Floral victory [Global Times]
(Global Times Via Acquire Media NewsEdge)
A flower box, custom-made to express the story of one girl's gratitude to her boyfriend. Photo: Courtesy of Guo Yingzhou
Next to a photo of a bouquet of elegant ivory flowers, there is an anecdote: "All of a sudden, I find myself having a crush on a man that I don't know much about - my dentist! Like this bouquet, the dentist wears a white gown, is self-contained, reserved and sexy, and makes people feel safe." This is only one of hundreds of messages on the Sina Weibo page of The Beast, a Shanghai-based florist that delivers nationwide. The Beast has become known for specializing in "storytelling-based design." Customers tell the florist their stories - including the message they want to express and the personality of the recipient - and a customized floral arrangement is delivered. As florists seek new ways to attract customers and distinguish themselves from competitors, ingenious marketing strategies and niche products have sprung up. If red roses wrapped in plastic no longer hold any romance, you can choose fresh flowers in a delicate box, preserved by special technology that will allow them to look fresh and last forever, just like your love. These non-perishable flowers are available from The Beast as well as Beijing-based online businesses such as Roseonly, Garden Güell Floral Studio and Floral Fantasy. You can order a bouquet of Ecuadorian roses from Roseonly, where a customer can register their intention to send roses to one person - and one person only - for their entire life. Garden Güell, established in April of 2012, is another florist that designs bouquets according to each customer's story. Guo Yingzhou, the company's design and marketing director, spends a lot of time and energy to train floral designers. "We study how to please our customers using different materials, styles and colors," said Guo. "The customer's preferences, the color, or the floriography [language of flowers] - everything can be an inspiration or starting point for a personalized design." Guo admits that customized service is more time-consuming and is not suitable for mass marketing. "But expressing emotions and stories with flowers - this is the core of our business," Guo told Metropolitan. Guo used to work in mechanical design, but felt that floristry was "an industry of great happiness." And Yue Yue, 31, who used to be a stylist, was inspired by the success of The Beast. Believing that Beijingers would be no less interested in creative floral design, she co-founded Floral Fantasy in April of 2012. Yue said that her shop's biggest selling point is its innovative designs for flower bouquets, flower boxes, pictures and baskets. "You have to have new ideas constantly to survive," said Yue. "You just need to be out in front of everybody else."Consumers pay a premium for this creativity and novelty. For example, Roseonly's "165 Love Classic Eternity" bouquet costs 3,999 yuan ($653) each. Floral Fantasy's bestselling "Eternity and A Day" lavender gift box costs 690 yuan. The new florists take online marketing very seriously. Many shops, including Floral Fantasy and Garden Güell, only sell online. "Beijing is too big to open a store offline, while online stores are so convenient," said Yue. On Taobao.com, China's largest online retailer and one of the most important market channels for online florists, a keyword search for "creativity" and "florist" yields about 40 shops located in Beijing, each trying to outdo the others in a quest to create something truly fresh.
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