The rise of online shopping has been a long time coming. And while it’s no surprise that younger customers are clamoring for ways to get their supplies delivered (for gardening or otherwise), the recent COVID-19 outbreak has changed the game, possibly for good.

For years, garden center owners have been talking about the need to offer online shopping options, but the challenges are plentiful. Creating a web store has been expensive, time-consuming and, like all new endeavors, a little bit scary.

But over the last few weeks, in-store shopping has faced extreme challenges amidst social distancing mandates. To save spring sales, garden centers have gotten creative, allowing customers to place orders over the phone and by email. But without the ability to shop the stores in person, each customer’s interaction is taking longer to complete.

But the demand for online shopping isn’t new. For years, consumers have been going online to buy everything from groceries to pet supplies to furniture. While the appeal of stopping by your local garden center to walk the rows of plants, smell the flowers and enjoy the atmosphere will never go away, the ease of ordering online is here to stay.

Older customers who haven’t had as much experience with online shopping may have been wary at first, but as everyone has been forced to shop online, the appeal is growing and the fear is starting to disappear. And as the younger generation of plant-lovers gains buying power, their shopping preferences will become more and more crucial to sales.

As demands change, different options are becoming available to small businesses and more are likely to appear to meet market demand. Now just might be the time to look at your options and whether or not it’s time to offer online ordering at your IGC.

Kate Spirgen