24 Jul 2017

Garden retail: building a long-term relationship with the millennial customer

Garden retail: building a long-term relationship with the millennial customer


Garden retail: building a long-term relationship with the millennial customer
In part 3 we take a closer look at the long term business opportunities and imperatives to make young gardeners a part of your customer base for the future, with a focus on social media strategies and varying your product ranges.

Social media
Opinions, tastes, even values and hence buying decisions have always been heavily influenced by our peer groups. What has changed is the media through which we socialise: the internet. If you're not using it to reach new customers, you're limited to traditional marketing which excludes a large proportion of your potential customer base, who rely on it for everything from research to inspiration when it comes to buying.

Online presence
Many millennial plant buyers will come across something they like on Instagram or Pinterest and go on to test whether it fits with their lifestyle before finding somewhere to buy it on the internet. Even if you only have a basic ‘shop window' website you can still be in line for their business when millennials then search for ‘garden centre near me', or ‘buy plants online'.

Make your store ‘Instagram-able'
How are you supposed to develop this online presence to a level that resonates with millennials when it's they who created it? Get the younger generation to help out: They can advise on how to create areas within the store that will encourage customers to take pictures and share them online. It's worth the effort. Millennials interact with everyone in their social sphere online; co-workers; friends past, present and future; family of all generations and many even communicate with strangers. Through one photo your products or services could reach all these people with very little effort.

Engagement with customers online
Have your staff who enjoy using social media provide aftercare to customers' plants through your social media profiles. Encourage customers to upload photos of their plants, out of pride or in need of help, and have your employees express their gladness or provide tips for better plant care. All plants are unique so photo opportunities are endless! In this way, you're building personal relationships between staff and customers.

Product Ranges
Because millennial customers research through social media, they may be misinformed about the realities of buying plants: Instagram and Pinterest are American websites and dominated by US users so plants a UK millennial might like could be difficult to source in the UK. For that reason, they may be trying to buy the wrong thing (in your opinion), in the wrong way, at the wrong time of year, for the wrong environment. But this provides even greater opportunities later down the line for building relationships with them.

Millennials will probably come to you with a criterion of the following:

  • The plant allows them to keep the lifestyle they want: they can go on holiday, it won't kill their cat, it doesn't require lots of messy re-potting
  • The plant can survive moving house, which generation rent do a lot
  • The plant is resilient and looks beautiful despite a variable level of care!
  • If they've got the space various house plants are welcome (but unlikely in generation rent)
  • The more exotic the better. Millennials care about experiences and travel – it's one of the few perks that's unique to their generation. If they can own something unique, that someone else doesn't have, that's travelled across the world to live with them, they'll like it.

Keep in mind that millennials may view plants as one of the few things they can control in their rented houses; renters can't redecorate or even put things on the walls, and pets are certainly out of bounds. There is so much uncertainty in the world and a lack of job prospects/opportunities that it's refreshing to have a hobby where the effort you put in to something (almost) guarantees the success you'll get out.

At the moment, millennials are keenly aware of a narrow range of plant life that meet their criteria. With your expert knowledge, garden centres should be able to recommend many other products that also fit the bill aside from the Swiss cheese plants and cacti, both of which are flavor of the month! Millennials are also keen on products that fit into the following trends so you might want to visually merchandise in a way that signposts these characteristics and have sales assistants provide recommendations.

Eco-friendly products
Millennials value lifestyles that are carbon neutral or locally sourced and the movement against unnecessary plastic is gathering momentum. Organically grown products also come in to this category.

Air purifying plants
City-dwelling Millennials in particular care about clean air and value the potential of plant-life to improve their environment. Be specific, what air improvements might their plant purchases promote?

Edible plants and flowers
This incorporates other Millennial preferences including veganism; reducing food miles, and eating home-grown.

Plant displays
It's likely a millennial will want pots, props and other miscellanea to make their new and beloved plants look gorgeous. A huge trend has been buying and crafting your own macramé hangers.

Millennials will spend a disproportionate amount of money on something simply because they want it and it creates a calm oasis in a hectic life. If you create an idea for them, they will buy in to that idea regardless of cost.

Packaging products
An example of where all these things come together is in this photo that received over 37,000 likes on Pinterest:


It's unlikely anyone would buy everything in this photo on their first garden centre visit, but they might curate it over time. By creating something similar in your own store you will be (sub)consciously reminding them of that image and inspiring them as they walk in.

Ask your employees who use social media to check out trending plant photos on social media and have them recreate the scene in store using existing stock. \ Ferndale Garden Centre went one step further recently by creating a ‘basket full of RHS Chelsea Flower Show' available to buy in store and advertised on Facebook. The plants involved had featured in the show the previous day.


Adapting to demand
Raymond Evison Clematis is one great example of a company that's iterated their product with the customer in mind: their plants are suitable for patios and indoors and have a very long flowering period. Plus, they're often presented in gift packaging. Further negotiation with suppliers about which products retail well together can reap benefits for all.

Exotic Plants
Beetham Nurseries in Cumbria, installed a greenhouse at its nursery which allows them to grow rare plants at atypical times of year, and they've found that customer demand has outstripped supply.

Examples of some of the rare and unusual plants that Beetham Nurseries has been able to retail include Telopea, various types of Protea including ‘Madiba', citrus fruits, nectarines, peaches, lemons, mandarins, apricots, Musella lasiocarpa (Chinese banana) and grapevines. Source: http://www.hortweek.com/tapping-demand-exotic-plants-flowers/retail/article/1432894

Hopefully one or more of these strategies suits your own business. They really are shop-window methods that exist to get the millennial through the door in the first place. Once trust's been built with the customer it will be easier to educate them about horticulture!

Inside retail

View all Latest Articles