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1-800-FLOWERS.COM CEO: A 'fifth wave' of retail is emerging

Julia La Roche

1-800-FLOWERS.COM CEO Chris McCann sees a “fifth wave” in retail that will change the way consumers shop.

“In the future we see a fifth wave emerging now, which we’re calling and others are calling conversational commerce, and it’s a different way consumers are looking to interact with brands,” McCann told Yahoo Finance.

1-800-FLOWERS.COM (FLWS) began as a single flower shop in Manhattan in the 1970s. Over the years, the company has transformed itself into a $1 billion specialty retailer selling florals and gourmet foods through a variety of different channels.

“From a technology point of view, [customers] want it to be easy,” McCann said. “That’s why we’ve reinvented our business over the years from a brick-and-mortar retailer to telephonic commerce to e-commerce to today where we are a mobile-first driven company. Because that’s where the consumer is. That’s where the consumer wants to interact with our brands.”

The “fifth wave” of conversational commerce means that customers can use technology to interact with brands in a “casual conversational format.” For example, a customer could use Facebook (FB) Messenger to chat with a bot to place an order.

1-800-FLOWERS.COM also has an A.I. concierge on its web platform called “Gwyn” (gifts when you need) where customers can interact to generate recommendations for the gifting occasion.

McCann noted that he sees the rapid adoption of conversational commerce capabilities.

“[I] see the adoption of these capabilities accelerating more so than we’ve seen with mobile, more so than we’ve seen with computers, more so than we’ve seen with telephones. Whereas, I would like my estimation is that 18 to 24 months from now these conversational commerce capabilities that I just mentioned — the bots, the A.I. concierge, the voice computing capabilities of Alexa (AMZN) or Google (GOOGL) assistant – will be a predominant entry point for our brands.”

This story is a part of Yahoo Finance Presents: The Retail Revolution, March 5-9, 2018.

Retail Revolution (Illustration by Thomas Porostocky)

Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.