The online store, formerly located at mariagardens.net, had updated to mariasplantfarm.com. At the same time, its two brick-and-mortar locations — one in Strongsville and one in North Royalton — are remaining under the original name, Maria Gardens Center.
Laura Robinson, head of marketing at Maria Gardens Center, explained that the website launch was a strategic move for the company.
“Because we were doing so much business, we felt that we needed to separate the website and the social media pages. Initially, it was just a one-page website, but we wanted a whole website devoted to selling houseplants, succulents and things like that online. So that's why we created Maria's Plant Farm,” she says.
The company realized that customers who order plants online do not frequent the garden center, so they seized the opportunity to pull in more web sales by developing an online houseplant shop.
As for the new name, it’s a nod to their roots: “We're a family-owned business and we have a growing facility located near us. It’s called “Maria's Plant Farm” because that’s an old name that we used to call our growing facility,” she says.
Another factor in creating a separate website is that most customers who buy from their online store are from out of state, Robinson says, as many orders come from California. While they haven’t experienced too many shipping issues, she notes that the company is always in contact with customers if delays arise.
“We have a pretty good system when it comes to packing and shipping. We use heat packs in the winter so the plants don't get damaged and we have braces for tall plants. And the packing team has a really good response from our customers,” she says.
So far, customers are responding positively, but the new website launch wasn’t without its hassles.
“We created a new website with the new domain, but we're having a little bit of trouble because I think some of our customers are a little bit confused,” Robinson says.
Currently (and before the launch), the company announced the new name on Maria Gardens Center’s social media channels, as well as the company newsletter. They also created new Facebook and Instagram accounts for Maria’s Plant Farm and are in the process of building up followers for each account.
“We've lost a little bit of business because we have customers who were just so used to going to our website and ordering from there, so we're trying our best to bring them back and really take off with this. We've been doing some giveaways to build our fanbase and everything,” Robinson says. “With an online store, your brand name is so important.”
While Maria Gardens Center attracts many customers across its many departments, Maria’s Plant Farm primarily targets the millennial demographic. “We have a lot of this group of people in their twenties and then we also have women in their fifties,” she says.
As for their POS systems, BigCommerce powers Maria’s Plant Farm, while Shopify powers the brick-and-mortar locations.
“We use Shopify because we only sell one thing online for our brick-and-mortar store, which is gift cards. Shopify has the styles that we like — from a marketing angle, it’s a little more creative and artsy,” she says. “We really like BigCommerce for our online store, it has more modern themes and we really like using it for all the products that we have on there. For online, it's just a better tracking system.”