Plugging in the potting shed

Everything today is about handy, useful information.

Chad Harris
Everything today is about handy, useful information. You can pay for coffee using a cell phone, research products by scanning barcodes, and let those fingertips type away to find the latest and greatest of anything. A pertinent question facing garden center operators, then, is, “What should I be doing to create a useful virtual environment that gets consumers to interact with my business?” Web presentation is similar to the front door of your store. With both you want to create an environment that represents your personality, as well as the goods and services you provide. Decide who you are; then proceed from there.

Simple stuff first

At the very least, you need a simple website that provides information, location and operational hours. This is easily achieved and takes a few weeks to accomplish. Cost: $500-$1,500.

Remember, though, that an interactive site engages the user. An interactive site can stream video presentations on DIY projects, allow users to upload/download instructions/photos and allow the business to collect the users’ information to use in future promotions. Cost: $2,500-$10,000.

Shopping sites, (e-commerce sites), provide users the ability to purchase your goods and have them delivered. Cost: $7,500 to millions.

DE-TAILS (clap clap) DE-TAILS
Whatever you do, you need to think in graphic terms. Images need to include highly detailed photographs of your store, products or services—and it helps your cause when they tell a story.
Remove product tags. Pick off the yellow leaves or dying buds. Make sure the lighting is right. Photography can make or break your site with the customer.

Site layouts are important to engage users. An effective site features easy navigation; reducing the number of clicks needed to locate a product or service requires planning. You need a website builder that understands user engagement—it will benefit you in the long run even it costs more in the beginning.

Paying the Piper

Obviously, you’ll need to develop a virtual budget that the business can afford. If you have a marketing budget of 3 percent of your gross income, allocate funds from marketing. If your marketing budget is in its infancy, consider your monthly gross income. If sales are $100,000 then consider spending $5,000 or 5 percent of a month’s gross income to start. Then allocate an additional 5 percent of a month’s income for ongoing routine maintenance and updating over the course of a year.

Making it work for you!
A site with user engagement is reliant on creative thinking, beautiful images and content that users are looking to find. Taking the time to provide features that users find appealing will require work, planning and updating ...

… And a vast potential for reward. We all keep a close eye on the bottom line, and the bottom line on virtual retailing is this: “Plugging in” your potting shed can lead to an increase in sales and customer retention—and maybe even to shipping a bizzillion brown boxes.

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June 2011
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