In this Q&A, DTC Daily speaks to Steph Douglas (pictured below), founder of thoughtful gifts business, Don’t Buy Her Flowers about how the business has developed from a gift box for new mums, selecting the brands that go in to the boxes, and the role PR and word of mouth play in bringing new customers to the brand.
DTC Daily: Where did the initial idea for Don’t Buy Her Flowers come from, and how has the business evolved from this?
Steph Douglas: When I had my first baby I received eight beautiful and well-meant bouquets, and as I sat on the sofa feeling weepy and overwhelmed it struck me as bonkers that the go-to gift for new mums was another thing to care for, when you’re doing more caring than you’ve ever done in your life.
We launched as gifts for new mums in 2014, our packages all being about the mum and encouraging her to take ten minutes for herself. We immediately had customers asking us if they could send a package for a birthday or get well and suddenly the market was considerably bigger than we initially thought! We now cover any occasion when someone needs some TLC and have a wide range of gorgeous products. Whether they need to curl up with a good book, cashmere socks and some chocolate, candles and products for an evening of relaxing or the perfect G&T and a COOK Food voucher so they can have a night off. The core idea has remained the same – thoughtfulness, and all about letting someone know they’re being cared for and encouraging them to take a bit of time for themselves. We now have packages for men, a collaboration with Stand Up To Cancer and a growing number of corporate clients who want to send gifts that have a bit more thought to them than the usual hampers or bouquets.
How do you select the brands that go into your boxes?
We usually start by asking, how do we want the recipient to feel? So for example, we launched The Unwind Package earlier this year because we know life is busy and we’re all increasingly bad at taking time for ourselves. I knew I wanted a pillow spray (specifically the This Works Pillow Spray as it’s the best!) and facemask, cashmere socks, PJs, Calm Tea with Valerian, a good book – all things that will help the recipient to look after themselves and unwind. So we often have a product or package idea in mind and then get searching for the right supplier – quality is crucial, we go for organic and natural brands where we can and we’re trying to reduce the amount of packaging our products have.
Nearly all of our suppliers are British – some more household names than others – but we have a good representation of small and medium independent brands in the mix. I don’t want to have a load of products you can get anywhere. And we research – I ask our social media, my friends, our customers – we recently added the brand Mr Natty and that was after being inundated with their fans when I asked on Instagram for male grooming product recommendations. Similarly a make up artist friend told me about a moisturiser she’d found that was made on a farm in North Wales, which is Laughing Bird. Ultimately, every product has to be high quality and about TLC in one form or another. If it doesn’t offer that, it doesn’t make the cut.
How do you incorporate customer feedback and first-party data into your product development and marketing?
We’re always in conversation with our customers because we have a really engaged social media following, and they love to message us when they get feedback from someone they’ve sent a package to, which means we get to see the first hand reactions. I think because people have watched us grow over the last five years, they feel part of the process and want to engage as well as telling their friends. We also have around 30% repeat customer rate, so the fact people are coming back is great. We have five years of sales data now, so we know what sells, when the peaks are, why people are sending our packages and how it’s changed over time. The best thing is we’ve grown month on month since launch so I know we’re getting something right!
What have you found is the most effective way of bringing new customers to the brand?
Word of mouth is really important for us. I think if someone buys a gift and they get that feedback – I loved it, it made me cry, this is the most thoughtful thing I’ve ever received – they want to tell people. As a large proportion of our customers are women, they are particularly brilliant at telling their friends so we have great pools of advocates. The bit I underestimated was how emotional our packages were going to make people – that idea that someone recognises you need some looking after and this box arrives in the post that is all about you – that human connection and empathy is way bigger than I realised and again, that means people want to tell others about their experience.
PR is also big for us – that gives us space to really tell the story and get across the thoughtfulness that we are all about in more detail, combined with social media for the reach. Paid ads and PPC all play a part too. It’s really a combination and they all have a slightly different role.
What does the future hold for Don’t Buy Her Flowers?
We’re just moving to a new warehouse as we’ve outgrown our first one, which is really exciting. In the last year the team has grown to ten people, and we have a new Head of Marketing and also a Corporate Sales person – corporate clients regularly come to us to develop something unique for clients and employees, or for gift bags for an event, and we have now developed our offer so we can actively go after that market. We’ve met lots of companies who are gifting all the time, but they’re not particularly happy with what they’re sending so it’s really interesting – we’re not asking them to find budget, we’re just able to create much better thoughtful gifts, with branding options and a team who are talking with them and handpicking products that will say so much more to their teams than a bog standard hamper that everyone sends.
It feels like we’re just hitting our stride – we know exactly who we are and what we do, we’re set up to deliver and now we’re reaching more people than ever so I’m really excited for this next phase.
Don’t Buy Her Flowers was recently identified as one of the leading 50 DTC brands by IAB UK. Find out more here.