Q&A: Charlotte Langley, brand & comms director, Bloom & Wild

Bloom & Wild's Charlotte Langley discusses the importance of thoughtful comms and offers advice on how to show sensitivity in brand messaging.

woman holding flowers

How important is it for companies to use more human, sensitive and personalised customer engagement?

It’s really important if you want to build an engaged and loyal community around your brand. Of course as a business you have trading peaks and sales targets to hit, but it doesn’t make sense to drive those sales in a way which creates a negative experience for a portion of your customer base.

At Bloom & Wild, Mother’s Day is one of our biggest trading peaks of the year. Whilst for many, Mother’s Day is generally a happy time to celebrate, for others it’s a painful reminder of individual struggles. We pride ourselves on being customer-first and we like to show we care by the way we interact with our customers. So we decided to reshape the way we talk to customers around occasions that could be sensitive, and offer them the ability to opt-out
of specific marketing communications.

We do this because we think it’s the right thing to do, but we’ve also seen that it generates deep brand love for those who are affected.

How difficult is it to balance the pressure to drive sales with the desire to introduce more sensitivity to your comms?

I think that’s a false dichotomy, because the people who choose to opt out of comms around an occasion that’s sensitive for them were never going to buy for that occasion. And in fact, comms around a sensitive occasion could actively prevent them from shopping with us in the future. So by putting our customers first and segmenting our communications at those sensitive times of year we maintain a positive experience for all our customers that’s more
likely to drive long term loyalty.

What have you done in order to improve your email marketing with regards to personalisation and sensitivity?

Reaching our audience in both a personal and sensitive way requires an effective engagement strategy that is tailored to specific audiences. Scaling personalised communications can be a challenge, but with the right technology it is possible. Using customer engagement platform Braze, we’ve been easily able to adjust content blocks within
email messages, allowing us to customise communications at scale across our markets, whilst still retaining a consistent Bloom & Wild look and feel. This has enabled us to deliver personalised campaigns that fit specific customer profiles and are respectful to certain sensitivities. At the same time it has resulted in an 85% reduction in build time for us, as well as a higher response rate from our customers.

What kind of impact, if any, has the coronavirus pandemic had on your customer communication?

There have been a few different phases of communication. At the start of the pandemic, we focused on updating customers on the safety of our service and explaining contact free delivery for example. After that we saw a phase where our customers were running out of ideas of things to do, so we created more hands on content with our florists, like learning how to make a particular type of arrangement.

More recently, with all the uncertainty, we’ve leaned into the acts of care we see our customers making on a daily basis. And we’ve tried to reflect in our email and social copy the collective experience we’re going through, like thanking a friend for all the freezing cold walks that have kept you sane. We can all relate to something like that and I don’t think we can ignore what’s going on around us and just send the same kind of messages as we
would have done over a year ago.

Finally, it’s been really important to us as a business that’s been fortunate enough to continue trading throughout the pandemic to support the wider community. Over the first wave we were proud to raise £215k for the National Emergencies Trust, as well as offering frontline workers over £2m in discounts by sharing our staff discount with them. More recently we’ve established a partnership with Carers Trust, supporting the 7 million unpaid carers in the UK. In the first quarter of the partnership we’ve raised over £110k.

Bloom & Wild has launched the Thoughtful Marketing Movement. What does that entail and why did you decide to create it?

After we first gave customers a chance to opt out of Mother’s Day emails in 2019, we were completely overwhelmed by the response. We realised there was an opportunity to spread the practice more broadly across the industry and positively impact even more customers across multiple brands. So we launched the Thoughtful Marketing Movement, which aims to change the culture around brand communications and improve the experience for customers
across the industry. One year on, we have over 170 members and we’re seeing big players like Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Boots UK and Deliveroo offer opt-outs to their customers too.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are a couple of obvious examples of times when companies need to be sensitive. Are there any other instances where you think companies need to tread carefully?

Valentine’s Day is probably the biggest one for us. We all get inundated with messages around celebrating love and relationships at that time of year, but for someone who has lost a partner or is just going through a breakup, these can be really hard. Relationships are very personal and multi-faceted, and brands can’t assume that their entire customer base will feel exactly the same way towards an occasion like Valentine’s Day.

What advice would you give to other marketers who are attempting to be more sensitive regarding their customer communication but aren’t sure how to go about it?

It’s all about putting your customers first, and demonstrating the business value of doing so. It’s well understood that personalisation is an important part of crafting effective email essaging strategy, so brands should take that personalisation strategy further by offering customers the ability to choose what they do or do not want to hear from brands, on what channel and when.

Recent research by Braze, indicates that UK marketers are not ​prioritising investment in customer engagement technology, that will enable them to do this, and instead focusing their budgets on other areas such as AI. Partnering with the right technology providers is crucial – you have to make sure that your values align, and that their product will answer your needs directly and seamlessly.

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