When asked, most key players and commentators in our industry say the most important message they can impart to a garden retailer is to focus on your Point of Difference
Today’s customers have many options for deciding where to shop for outdoor living and gardening. They don’t have to plan in advance either. Technology makes it easy to search and decide where they will shop while they are out and about in the car or on the hoof.
If we all focussed on our point of difference we would all maximise foot traffic to our garden centres wouldn’t we?
No - unfortunately we don’t all live and retail on the perfect island of Utopia. Garden retailers often struggle to decide what their point of difference could be and few offer customers compelling reasons why their store is better for experience, range, ideas, service and information than any other competing destination.
Tidy, clean, attractive premises; quality product, excellent range, knowledgeable staff and friendly service are not points of difference. These days they are expected by the majority of shoppers.
For a product, a point of difference is a feature that stands out in some manner that provides improved or greater benefit for the consumer.
Companies often talk about their Unique Selling Proposition – attributes or benefits that consumers strongly, uniquely and positively associate with the company’s brand that sets them apart from a competing brand. From this they develop and maintain brand loyalty through clear communication with the consumer.
What is a Point of Difference or Unique Selling Proposition for a garden retail business and how do you go about developing these?
First it means finding out and understanding what the consumer wants – not only how they are buying and what they are buying, but what they would like to buy and what they would like to experience.
These questions are easily answered for any garden center by asking friends and existing customers; conducting consumer focus groups or through the use of short online surveys and customer feedback forms. Ask them what they like and dislike about your garden centre. You may already have a point of difference you can enhance.
The answers will help you to develop a strategy based on what consumers in your area want, not necessarily based on what all your competitors are doing.
Look for strong, unique, positive benefits you can offer customers that set you apart and around these, implement points of difference that you would like associated with your garden centre. Focus on these and communicate them clearly and loudly so that you stand out and become known for them.
Genuine points of difference must be tangible; clearly obvious and measurable; a significant benefit to customers and unique in your area. It must be implemented and communicated with intensity. This means physically and visually reinforced - through product, merchandising, signage, advertising, customer newsletters, blogs, social media and websites
What can be effective?
Speed can set us apart from our competitors – doing things faster, driving an ever-changing customer experience or being ahead of the pack. Picking different or innovative products, faster check out service, faster communication with social media, same day delivery, online shopping for example.
Impact can set us apart from competitors – making a strong immediate impression; being known for the unusual; owning a niche market, creating ‘wow’ events; implementing a fair, easy to use loyalty programme; an interactive knowledge centre; creating in store experiences for children and adults.
In the future, garden centres most favoured by customers will under promise and over deliver on their points of difference and continue to provide customers with convenience, value and inspiration.
- Joy Lamb