY in the next year?
HS: There’s a bunch of stuff that won’t change, like our obsession with making people happy and our dedication to being there when our customers need us. But we’ll also be busy extending our same-day delivery into additional cities and bringing some incredible new products into our range!
Our vision remains steadfast. We want to be the most used and loved flower-and-gift delivery service in Australia. We want to be a household name, a brand that you trust to help you make someone’s day.
IR: What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced as an online retailer in the past year?
HS: I think the combination of personal and commercial pressures that Covid has created for so many people has been a huge challenge. It’s been a frightening time; the world has been turned upside-down, there’s no rule book to follow and humankind has collectively been in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’, which is very draining.
The logistics infrastructure and delivery proposition to support e-commerce are expensive and hard to get right. National logistics has been bottlenecking with reduced air-freight capacity, leading to increased delays that have been hard to manage for many online retailers. We’re fortunate that from day 1 we’ve leaned into same-day delivery really hard. We’ve built out our own hybrid delivery system to get products out to customers quickly, which means we’re not reliant on Australia Post and other traditional transport companies.
Avoiding team burnout has been a challenge and a top priority – balancing the chaos of fast growth with employee wellbeing. We’ve introduced split-team operations, flexible and remote working, new financial incentives, mental health days and, recently, a vaccination program to help protect staff.
Overall, we’ve learned that disruption and uncertainty force innovation, and it’s brought out the best in us and our team. It’s definitely been an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to surviving. We’ve all levelled up and found a new gear of confidence and appetite for change.
IR: LVLY is passionate about supporting local businesses, especially since the bushfires and the pandemic. Can you tell me about some of the ways the company has worked to help out other businesses?
HS: We have just launched LVLY loves and the team and I are so excited to see this come to life after months of hard work and planning! This has extended our product range to include a tightly curated selection of local Australian brands, featuring the best of the very best products in each category, including everything from men’s gifting, beauty, self-care and love, to baby, craft beer, gin, cocktails and much more. Brands already onboard include Gintonica, Monista Tea Co., Cocktail Porter, Bopo Women, The Memo, Stellar Gifting, Happy Collective and Mabu Mabu.
Mabu Mabu is a business owned and run in the Torres Strait; it’s on a mission to put Indigenous ingredients in kitchens across Australia and our Hot Sauce Trio set is such a fun gifting option.
Bopo Women believes women’s empowerment starts with an internal self-love revolution using natural, 100 per cent vegan, cruelty-free products. We now range a stunning Self-Love Body Oil that pairs perfectly with our gorgeous blooms.
We like to think of these brands as our kindred spirits – passionate makers and creators with a shared commitment to spreading joy and making people’s day. The LVLY loves initiative is all about small Australian businesses coming together to lift one another up. It’s never been more important to support our fellow business community members.