Customer service is a very broad-brush term that, actually, ought to be engraved indelibly throughout every activity in our garden centres whether it applies to our store, the stock, the team, the facilities, etc.
All too often, we tend to view the offer from our own perspective rather than from our customers. This was brought home to me on a tour of the Westfield Shopping Centre located at the Olympic Village in London.
We were touring one of the largest retailers, and it quickly became obvious from our tour guide that their merchandising style was one of their most important aspects in terms of maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction.
Fairly obvious stuff, but the point that really hit home with me was that they would not even consider building a display until they had accurately identified the exact customer who would be attracted to it.
Before even laying a plinth on the floor, they had built a customer profile of exactly who she was, where she lived, where she worked, etc.
This set me wondering how often this thought process is applied in garden retail. (Whenever I ask the question of who the customer is, I generally get an unconvincing and unspecific reply of, “Well, everybody really.”)
Referring to consumer research published by the Horticultural Trades Association in the UK, three of the most important and highest spending groups were given titles of Garden Elders, Family Focus and Garden Proud. It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to realise that each of these groups will have very a different attitude toward the plants and products they will be attracted to.
Taking the grow your own trend as an example:
Garden Elders have plenty of time but perhaps a restricted budget (and maybe a little more knowledge and experience). Therefore, they will be more attracted to savings by growing from seed, buying large packs of fertiliser, etc. They are not likely to spend excessive amounts on fancy trugs or aprons but they will understand the benefits of using products such as vermiculite, propagators, etc. Success will be gauged by the results they achieve.
Family Focus, on the other hand, will not want to spend hours tending plants. The garden is a place to relax and socialise outdoors. They will want plants that are easy, quick, productive and appealing.
They will be much more likely to buy ready-grown plants and attractive containers to plant them in. Strawberries and herbs in pots will be appealing to them. Success will be when their children pick and eat their very first strawberry from a plant they have grown themselves.
Garden Proud however are probably short of time but have available resources as they are both working full time. They want their garden to be environmentally friendly, productive and stylish.
If this group was presented with a raised bed plus the information needed to fill it with both growing media and suitable plants in a quick, easy manner, which was also productive, then the cost would be, to an extent, immaterial.
Creating individual areas customers can relate to and feel comfortable browsing will most definitely increase the browsing time and consequently the average transaction values and, most importantly, the success that each group achieves as a result.
When presented in this way, it is obvious that all three groups are equally important to our business but each will require a different form of presentation in order to encourage them to make a purchase. They will not be willing or able to navigate their way through a single display that transmits mixed messages.
By using the same amount of floor/shelf space, it is easily possible to create three smaller displays which will attract the relevant group of potential customers into buying and, more importantly, succeeding with the plants and products there are on offer.
It is hard, after all, to imagine any major high street retailer throwing their childrens’ range in with the teens and the more mature offerings, and letting the customers fight it out amongst themselves. So why should that be the case at your garden center?
Kevin has worked as an independent garden center consultant to retailers, suppliers, DIY stores and trade organizations all over the world since 1995. firstname.lastname@example.org