Millennials, perhaps more than any other generation, have a reputation for always being buried in their phones. (I have to admit I’ve been guilty of it from time to time.) But instead of shaking your head at the newest generation of the consumer market, you can use their technological inclinations to your advantage.

If this burgeoning demographic is always online, that means you can always reach them. Whether they’re at the airport, in line at the grocery store or waiting in a doctor’s office, your marketing message has a way of finding them.

And it’s a good demographic to target. Millennials, on average, spend more than any other generation per spending trip, according to a 2018 Nielsen study. And since they’re still young, their buying power is only going to increase.

But once you get them as customers, how do you keep them? Well, technology can help with that too. New advances in artificial intelligence, augmented reality and in-store apps mean you can use those smartphones to your advantage even after you’ve gotten them through the doors.

Besides being tech-savvy, Millennials also have a reputation for being impatient. We want to get in, find what we want, get out and move on to the next thing on a seemingly never-ending list of tasks.

Since many Millennials are new parents (and working parents), they want to get things done quickly and easily. And since they’re often new homeowners as well, they need help deciding what plants will work in their landscapes.

Your employees can use their smartphones to speed up the checkout process for busy shoppers, sign customers up for your newsletter and even respond to requests for assistance. Soon, customers won’t have to go searching for an employee to help; the employee will come right to them.

Through augmented reality, you can help them make decisions by showing them what a plant in your store will look like in their landscape. It can even let them try out different combinations to see what they like best before handing over their credit cards.

No matter what the demographic at your store may be, these technological advances can help you get to know your customers and help them get to know you as well.

And while some would argue that this takes away the personal touch, these technological advances are really just a way to make that connection a littler faster and easier to establish. You can track your customers’ buying habits and send them personalized suggestions. You can demonstrate the beauty of a colorful planter right in front of their eyes. And you can charge customers for potting soil right where they stand, without making them drag the bags through the store to the checkout counter.

Because at the end of the day, the personal touch is the reason many choose an independent garden center over online shopping or big box stores. Staying on top of these trends will not only help you reach the newest generation of plant lovers — it will help you keep them coming back time and time again.

Kate Spirgen