(Bangkok Post) It was a fairytale come true. Two lovers had not met for years after separating. She lives in Thailand while he had returned home to the United States. After returning, he had sent her letters several times asking to meet again. Things passed by quietly. After making many attempts, the man was disappointed. Having only her address in Nakhon Ratchasima, he decided to make one last attempt by sending flowers through the service of Cattleya Florist http:// www.cattleya.com, an online flower shop. The shop asked its business partner in the local area to search for the woman.
Acting like a postman, the florist was able to find the woman, who finally received his message and a bunch of red roses-eventually they were reunited in Bangkok.
"Service is our heart. It makes our business different from others and that leads to customer trust," said Danai Yeimpolpat, managing director of Cattleya Florist.
The business was founded seven years ago but only started online in 1997 with a basic web site offering information and an email contact address. Today, the shop offers complete on-line ordering with credit card acceptance.
The Siam Commercial Bank provides the clearing system, and Mr Danai said so far there have been no problems offering real time purchasing over the web.
KSC Internet, the company's ISP, also offered a level of security, he noted.
The problems the company has run into are nothing to do with technology, but rather finding skilled people who are both service-minded and technology-oriented, he added.
"I work seven days a week and check my email every two hours since I aim to succeed in the business, and I hope that customers will get that impression from our services," he said.
After receiving an order, either over the Internet or by telephone, Cattelya Florist will deliver flowers within an hour in Bangkok and within three hours for other provinces, he said, claiming it offered the fastest delivery service today.
"Whenever we receive an order, I will reply to the customer's email immediately so that they will be impressed," he said. The orders from the Internet have continued growing. Since the company opened its web site, the number of orders have only gone upwards, Mr Danai said.
"The virtual shop has expanded our business. We have online purchasing orders every day," he said. The online shop generates approximately US$30 a day on average, or around 30,000 baht a month, and contributes around 10 percent of Cattleya Florist's revenue.
And it is through word of mouth as well as from Net-based methods such as search engine listings and link exchanges that business is expanding.
Today, Cattleya Florist provides not only flowers, but also baskets of gifts and plants, which customers can select by clicking on a catalogue.
Approximately 70 percent of orders are made by people living in the US, with the remainder coming from Europe, Asia, South Africa and Australia.
Most of the orders are for people living in Thailand, Mr Danai said. Cattleya Florist has business alliances with flower shops throughout Thailand, while for worldwide service, the shop uses florists in more than 100 countries.
Another online florist shop that is generating income through the Internet is SiamFlorist http://www.siam florist.com. Since its web site was introduced a few months ago, it has received 10-15 orders a month on average, according to Jim & Cob managing director Nakrob Sirichaijumnong.
Mr Nakrob said that he created the web site after researching the market for a year. The concept was to provide Thai flowers with quality of service.
Jim & Cob is a business partner of the Malaiwan flower shop, which was established around 40 years ago in Thailand. The site is hosted abroad but is also a customer of SCB's credit card clearing service. Mr Nakrob said that the heart of doing online business was to not get tired or bored of replying to email or giving information to potential customers. The more active the webmaster is, the more customers will be impressed, he noted, adding that approximately 30 percent of customers make second orders.
SiamFlorist offers flowers both worldwide and across Thailand. It plans to offer a Thai edition of the site with Thai currency soon.
"Although we have not yet officially launched and promoted our web site, we already have orders. The technique we use is to post the information on search engines," he said. Half of its orders come through the US, 21 percent from Europe, 10 percent from Asia (excluding Thailand), another one percent from Australia and the remaining five percent from Thailand.
"Thai people are afraid to make online purchases since they think that there is no law supporting electronic commerce," he commented.
Having a web site was like doing a business, he said, adding it needed a team to manage the front office and the back office. "When you know what business you want, it will be easier for you to offer it over the web. You do not have to follow trends. Be patient for success. There are so many opportunities," he advised