What started out as a way to spread joy and building a brand that Australians would enjoy, has quickly turned into one of the leading online flower delivery services in the country. We sat down with Hannah Spilva, the CEO and Co-Founder of LVLY to discuss the pandemic's impact on Australian consumers, shaking up the flower industry, and what's next on the horizon.
LVLY (pronounced lovely) is a collaboration between Verity and Hannah, that began purely with a purpose, rather than a product. The pair decided to build a business that would keep loved ones connected, seeking inspiration from their own distance from family.
“We were living away from home, missing friends and family and saw a gap in the market to send affordable flowers and gifts that weren’t the traditional red roses and fluffy teddy bears,” Spilva tells us. Together, the team at LVLY have changed the way flower delivery services operate in the country.
It’s not just the playful attitude of LVLY’s product range – which includes native Australian flora, cocktails, chocolates and treats, plus the notion of a card or some confetti. LVLY also offers same-day delivery services across Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, seven days a week. “Our playful brand, customisable products and world-class customer service mean we stand out from the crowd – which is exactly where we like to be,” Spilva says. The team at LVLY have spent five years optimising its product range, packaging and pricing based on customer feedback.
In the span of 18 months, LVLY’s business has scaled 500 percent, fuelled heavily by the pandemic. This world-changing event was a ‘massive learning curve’ for the retailer, with focus steering towards operational infrastructure and an additional hiring spree. LVLY has since tripled its casual workforce, and ‘significantly’ increased its warehouse footprint across the country. “We also pushed ourselves to keep innovating amongst the madness, extending our same-day delivery from five days to seven days a week, pushing back our order cut-off from 2 pm to 5 pm, adding new products to the range and launching new collaborations,” Spilva explains.
LVLY highlights and heroes local brands in its collaborations, such as fellow online retailer Vinomofo, HoMie, Hot Copper Studio and many others. “I hope that the consumer trend to support local, small independents won’t go away. I suspect it won’t,” she says. “We’ve always placed a big emphasis on local suppliers and working with small businesses, it’s been rewarding to build an eco-system where our success has been a key factor in keeping the doors open for some of our suppliers.”
There’s no denying that online has experienced a surge in popularity since early 2020, and the team at LVLY can back this sentiment in spades. “People have found a new level of confidence with buying online, home delivery services and click and collect,” she says. As a result, sales for LVLY have continued to grow even as states come in and out of lockdown.
What about consumers? How have their habits changed since March 2020? There have been some signs of ‘lockdown fatigue’, but this hasn’t stopped the onslaught of sales, just a shift in the themes and messaging. “It’s also great to see humour being used to beat the blues – we’ve noticed a lot more people sending our personalised flower jars with quirky messages such as ‘wined and confined’, ‘quarantined AF’, ‘stay positive, test negative’. We acquired a huge number of new customers last year and it’s been great to see them return to LVLY over subsequent months,” she tells us.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses (or native posies). As with all digital businesses, the issues of logistics and operations remain difficult as states enter and leave lockdown across Australia. “National logistics have been bottlenecking with increased delays which have been frustrating for online customers. The specific expertise and order volumes required to make delivery profitable for online businesses mean that it can kill your bottom line,” Spilva explains. “We’ve leaned into same-day delivery really hard, we’ve pushed ourselves to set new standards not just in our category but across retail in general. It’s a huge opportunity for retailers to differentiate from the competition and to delight their customers.”
Additional challenges come on the personal level, too. “Being heavily pregnant and scaling a business in a pandemic is not a good idea!” she says. “I think the combination of personal and commercial pressures that COVID has created for so many people has been a huge challenge.”
Avoiding team burnout has been a major priority, introducing flexible and remote working, new financial incentives, mental health days and a recently implemented vaccination program. “We’ve learned that disruption and uncertainty force innovation and it’s brought out the best in us and our team. It’s definitely been an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to surviving. We’ve all levelled up and found a new gear of confidence and appetite for change.”
As always, there have been ups and downs, but would the team at LVLY change anything? Not at all. “I’m happy we are where we are and for that reason, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Spilva says. “There have been mistakes made, lessons learned, long days and sleepless nights but I think it’s slog and resilience that builds businesses. On one hand, we thought we were building a flower business but ultimately it’s a logistics business – if we’d been less naive about it I’m not sure we’d have done it. I never thought I’d become an expert in same-day logistics but in actual fact, it’s been one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about building the business,” she says.
And what about advice Is there anything that Hannah would tell herself at the start of the LVLY journey? “In terms of advice, if I could go back I’d definitely tell myself to stress less and to stop and enjoy the ride more. I sometimes wish I’d been a bit less fixated on pushing forward and enjoyed the milestones more,” she says. “I’d remind myself to ‘stop and smell the roses’ – pun intended.”
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