Garden Centres should raise the bar to meet increasing consumer taste for an interesting and enjoyable shopping experience and to draw customers away from the convenience and excitement of virtual shopping
We hear and read a lot these days about the new retailing buzz word, the ‘Shopping Experience’. Consumers are looking for new and more interesting ways to shop.
One of the demographic groups that will become increasingly important in coming years is the Gen Y – today’s 20 something’s to early thirties. They have grown up with computers in schools, online shopping, social media sites and now IPOD apps for free content and downloads from the internet while on the hoof. They are accustomed to a visual and virtual world and their skills and preferences have influenced the shopping habits of their parents and grandparents.
These people want their shopping to be an interesting experience rather than a drudge and a chore. They have a low tolerance for poor customer service and they are raising the bar on customer expectation.
This desire for interest and excitement is not only restricted to the retail environment. More and more in our leisure pursuits we are seeking out new and different activities, with a sense of adventure and excitement, the clichéd ‘adrenalin rush’.
The internet, Facebook, Twitter and the like have opened up a whole new world of shopping opportunities. If shopping at a store is not the interesting and enjoyable experience we are seeking, we can do our shopping on line and free up time to indulge in activities which are more appealing to us.
It’s becoming essential for Garden retailers to add the same interest, entertainment and excitement into our retailing environments to meet increasing customer demands for a positive and enjoyable shopping experience. So how do we create this ‘experience’ for our customers in our stores and garden centres?
We’ve come across several examples where this is happening. A garden and landscape centre in Australia set on a slightly sloping site, has a meandering power aisle leading through established trees, display gardens, patches of lawn, trickling water and fountains, planted specimen plants, seats. In some ways it was more like being in a park than a garden centre, yet it was well stocked, well signed and well displayed. It was an oasis away from the high street bustle, a relaxing, interesting, pleasant environment in which to spend time and shop!
Another example is the Coles flagship supermarket in Melbourne. This store is open to the mall—no barriers to entry or exit. The gondola shelving is much lower so you can see across the whole store. The specialist departments are individual shops where customers can now ‘shop’ in the old fashioned way—speak to the shop keeper, have cheese and meats sliced on demand, see and smell the bread being made, get fish and meat prepared to their requirements—a range of experiences within the one shopping expedition.
Perhaps the most impressive was the new OPSM Hub in Melbourne. Described as “A Bit of Disney and a Touch of Apple”, here is an eye-care company that has raised eye-ware buying to a new level. Interactive playback mirrors, simulator zones to create real world conditions, an on-site lab to watch your glasses being made, and a kid’s zone all contribute to the overall experience.
There are lots of less expensive ways you can raise the bar, increase expectation and turn a visit to the garden centre into a more interesting and interactive experience for the customer. Colour, design-lead products, interactive sites for children, wi-fi in the cafe, fast check-outs, in-store promotions and demonstrations to suggest a few that many retailers are already implementing.
A Pick as you Pass herb garden and Garden Classes are other good examples. A garden centre client in Ireland successfully runs classes through spring and summer. These are very much hands on for the customer—they grow their own veges in raised beds, plant their own bulbs, make their own hanging baskets. Seventy people at a session is not unusual.
Garden centres with spare, non-productive ground adjacent to their retail area could rent ‘Grow Your Own’ plots. The garden centre provides small, ready prepared plots with a complimentary starter kit of goodies such as bulbs, vegetable or flower seeds. The customer does the rest with expert advice at hand, enjoying the experience of growing their own and the fruits of their labours.
We recently ran some workshops on garden pest and disease control and chemical use for a garden centre in New Zealand. Exciting? Perhaps not - but the response was overwhelming, the interest huge and the purchases after the sessions impressive. For those customers a positive, interesting and educational experience.
Get your Team thinking about what you can do to make shopping at your garden centre as interesting and exciting as a virtual shopping experience for your customers.
- Joy Lamb