Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Highlights
  • Kelly Jamieson quit her job at a top-tier law firm in 2005 to start an online store with her sister Abbey Baker, selling edible bouquets.
  • The business was started with just $20,000. Kelly subsidised it for the first eight months by consulting to her old law firm.
  • In 2009 Kelly won the Telstra Small Business of the Year award and in 2011 she was awarded South Australian Telstra Business Woman of the Year.
  • Kelly and her husband, Andrew, launched online plant gift shop Green Thumb Gifts in 2012.
  • Edible Blooms has long relied on cloud-based business systems. It now has more than 50 employees, operates six warehouses and fulfils up to 1000 orders each day.

Edible Blooms’ Kelly Jamieson uses smart technology to solve day-to-day logistics so she can do more of what she loves.

The evolution of e-commerce has helped business boom – or should that be bloom? – for Kelly Jamieson.

With her sister Abbey Baker, Kelly launched Edible Blooms in 2005 with an initial investment of just $20,000 and a commitment to each other to create a more flexible way of working.

“Flexibility was probably the main thing for me,” says Kelly. “I knew I wanted to have a family and that flexibility to take my own hours was really important. We could see an internet business could help us get that.”

One big promise of internet-based businesses is that even the smallest enterprise can present a good-looking shopfront and start selling to customers outside its local area. And that’s just what Kelly and Abbey did, stretching their money a lot further than if they had taken up an expensive retail lease in a high foot-traffic area.

The sisters found affordable warehouse space near their main suppliers right on the fringe of Brisbane’s CBD and used template-based web design software to set up shop. Their online strategy helped keep prices down so they were competitive with traditional florists, too.

Kelly and her son collecting strawberries.

The convenience of online business

Still, back in 2005 e-commerce was a relatively new thing for many of Edible Blooms’ potential customers.

“A lot of people would call to place an order because they’d like to check that there were real people behind this e-commerce website – it was a very simple website when we first started,” recalls Kelly.

“We saw this growing trend and it made sense to create an e-commerce platform, with all the digital opportunities that were arising. It was so much more cost-effective and it meant that we could have 100 per cent control of our growth if we did it ourselves.”

Another big promise of online business is its convenience. Kelly notes that when people buy gifts online they tend to order them at the last minute – and want them delivered yesterday.

“The type of products we sell, 70 per cent or possibly more, are usually purchased for (delivery) the same day or next day,” she says. “So e-commerce really is the best platform for us.”

Although the technology that runs their online store has become a lot more sophisticated, the website has always been based on clean and simple design templates, without any distracting bells and whistles. Large, colourful product images do a great job promoting the artistry of the hand-designed gifts, and perform double duty as ‘buy’ buttons.

The florist’s art is an essential ingredient of every bouquet, which is assembled precisely to match the selected design on the website at the nearest Edible Blooms warehouse once an order has been placed.

“Just like a floral bouquet, the composition and the aesthetic is key to that ‘wow’ moment,” Kelly says. “Our production is hands-on, so we’ve mainly hired florists and people who’ve designed cakes because they’ve got fine motor skills and can design quickly.” 

Cloud systems can make life easier

As a business operator, she has to wear several hats. Fortunately, technology has taken the guesswork out of a lot of her decisions, making managing Edible Blooms that bit easier.

“I’ve done every aspect of the business and I would never ask a staff member to do something that I haven’t done myself before,” admits Kelly. “In fact, as your business grows it becomes a huge competitive advantage because you know your business and its customers inside out.

“We now have a complex customer database (150,000+); we can predict our daily sales based on trends; we compare the calendar week from this year to last year and I can track how much growth we’re expecting to have. This means we can predict staffing and stock levels much more accurately.”

All of that business intelligence is accessible via secure login to Edible Blooms’ cloud-based business systems, which supports Kelly’s need for flexible working. “As long as I have my laptop and internet access, my office is literally at my fingertips: all our business systems, emails, everything in the cloud.”

These days, she often works at home on her rural property an hour from Adelaide, so she and husband Andrew can spend more time with their two children, while nurturing their latest business.

Kelly wishes the business had cloud systems earlier, because prior to a full-scale cloud conversion in 2008, each Edible Blooms warehouse/store had daily spreadsheets that had to be filled out manually.

“Each week, the financials paperwork was sent by post to our central account in Brisbane, and then they’d have to all be entered manually there, too,” she says. “I wouldn’t be able to assess our sales until at least a month later – and that was if every store sent their envelope in on time!”

Kelly first encountered cloud technology during a visit to one of her suppliers. She was so convinced of its benefits that she reorganised just about every business activity at Edible Blooms so it could be run in a single cloud system. This meant remapping the links between accounts, order dispatching and customer and supplier databases, plus setting up more touchpoints to measure the customer experience.

“We suddenly had a dashboard to give us red flags as things were happening each minute in store, so if that store was slow in dispatching orders that day we could call them, and I instantly felt a huge weight off my shoulders.”

Moving to the Neto platform

In 2011, Kelly made her second big technology shift: moving to local e-commerce platform supplier Neto, which has its support and data hosting right here in Australia.

Again, she was quick to move to systems that could help her automate more of the day-to-day processes and give her team better feedback on the customer experience.

“We feel we saved at least half of an admin staff member for every location and we’ve had a 10 per cent productivity gain,” reports Kelly. “Because we don’t have so many glitches with the user-experience of the website, we have also had a huge change in our online checkout: we saw a 15 per cent increase in the average shopping cart online (average cart sales grew by $5). So we’ve saved on overhead costs, but also increased sales with Neto’s online platform – essentially it’s delivered to the bottom line in two places.”

Streamlined funtions cut costs

Edible Blooms now has more than 125,000 people on its customer database and each record includes favourite products, trigger dates such as birthdays and anniversaries, and preferred marketing activities.

The customer relationship management (CRM) system neatly dovetails into Neto’s email and social media marketing management tools; customers can be sent the right offer to match an occasion, with enough notice to be useful. According to Kelly, conversion rates from email marketing improved last year by about 20 per cent, although customers still order just before a birthday or anniversary.

Kelly says her favourite new toy is the online dashboard provided by Neto, which gives a close-to-real-time view of every order in every location. As soon as an order is confirmed, revenue records are updated in the accounting system, while the logistics system automatically generates a sticker for the courier and makes the delivery booking. All these processes used to be done manually.

“By streamlining our business functions and saving costs, it frees up cash to focus on new ventures (and) product innovations. We are strong believers in reinvesting in the business,” says Kelly. [One of their new ventures is greenthumbgifts.com.au, which sells and delivers gift-wrapped plants and gardening tools.]

“We are now also acutely aware of which products will gain traction with the customer base and how long this will take. For example, when we introduced our new cake pop range, once customers were able to see and taste them for the first time, we experienced an increase in sales.”

The next big thing

Kelly is keen to keep the business growing. A next step will be to set up a national Edible Blooms call centre in Adelaide, as she wants her teams at the warehouses to focus on quality output rather than answering phones. Each store can also access all the Edible Blooms CRM in the cloud.

She also has an eye on the United Kingdom, focusing on business-to-business gifts. “Gifts a whole team can bond over while devouring have worked well here, and the corporate market is a lot bigger in the UK,” Kelly explains.

“It’s also a nice small geographic area to cover with a climate that’s good for sending perishable products. In Australia we have to send our products over longer distances so we use a lot of recyclable ice packs. We get them by the palette load here!”

Kelly and Abbey both enjoyed working holidays in the UK in their youth and plan to give their staff similar opportunities. In fact, the sisters and some of their Aussie team will all relocate to the UK for the first six months.

“We feel being on the ground in the UK is really important because it’s potentially such a big market for us,” notes Kelly. “We’ve done our research, but a lot of the motivation is our personal instinct. It’s really important that we just put ourselves out there and give it a go. 

“That’s a definite advantage that small business has over big business – that nimbleness and ability to move quickly.”  

Want to learn more about how Neto can help your business? 

Here's everything you need to know to set up your online store. 

Find Out More

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