How garden centres can thrive in the digital landscape

Last updated: July 1, 2024

Aaron Rudman-Hawkins

Aaron Rudman-Hawkins is a dynamic digital marketing expert and a driving force behind The Evergreen Agency's success. With a passion for technology and a deep understanding of the ever-evolving digital landscape, Aaron has become a trusted name in the industry.

Read Aaron's bio here

In an increasingly digital world, many wonder if garden centres are struggling to keep up.

These traditional bricks and mortar retail destinations continue to appeal to an older demographic, but in a competitive landscape there is a need to remain relevant and stand out for a younger, more digitally native set of consumers.

As home and garden specialists, in a recent TEA talk episode, we discussed the challenges that garden centres face and highlighted some of the opportunities they have to adapt and leverage technology to enhance the customer experience and thrive in today’s digital landscape.

If you want to know more about how your garden centre can leverage paid advertising across search and social media to boost engagement and sales Download our Home and Garden sector paid media report.

It is the most comprehensive report we have ever put together to provide in-depth analysis covering trends, predictions and insights into how to make the most of paid search and paid social advertising in this sector.

Engaging the younger demographic

One of the biggest hurdles for garden centres is attracting customers in the 25-40 age range. While garden centres have traditionally catered to older audiences, there’s huge potential in appealing to a younger generation of consumers.

Here are some strategies:

Embrace social media: The first rule of marketing is ‘be where your customers are’ and the explosion of social media channels as search engines and info-tainment channels provides a perfect opportunity to reach out to a younger target audience in a way they like to engage and consume information.

Plus, filled as they are with beautiful colours, exciting products and lots of in-house ‘how-to’ information for keen DIYers, garden centres are sources of content gold!

Platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest are perfect for showcasing the visual appeal of plants and garden products. And with a preference for short-form video, there are so many opportunities to demystify common issues and show a new generation how to use the products in their environment.

We think it is worth considering having a social media-savvy member of the team try this as part of their daily role and create some truly engaging content.

Be authentic and relatable: Use simple language, don’t try to be too clever and don’t be afraid to show the “behind the scenes” of your garden centre. Create content that educates and simplifies gardening for beginners.

Collaborate with micro-influencers: Partner with local content creators with a genuine interest in gardening and home décor to amplify your content circulation. You can also encourage your customers to share their experiences, questions and gardening wins via their own social media accounts. This type of User Generated Content (UGC) is a great way for their audience to become your audience.

Host experience days: Create a real omni-channel experience by linking your on-line work with the in-store experience. Organise events that bring people together physically while leveraging social media to boost awareness.

Digitise your offering

An area where traditional bricks and mortar retail outlets have struggled is digitising their offer to consumers.

But consumers – particularly younger ones- expect a seamless buying experience whether they are on-line or instore.

This joined up approach- leveraging on-line content and messaging- to bring customers in store is a way to create a real immersive experience.

Your online presence should complement and enhance the in-store experience. Here’s how:

Update your website: Showcase your full offering: Highlight not just products, but also experiences and where you can add value like cafes, play areas, and workshops. Do you offer live events, do you have great in-store knowledge from gardening experts who are on hand to answer common questions from less experienced gardeners.

Invest in quality visuals: Your consumers are probably doing their research on-line before they come into store, so make sure your products are shown in their best condition. Use professional photography and even video to bring your garden centre- and your products- to life online.

Make key information easily accessible: Prominently display opening hours, cafe menus, and special events.

Consider augmented reality: This is the latest use of technology that some garden centres are experimenting with to create a truly immersive buying experience. Use AR to help customers visualise plants in their homes or trees in their gardens to help them make their decisions easier.

To ecommerce or not?

While not essential for every garden centre, ecommerce can be a valuable addition. With the explosion of platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy consumers are used to completing their transactions from home, on the bus or even in the bath.

A good ecommerce strategy can help to capitalise on impulse purchases, for the garden, the home or for friends.

But if this sounds daunting, you don’t have to go all in straight away. Find a strategy that fits your capabilities.

Start small: You don’t need to put your entire inventory online. Begin with popular items or specific categories that you know can be shipped easily. These ‘hero’ products can be a great way to foster a loyal customer base who will repeat purchase. 

Offer click-and-collect: Customers can order online and pick up in-store, encouraging them to travel in and see the facility in person, while also providing additional opportunities to purchase during their visit.

Consider local delivery: Online retailers have conditioned consumers to expect a seamless review, purchase and delivery experience, all with the click of a button. Consider offering delivery within a certain radius of your store for a small mark-up or perhaps even making it free above a certain spend threshold.

Use ecommerce to capture data: Finding new customers is always harder than keeping current ones and one of the real benefits of creating an ecommerce strategy is that it enables garden centres to build a database of loyal customers who can be the target of future marketing efforts.

We always encourage brands to consider the lifetime value of a customer who – if engaged properly- can be encouraged to buy time and again.

Provide incentives: Whether you use this tactic to attract new customers or reward existing ones, offering exclusive deals or perks for online purchases is a sure-fire way to encourage adoption and purchase on an on-line platform.

Whatever stage your garden centre is at on its digital transformation, remember, the real goal is to create a seamless experience between your physical store and digital presence.

By embracing these strategies, garden centres can attract younger customers, increase average order values, and build lasting relationships with their community.

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