This Valentine’s Day around $2 billion will be spent on flowers.
A lot of that ordering will be online.
Poor online experiences mean shoppers will abandon an order and go somewhere else, or not return when they need to purchase flowers again.
Having a strong user experience will ensure customers can find the right arrangement, for the right price, and have the flowers delivered fresh and on time.
Benchmarking The Flower Ordering Experience
To understand the quality of the online experience, we collected UX benchmark metrics on four popular flower websites in both 2017 and 2018.
A good benchmark indicates where a website falls relative to the competition and is an essential step to take to understand how any design changes contribute to a quantifiable improvement. See the introduction to UX benchmarking for more background on this essential UX method.
We conducted two benchmark studies: a retrospective and task-based. In the retrospective study, we had 200 participants who recently visited or purchased from one of the flower websites reflect on their most recent experiences. In the task-based study, we had 120 participants who recently visited or purchased from any flower website attempt a predetermined task on one of the four websites (randomly assigned).
The data was collected in January 2018. Participants in the studies answered the 8-item SUPR-Q (including the Net Promoter Score) and questions about their prior experience. Participants in the task-based study attempted one task on a website: order a dozen roses to be delivered on Valentine’s Day to a specified address. Full details are available in the benchmark report.
Quality of the Website User Experience: SUPR-Q
The SUPR-Q is a standardized measure of the quality of a website’s user experience and is a good way to gauge users’ attitudes. It’s based on a rolling database of around 150 websites across dozens of industries. Scores are percentile ranks and tell you how a website experience ranks relative to the other websites. The SUPR-Q provides an overall score as well as detailed scores for subdimensions of trust, usability, appearance, and loyalty.
The scores for these websites ranged from a bit below average to well above average—showing some good variation for this group. The online flower industry average SUPR-Q is at the 62nd percentile (scoring better than 62% of the websites in the database). Teleflora had the lowest SUPR-Q score of the group with a score at the 43rd percentile. 1-800-Flowers led the group with scores at the 75th percentile.
The SUPR-Q scores changed somewhat when participants in the task-based study were asked to complete the Valentine’s Day roses task. The biggest difference was on FTD, which saw its SUPR-Q score drop on the task-based study, from 73% to 39%, indicating issues with the first time experience (and for this task).
We conducted a similar analysis in 2017 and the results showed similar scores. The average SUPR-Q score for this group dipped a bit from 69% to 62%. Comparisons to all subscales are also available in the report.
1-800-Flowers had the highest usability score (at the 75th percentile) compared to Teleflora, with the lowest at the 43rd percentile. The usability factor on the SUPR-Q predicts a SUS score; in the case of 1-800-Flowers, it’s a SUS equivalent score of 80 and for Teleflora, a 71.
Loyalty/Net Promoter Scores
For businesses that likely benefit from referrals, this group of websites generally had pretty mediocre Net Promoter Scores. The average NPS for this group was -2% (slightly more detractors than promoters), which is actually about average for Net Promoter Scores in our SUPR-Q database.
Compared to our 2017 data, most Net Promoter Scores were about the same, with the exception of Teleflora that dropped 30 points, from 16% last year to -14% this year.
Price Value & Transparency
Flowers are considered a commodity in the minds of many consumers and commodities are usually only differentiated by price (despite the marketing efforts of many of these companies). Consequently, we asked participants to reflect on how satisfied they were with the prices they paid at the flower websites. ProFlowers showed the lowest satisfaction of the group with one recent buyer reflecting on the unexpected cost:
“The prices they show compared to what the final price ends up being with shipping and fees can drastically vary. It’s disappointing to see something in your budget to then find it’s 50% more after everything is included.”
Building further on price perception, we asked participants how transparent they felt the prices were throughout the checkout process. In general, participants felt there were hidden fees throughout the checkout process on all websites and would have liked more transparency.
“There are always hidden fees involved. The price always looks good for the flowers until everything is added up at the end and the bill comes out to be way more.” —Teleflora consumer
The estimated subtotal in the shopping cart still does not show extra charges for delivery and services.” —FTD consumer
The low Net Promoter Scores suggest consumers are open to switching flower websites. For most consumers, purchasing flowers isn’t something done regularly (around half the participants report only purchasing a few times in the last year). To understand how effective the experience was for prospective buyers, we had 120 participants attempt to order an arrangement for this Valentine’s Day using our MUIQ research platform. This allows us to diagnose problems with the navigation and purchase processes.
Participants were most successful on FTD, but even then only 37% were able to correctly find the lowest price arrangement of roses with a vase. The other sites had completion rates below 25%, even when we relaxed the success rate criteria by not requiring the total shipping cost and fees. The main reason for the low completion rates is an extension of the price transparency problem identified by the participants in the retrospective study. Prices kept creeping up, usually without participants being fully aware.
We examined the videos and verbatim comments more to understand the user experience problems.
The Slow Price Reveal
The sites give the price of the flowers only (without a vase) up front (which is good) but users must go all the way through the checkout process to find the final price WITH the vase and shipping/fees (which is not good). Not surprisingly, this irked participants. The shipping costs, extra fees, and tax increased the price of the roses substantially, making participants think they were overcharged. Participants in the study commented:
“The price of the flowers with vase was $49.99 but with shipping, fees, tax, etc., they were $78.55. FOR 12 ROSES!” —1-800-Flowers participant
“The service fee is over 50% of the cost of the product.”—FTD participant
“The price for delivery was MORE than the flowers! That’s a little absurd to me.” —ProFlowers participant
“I was disappointed that the service fee was almost 18 dollars.” —Teleflora participant
This problem can be seen from observing the session videos. No one likes to pay for shipping these days, but it seems the flower websites have taken pain to a whole new level for V-day!
For example, you can see the subtotal for the flowers on the 1-800-Flowers website as $54.99 when it was added to the cart. The second image shows what the participant would actually pay: $83.94.
The problem is exacerbated on other sites that require you to create an account or enter credit card details before you get the final price.
And on FTD, the shopping cart actually says “Estimated Total” and provides a value of $29.99. But on checkout, the actual price was $51.98! So much for an “estimate.”
Difficult to Distinguish between Products
There are so many add-ons, sizes, vase types, and more to choose from, all at different prices, that some participants struggled to narrow the choices. Figure 3 shows an example from many combinations of roses from ProFlowers. One participant commented on their struggle to find flowers.
“[I had] some difficulty in finding exactly what I want.”
A video of this interaction can be seen below.
Choice isn’t a bad thing, but websites can help participants narrow choices by providing intuitive navigation. Many participants struggled using the navigation. Teleflora in particular had a challenging menu with every option in the Valentine’s Day menu listed in all caps “VALENTINE’S DAY.” It’s like they’re shouting, “Get ready to be gouged!”
If users don’t want to shop by one of the occasions in the top nav, they open the SHOP BY menu where the options aren’t as helpful for this type of task.
“It’s far too cluttered. It’s pretty easy to accidentally click on the wrong category.”—Teleflora participant
The click map below from MUIQ shows that a good portion of participants took a search first approach (with 32% searching), which is similar to the search versus browse spread we see on retail websites.
A two-part UX benchmark (retrospective and task-based) analysis of flower websites was conducted in 2018 using 320 participants. The overall user experience of the industry was slightly above average compared to the websites in the SUPR-Q database and similar to the 2017 data.
The biggest driver of both poor SUPR-Q scores and low task completion rates are the hidden fees and lack of price transparency. What consumers see as estimated totals in their shopping carts on average increased by 50% or in some cases, even doubled, by the time they checked out.