21 Jun 2023

Optimise digital marketing for garden retail success

In this interview, Rob Sproule, the Founder of Dig Marketing, shares valuable insights on how independent garden retail businesses can harness the power of digital marketing to increase their online visibility and compete with larger retailers in the industry.

Rob emphasises the importance of leveraging authenticity, personal connection, and compelling content to showcase what sets smaller players apart.

He also highlights the opportunities presented by the digital landscape for reaching a wider audience and building customer loyalty. Get ready to unlock the potential for growth!


     1. How can independent garden retail businesses use digital marketing to increase their online visibility and compete with larger retailers in the industry?

Digital terrifies a lot of garden retailers. The big players have the budget and in-house teams to do all the fancy tricks, but the reality is that smaller players can leverage digital to showcase and expand on what differentiates us in the industry, namely a personal, non-corporate approach, the content our customers need to give them confidence, and the beauty of our indoor spaces inviting them to visit for an in person experience.



        2. What opportunities does the digital landscape present for garden retail businesses?

Our customers crave authenticity and human connection. Digital gives us a vehicle we can use to reach more people. Have your Owner and/or spokesperson do frequent FB Lives and other videos where they answer questions and offer advice, one gardener to another. Retailers should also focus on building high quality (ie. don’t buy them) lists for email marketing, SMS, podcasts, or whatever other owned media they want to do. Lists in places will give you the ability to reach a large percentage of your base in short notice.

        3. What’s the best way to navigate algorithms and maximise reach and engagement on social media?

My approach social media is to use it, but not invest too heavily into it. Focus on email and the other platforms that you own. You don’t own anything on social media, and you could come to work tomorrow and your page, content, and all followers are gone and there’s nothing you can do about it, except send angry emails to a private company.  As for algorithms, almost all social media prioritise content that engages customers. It’s that simple. Post content that makes them comment, share, like, love, or any other action.

        4. The experience of shopping in a garden centre can be quite exciting. Is there a way of replicating it online?

The short answer is no. We can tease our in-store experience in the hopes they’ll come in, but we can’t replicate it. If you are able to completely replicate your instore experience online, you probably need to work on improving your in-store experience. Experiential marketing is the lifeblood of the industry and it should be our first priority. 

        5. How can garden retail businesses adapt to changing consumer behaviour in the digital age?

You don’t have to invest big enterprise budgets into digital, but you should do 3 very important things:

  • Make sure your website is up to date, ranking, and mobile friendly.
  • Stay on top of your reviews and responding (constructively) to them, and ensure your maps are correct for people to find you 
  • Build email, SMS, or other lists from your customers so that you can talk to them when and how you want 


        6. Can you name a successful digital marketing campaign that has given visibility to a relatively unknow garden retail brand?

Not off the top of my head, but my agency (DIG) works with established IGCs and not startups, so all the campaigns we’ve done have been with known brands.

        7. What are the key elements to consider when developing a social media strategy? 

Make it fun, make it engaging, and don’t make it your only (or primary) digital marketing method. Social media is very sexy, but it has fairly low ROI over the long term when compared to other tactics like content (blogging), email, and even well placed ads.

        8. What emerging technologies should garden retail businesses be aware of to stay competitive?

There are so many! We really need to pick and choose. First and foremost, every retailer should have a paid ChatGPT (AI) account. Use it to make short form copy for social media, signage, and to make internal docs like training manuals. It will save you a massive amount of time.

        9. What recommendations can you offer to garden retail businesses looking to optimise their digital marketing efforts?

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Go easy on paid media like ads, and invest more in content, email marketing, and a mobile friendly, intuitive website. Don’t stress about ecommerce, it’s not the end of the world of you don’t have it. 


        10. How can garden retail businesses incorporate sustainability and eco-friendly messaging into their digital marketing strategies to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers?

Support local, sustainably minded groups. Take real action, like using biodegradable pots, reclaiming rain water from the roof, moving from chemical pest control to predators, etc, and tell people about it with creative storytelling. Environmentally conscious consumers are good at spotting greenwashing, so the changes you tell them about need to be real.

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