Florists have recently seen the introduction of new e-commerce website platforms that claim to be free. Unfortunately these free e-commerce websites may well be the most expensive choice a florist can make.
Fortunately the vast majority of florists understand that there is no “free", and that anything called "free" is likely to cost a fortune.
Most florists we deal with have seen right through these offers and avoided them entirely. The few that did try free websites quickly realized it was costing them far too much and hurried back to a paid option.
But maybe once a month or so we might get asked about these free florist websites…
The most important thing to remember is that nothing is really free, and then make an informed decision based on true costs.
These free websites for florists are, of course, not free at all. They simply trade a smaller fixed cost for a much larger variable cost. It would be more accurate to say they are "no money down” websites. “No money down” deals tend to cost much more in the long term, and this is no exception.
Instead of paying a fixed annual fee like (like you would with a floral website from Flower Shop Network) or some combination of set-up and/or fixed ongoing hosting fees from companies like Strider Florist 2.0 or Epic, the new “free” services might not involve any money up-front. They might let a florist get an e-commerce floral website in place at no charge.
Instead these free floral websites charge a much larger variable cost in the form of a percentage of all future sales that go through the website. The number is typically 30%.
It's a big chunk – big enough that you should immediately take the "free" part out of your thinking.
That is an important, but difficult, thing to do. "Free" has a magic appeal for all of us (and these new vendors are keen to exploit it) making it hard to think rationally once the word “free” enters the conversation. The key is to remember that there are no free websites for florists – there are only different pricing models.
Of course! There is no one size fits all – every situation is different and there are definitely scenarios where a free floral website makes perfect sense.
If for example you are starting a store on a limited budget and truly can’t afford to pay for a real website then these free flower shop websites let you get into floral e-commerce without spending any money. You can start with one of these free websites and switch to something better (and more affordable) as soon as you hit the threshold at which point the free site becomes more expensive.
And what is that threshold? Probably lower than you think – about $2000 in total online flower sales a year. Or about $165 a month, or $40 a week.
That’s it! If your floral website generates more than one $40 order a week it’s actually less expensive to pay for a standard website from Flower Shop Network.
The 30% number is pretty close to another percentage that gets a lot of attention in the flower business: 27%.
27% is of course the cut that a florist gives up on an incoming wire order, with the balance going to the wire service and sending shop (which is often an order gatherer). If the wire service sold the order directly to the customer they would of course keep the full 27%.
And florists generally hate this. They don't mind paying 20% to a real local florist that actually generated an incoming wire order, but they resent anything that goes to order gatherers and wire services.
It makes sense to be resentful. 27% is an awful lot to give away on an order that should have been yours anyway, if only the order gatherer hadn't managed to come between you and your customer.
But if you don't like giving up 27% on orders placed on another website why would you be willing to give up 30% on orders placed on your own website?
Do you ever buy the extended warranties at the electronics store? Most people intuitively understand that when someone is pushing a deal that relentlessly it must be much better for them.
Free florist websites are similar. Ask the free website provider if you can pay a single upfront fee (like you would with Flower Shop Network) or initial set-up fee with ongoing hosting (like Strider or Epic). They won't, because it would be far less profitable for them.
If on the other hand you offered to let Flower Shop Network, Strider or Epic to take 30% of every order your website generates they would probably jump at the chance. Why? Because in the long term they'll get much more money (while you get much less).
The more orders a "free" flower shop website generates the more expensive it gets.
Let's look at the low end first and imagine an e-commerce florist website that isn't very busy – one that generates an average of one $50 sale each week, for a total of $2600 in online flower sales. Of this the free website keeps 30% or $780.
Great deal right? Wrong! It’s $181 more than the least expensive floral e-commerce option – a standard florist website from Flower Shop Network.
And it gets worse from there. Assume a slightly busier shop with an ecommerce website that generates three $50 orders each week for a total of $7800, with $2,340 going to cover the cost of the free flower shop website.
A florist with a standard Flower Shop Network website would be ahead more than $1700. Doesn't feel quite as "free" anymore does it?
And it just keeps getting more expensive. Some of the mutual clients that we have with Epic and Strider share their stats with us and we can see that many routinely generate $50,000+ in sales annually. If those florists had "free" websites they would be giving away $15,000+ each year. The free website that they hoped might save them maybe $1,200 ends up costing them almost $15,000.
These new services only want to sell these overpriced floral websites to florists with established domain names and traffic – the florists that are already doing well with e-commerce.
It’s not uncommon for a new small business to choose higher variable costs over lower fixed costs as they get established. For example a new flower shop not doing much volume might find it more affordable to use a service to deliver each order. Once volumes increase however it is less expensive to have their own van and delivery driver.
Same thing with designers. In the early days it may make sense to bring in a higher priced freelance designer (a variable cost) when volume warrants it, but the long term goal is always to have less expensive designers on the payroll (a fixed cost).
You never hear a florist say “we’re growing and are looking forward to switching to a delivery service and freelance designers just as soon as our volume makes those options ridiculously expensive!” That would be crazy.
But that is exactly what happens with these free floral websites – a shop that does any volume through their online store is trading a less expensive fixed cost for a much higher variable cost in the form of a misleading “free” website.
Still curious about free floral websites? Try this experiment.
Tell the free website provider that you are interested in trying them out, but that you aren't quite ready to give up on your existing site. Instead propose that you work together on a new secondary site.
They won’t touch this. And they'll have countless arguments why not at the ready. Expect that, and understand that it is proof of this point – they only want deals where they are assured to make a fortune of your existing volume.
Unless you are absolutely certain that your website will generate less than $2000 in online flower sales annually “free” websites are always going to be the most expensive option. Paid floral websites, the ones that are honest about what they charge, will always be the better option.