Go On Retailer, Engage Me

Shopping as a form of entertainment and engagement is still a powerful draw but is the experience in your store enticing enough to pull eyes away from smartphones?


Shoppers enthusiastically embrace the convenience and ease of online shopping, but the experience of shopping as a form of entertainment and engagement is still a powerful draw.

More informed (and more demanding) than ever, today’s shopper still craves a good deal and a frictionless transaction, but when it comes to the physical shopping environment, shoppers also crave a memorable experience.

The social aspect is also hugely important. It’s a significant advantage and a key differentiator between bricks and clicks.

We can make a visit to our stores a social experience that’s enticing enough to pull eyes away from smartphones and boost footfall.

Face to face customer service 

For sure, online reviews and live chat can give shoppers information to help them make a purchase decision, but nothing beats interacting with knowledgeable store people who genuinely want to help.

When we can’t find what we are looking for or are unsure of the best performing brand or the features that will add to the convenience of having the product, it’s often the face to face connection with store people who swing the sale and bring a smile.

This is why it’s important to provide ample training to make sure your team knows your merchandise inside out. Help them realise that being genuinely helpful is the best way to earn the trust of customers. 

Keep it fresh.

Walking into a garden centre and seeing the same old things displayed in the same old way every time we visit is one of the most disappointing experiences a shopper can have. 

While it might not be practical to re-merchandise or completely transform your store every month or two, you can still switch things up. Showcase new products, move things around, show fresh ideas, introduce colour change-outs, themes, crazy props or pop-ups. 

Do what you can to ensure people come across something different on new each visit 

Treasure Hunts 

Work with suppliers to offer new and limited assortments at unbeatable prices. Shoppers know that these offers won’t be around for long so they are motivated to buy right away.

They can be an array of unexpected items rotated regularly (one or two weeks) with the aim of driving a treasure hunt mentality. For example a limited range of fashion wellies at the onset of winter. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

The end game is to keep customers on their toes by constantly giving them something new to look at when they’re in store.

Tell your story

Telling a story is an age-old concept that brings people together and keeps them engaged. These days we think of it as provenance; linking the past, present and future.

Customers like to know how and why your business came to be. How that has shaped your ‘brand’ and sets you apart from others.

There’s often a strong link between heritage and loyalty. Some will stay loyal to a store or nursery through a couple of generations or more.

Every day your business grows, shifts, and adds new chapters to its story. As with the examples at Stewarts of Christchurch, UK; it's something more that makes shopping in store a memorable experience.


Physical space can bring people together in ways that websites and mobile apps can’t. It’s one of our most significant strengths.

It’s why many of us have coffee shops but it needn’t be a coffee shop. It could be a juice and smoothie bar or a place for clubs to meet; or a kids programme, or veggie gardening and produce swap; or a (garden) book exchange, or monthly A-Z of gardening; or specialist plant interest groups.

Create an atmosphere where people engage (in gardening) in a communal way.

Bundling products and services 

If a customer is already in your store buying your products, wouldn’t it be great if they can get a related service at the same time?

This is becoming increasingly popular because it makes sense.

Many of us already offer landscaping, garden maintenance and delivery services. Sometimes a Place and Plant service would be welcome; or a handyman to install a water feature or erect a trellis fence; or a mobile shopping service to retirement villages.


-Joy Lamb