If you’ve been thinking of sending flowers to a loved one in another town, city or overseas, but you’ve been wondering whether this is a good idea, or if it’s even safe to do so, then hopefully this article will clear up any doubts or reservations you might have.
Now I know what you’re thinking. This article will be biased because it’s published by a florist whose primary business is selling flowers, hampers and gifts online, right? Well, you may be right, but as the owner of a number of successful websites, and with more than 16 years of experience in the online world as a web developer and internet marketer, I’m going to do my best to provide you with accurate, unbiased information that will ensure your online shopping experience is a safe and pleasant one.
So the answer to my question is; yes it is safe to order flowers online, but you need to know what to look for in an online florist, or any online service for that matter, before you make your purchase.
Rather Safe than Sorry
Firstly, let me say that you are right to be a little sceptical and weary in this day and age of e-Commerce. There are unfortunately a few fly-by-nights that exist purely to take your money, with no intentions of delivering. I’m happy to report however, that I don’t know of any online florists in South Africa that are doing this. This is not to say however that there aren’t any, or that there aren’t any in other industries.
Having said that though, not all online florists adhere to the same ethics or quality standards, and customer service and reliability can differ vastly as well. This is unfortunately something you’ll only be able to figure out through trial and error. A good starting point though, would be to use florists who offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
With credit card fraud being rife around the world, this should be one of your biggest concerns. Look for reputable security seals on the website before you hand over your credit card details, and make sure that the page where you enter your credit card details displays a valid SSL security certificate. You can check this by looking for the padlock icon in your address bar. Thawte®, Virtual Card Services (secured by Thawte®), Symantec (Norton Secured) and GeoTrust are a few examples of reputable security seals.
In our case, we don’t see, process or store any credit card details on our website. The credit card transaction is handled entirely by our payment gateway, VCS (Virtual Card Services), so your credit card details are entirely safe and protected by their secure server.
How Do I know If I Can Trust The Security Seal?
If you are faced with a security mark you don’t recognise, do a quick search for the name on Google to verify if this is a legitimate and trustworthy seal. If you aren’t satisfied by what you find, rather order from a more reputable website to be safe.
Update (26 July 2014): According to a recent ACI Worldwide and Aite Group global consumer study looking at the impact and perceptions of fraud, 33% of South African survey respondents said they do not trust online retailers and service providers to adequately protect their data from hackers, even though they have security systems in place.
Personally, I don’t trust them either. It is very difficult and expensive to fully secure a server and website against attacks, so you either have to be a huge online retailer with big security budgets and a responsible approach to security, or you shouldn’t be storing people’s credit card details. We prefer to leave credit card processing to the reputable payment gateways that specialize in processing payments securely. My suggestion is that you either use an online florist that doesn’t handle credit card processing themselves and that don’t store your card details, or you pay by EFT (Electronic Bank Transfer) if you are concerned.
Also, many online florists and gifting websites will require you to register before you can make a purchase. This often comes with forced subscription to their marketing emails and newsletters, which you may not want.
In this case, you might prefer to order from a website that doesn’t require registration. At inMotion Flowers, you can checkout as a guest or optionally register for convenience. Subscribing to our newsletter is also optional, and you can unsubscribe at any time, should you no longer wish to receive our communications.
Will I Get Exactly What I Ordered?
This one is a little trickier to answer. Since flower arrangements ordered online are made up by various florists around the country, there are a number of factors that could affect the way the final delivered product compares to the image on the website. Florists may interpret the designs slightly differently, and the availability of flowers in certain areas, or even specific colours of flowers may also be an issue. However, if significant substitutions are necessary, your florist should inform you of this, and the substitutions should always be of equal or greater value.
Keep in mind also that mistakes do happen, but a trustworthy online florist should always be willing to fix their mistakes.
Website Design & Usability
They say looks aren’t everything... but when it comes to websites, I tend to disagree... ;-) While the overall look and feel is subjective, the design and usability of a website can be very telling. If the website looks outdated and the design is unprofessional looking, you may want to steer clear.
Equally, if the website is not very user-friendly, ordering online might end up being more hassle than it’s worth. You should not need to fill out ridiculously long forms that ask you for unnecessary information.
Make sure that the website you are planning on ordering from makes it very easy to contact them. Their contact details should be clearly visible on their website, and you should be able to contact them by email and phone at the very least. If this is not the case, DON’T ORDER!
A great way to get a clearer idea of who you are dealing with, is to check if they have any social media profiles. If they do, click through to their profiles and see what customers are saying about their service. In the online flower industry, Facebook is the best place to look. Click the “See all” link in the “Recent Posts by Others” section, and see what people are saying. If this section is hidden, I’d worry... Most of our customer feedback seems to be on our Google page.
If they don’t have any social media profiles, I’d also be a bit suspicious. In that case, you could perform a search on Google for the company name plus “reviews” or “complaints”.
Of course, finding people complaining doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t order from them, but at least you know what you’re up against, and can make an educated decision from there.
Still Not Convinced?
If for any reason, you still aren’t comfortable with the idea of ordering flowers online, you can always go and see your local florist. Most florists will deliver within a reasonable distance of their shop, or if you need to send flowers to another area, she may be able to organise this for you.
If we’ve missed anything, or you have any questions or concerns, feel free to ask away in the comments below. We are happy to help in any way we can. Oh, and if you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends.
PS: If you have any issues with our website, I’m the guy to complain to... ;-)