How can we adapt the successful Blume 2000 business model for a modern, urban consumer landscape?
Blume 2000 is a flower shop chain that over the years has grown into major stature. The company’s original business model was innovative, in that customers picked out the flowers they wanted themselves in the shop. Forty years later however, consumers and the market have changed. Today, many shoppers are looking for an experience of the senses that involves a new kind of relationship with nature. At the same time, low-cost flowers are now available at every hardware store and discount supermarket. The question was thus how to revamp and optimize the successful business model of Blume 2000 to appeal more to contemporary urban consumers‑-including the company slogan “more for less”?
In close cooperation with company management, we interacted with consumers in the targeted urban segment of Blume 2000 to find out more about their longings for more nature and desires for experiences of the senses that enhance the quality of city life. The findings from these endeavors we then translated into a brand vision of verdant urban living in which consumers enjoy a consistent shopping experience that intensively engages the senses, making flowers of the quality one only expects to get at a weekly street market available every day. The company’s store concept, communications, product range, brand and services were aligned to uniformly target urban shoppers interested in vibrant in-town nature experiences. Blume 2000 has since opened or renovated 150 shops, and is now enjoying double-digit sales and profit growth.
“Our challenge was systematically bringing planning and action into alignment with customers’ desires.”
Alexander Zoern, General Manager, Blume 2000
Discount florist looking for a new USP
Blume 2000 got big selling fresh flowers at low prices in self-service shops. The company is the only florist chain since 1974 to successfully sell these fragile plants as a consumer convenience product that makes everyday life prettier and more vivid. By bringing process efficiency to the company’s ardent passion for flowers, Blume 2000 grew into a strong mid-sized enterprise as Germany’s leading retail florist chain and number one flower delivery provider. Competition has stiffened in recent years however, as supermarkets, gas stations and DIY stores have all entered the market, selling flower and plants on-the-go with no waiting or extra expense for full-service advice. This led to Blume 2000 reviewing its business approach to identify strategies for adapting to the changing times.
City dwellers and their longings
Effective brand repositioning always means looking at people first. Who are the flower buyers of today and tomorrow? What is it they are looking for that leads them to purchase flowers? In what ways are their consumer desires and decision-making criteria changing in today’s efficiency-driven, digital and increasingly urban society? What place does nature have and what do flowers mean in this society? To understand what today’s public expects when buying flowers and plants, we accompanied shoppers to Blume 2000 stores and other flower shops, where we carefully observed and interviewed them before doing further field research in their homes.
Applying cultural research methods, we studied the situational context of flowers and plants in society, exploring how the attitudes of city dwellers toward nature are bound up with urban culture.
People enjoy living in big cities for the diversity of people and rich cultural life they offer. They also like the conveniences of city life, with everything one requires within easy reach. At the same time however, they still appreciate quiet and things that appeal to the senses as part of quality living. Consumers see flowers and plants as a fundamental ingredient to human well-being — as a bit of the true natural world alive within urban homes. More than ever, flowers are perceived as an essential part of a life of contentment.
Through trend research we have observed “urban green-living” concepts increasing in popularity well beyond the status of a niche phenomenon. We also found that when shopping for flowers, people are mainly looking to bring a bit of graceful beauty and good feeling into their lives, or the lives of those receiving them. A mood lifter for a cozier home. Flourishing relationships. Our task was to to translate this human insight into a business vision and corporate mission.
Cities in bloom
How should Blume 2000 utilize this insight to reposition the firm in the marketplace so as to attain new relevance and change consumers’ perception of the chain? An intensive Vision Workshop was held with company management in which we outlined the basic idea behind the brand facelift to keep up with the times. The defining characteristics of self-service, value for the money and mobility upon which the company’s success has been founded were to remain in place; its flower shops were to continue embodying the idea of urban convenience. And it had to be properly factored in that while the strategic target group of pragmatic nature lovers likes to self-reward with fresh flowers, bringing a bit of the great outdoors inside to enhance the home, this may not entail substantial cost or effort.
Together we formulated the vision of “beautiful urban living with fresh flowers affordable enough for every day.” Building upon this answer as to the “why” of the brand, we then formulated this mission and identity statement: “We at Blume 2000 want the city to be a place of beauty. Blume 2000 is a provider of aesthetic urban living, enhancing quality of life day by day.”
Revolutionizing the brand culture
Repositioning only represents a cultural change if new experiences and behaviors proceed from it. Thus in the workshop we developed seven brand promises as tenets codifying the new culture to bridge the gap between mission statement and business practice. Some of these were: “Creating an urban nature experience” … “Take-home nature from just around the corner” … “Flower-loving staff members dedicated to helping customers” … “Unmatched freshness, guaranteed.”
These formed the ‘source code’ for the new imagery and feel to be created by design agency Studio Oeding and the shop design team of Jan Schawe, founder of Hamburg’s popular Mutterland (‘motherland’) chain of specialty foodstores.
The guiding idea behind the store concept was “like the weekly street market but open every day”. Elements like tiles, crates and handwriting on chalk boards are employed to create a familiar, farmers-market feel.
As part of the updated service concept, Blume 2000 staff now also put together bouquets for customers. The role of shop staff has thus evolved from that of a simple salesperson into a floral adviser/artist, and employee motivation has surged. Having launched the largest florist training and continuing ed offering in Germany, Blume 2000 is now the industry’s leading education provider, holding over 200 seminars annually attended by over 1,000 staff.
The company has expanded its assortment, offering greater variety with a special focus on flowers from the region, the source of which is prominently stated on a tag. Now in cooperation with the company’s longstanding suppliers, Blume 2000 is developing proprietary collections in line with the latest trends and customer preferences. Under its revamped brand, Blume 2000 is even selling herbs and gardening accessories, utilizing natural and environmentally friendly materials wherever possible.
In addition to the company’s growing regional offering, one out three flowers and plants now sold are from resource-conserving cultivation. Blume 2000 has been working closely with certification organizations, and has introduced Fairtrade flowers, demonstrating commitment to corporate social responsibility.
“STURM und DRANG’s consulting on our new brand vision and the cultural changes required within our organization was simply outstanding.”
Alexander Zoern, General Manager, Blume 2000
The repositioning of Blume 2000 in the marketplace—realizing the vision—is a work in progress. The company’s essential mission vis-a-vis customers is unchanged while the Blume 2000 offerings and services and the organizational structures behind them continue evolving dynamically. This evolution keeps the brand vibrant and relevant throughout the changing times. It’s an organic process.