Social media and user-generated content plays a major role in the way today?s brands engage with their consumer base. It also helps attract new customers.
The garden centre industry is slow to take advantage of this opportunity presented by social media.
Participation in social media channels continues to grow. The number of Instagram users will increase from 15.7m to 18.4m, while Twitter will grow from 12.4m users to 12.6m. But Facebook remains the most popular social networking site in the UK. It has 32.6m regular users this year.
With all these marketing options and limited resources, where do I start?
Take some time to consider your social media strategy and how it fits with your business plan.
First, understand what your brand is. Define its personality. What makes it unique, and how it can create a great community and following?
Next, consider who you want to communicate with. Who is your target customer, and what do you want to say to them?
?Our customers want to be inspired, they don?t want to be sold to,? says Hannah Powell, communications manager at Perrywood Garden Centre.
?Our social media content reflects the in-store experience, and it works! We see customers liking us and tagging friends on Facebook campaigns. They organise visits to the centre.?
A quick search on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram reveals the volume of discussions that are already happening.
Whilst you read this article, dozens of posts with the #gardening hashtag will appear. That?s one of the many hashtags that are relevant to our sector.
Savvy garden centres are building communities with their social media followings and consumers. They are developing a positive dialogue, where content even becomes user or consumer-generated.
Invite your users to post photos or videos of their gardens. Get them to show the results of products they?ve purchased from your garden centre. Ask for photos of how they have used your in-store experiences.
Consider who can build and deliver your social media plan and activity. Your posts should be high quality and add value to your brand.
You can test what days, what time of day and what kind of content engages your audience the most.
?There can be many pitfalls and rules to social media that only experts can guide in,? says social media expert and allotment blogger Sarah de Mul. ?Don?t expect a beginner to understand how you should adapt to the latest Facebook algorithm.?
Finally, have fun while creating your posts and interacting with your audience.
Cutting through the competition
The garden centre market has competition from e-commerce, supermarkets and DIY stores.
There is no doubt that competition for independent garden centres has increased.
DIY and grocery stores are entering into gardening territory. Combine this with the ever-increasing growth of online spending, it’s a challenge not for the fainthearted.
Consumers have more choice than ever, so you must fight harder than ever to win their custom.
If you are willing to play the game, though, you can offer things that none of the groups can follow.
Increasing footfall in physical stores falls into two areas:
Customer experience ? encouraging consumers to return to your store, and
Marketing ? increasing awareness of your store among new customers
Compared to other retail categories, garden retail has the advantage of being a joyful category.
Maya Angelou said it best: ?People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.?
Is your store a nice place to visit? If the environment is right, this will encourage customers to come back time and time again. It will encourage their family and friends to visit, too.
Invest in staff; they?re your most valuable asset. They are the face of your business and can drive or kill customer loyalty.
Hire knowledgeable horticulturalists to add value to the shopping experience. Run educational workshops with these staff members taking the lead.
If you are offering more than your competitors, you are more likely to win the business.
With hundreds of businesses competing for your customers? attention, you need to make sure you stand out.
You have two choices: compete on price or compete on differentiation.
Many retailers feel like the only option is discounting. With smart marketing initiatives, you can show how you are different. You will build a following based on brand loyalty rather than price.
Digital marketing is effective. It is easy to test, analyse and optimise, so you make sure you get the best ROI for your marketing spend.
Review your SEO strategy. Online competitors can?t compete on a local search level, yet few retailers have a thorough strategy. You could be missing out.
Get social! Use Facebook ads, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
Tap into where your customers are on social media and become a part of their downtime.
Encourage your garden centre customers to share their positive experiences and purchases on social media. This creates a buzz around your brand.
Don?t forget traditional in-store marketing, either. Surprise and delight your customers by creating changing interesting displays.
Inspire them with new ideas to try at home and give them confidence to make purchases.
Look to your suppliers and the industry associations for ideas and advice. Many will even provide free-of-charge POS equipment.
Advice for any business looking for growth is to create a marketing plan. This should support the company business strategy.
For retailers, there are two critical factors in making sure you succeed.
First, ensure your customer service is second to none. It guarantees customer loyalty, repeat business and recommendation.
Second, make sure you are doing enough to publicise your store activities.
But you can?t expect your business to grow by word of mouth alone. You need to tell people about it to raise awareness. It encourages new customers to visit your store and discover you for themselves.
There?s no point investing resources into your store and not shouting about it.
If you are doing something a bit different, a great way to engage with customers is to win the support of the local press. It can help promote your business.
78% (42 million) of British adults (YouGov 2018) read local newspapers, of which more than 64% are over the age of 45.
Certain forms of advertising such as website pop-up ads are often considered intrusive. In a local newspaper, ads are often expected and even sought by the readers.
Content is usually placed near content like the ad. It is more relevant to the reader who is searching for local store deals and coupons.
Advertising options for your garden centre
Advertising options are usually wide and can fit any budget. It comes with the added advantage that often you can negotiate with the publisher to assist with design.
Besides ad placement, you can use your local newspaper service to deliver leaflets or printed inserts. You can target these at specific geographic areas, such as street or postcodes.
Local press is the most trusted source for local news and information.
65% of local readers believe adverts in their local papers help them make purchasing decisions.
Local newspaper publishers work hard to build positive relationships within their community. They have a loyal customer base and you can take advantage.
Community members trust the company for providing accurate information. They often begin to believe that a trusted local publisher won?t do business with companies that are untrustworthy.