Dr. Bridget Behe explains how to attract customers with eye-catching and informative signage.
PHOTO BY KATE SPIRGEN

In the midst of this year’s IGC Show at McCormick Place in Chicago, show-goers had the chance to learn about everything from sales to hiring to houseplant displays and container strategies. Here are some of the takeaways from the show that just might help you improve your own garden center.

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The science of good signage

The latest eye-tracking research shows what your customers see (and ignore) while shopping your independent garden center. Dr. Bridget Behe, professor of Horticultural Marketing at Michigan State University, delved into her research in her keynote Aug. 13 at IGC Show in Chicago.

Behe shared some scientific study results that show customers make purchase choices based on three different factors: the plant (73%), the price (17%) and the production method (10%).

Research also found that guarantees were much more important to shoppers than price. When looking at signage, people saw the information most important to them physically faster than other information. So Behe recommends putting the benefits of plants and other important information to consumers out front and center, rather than selling by container size.

“When we sell things by container size, we teach our customers that’s where the value is,” Behe said. “People don’t buy features, they buy benefits.”

Because we read left to right and top to bottom, customers are going to see anything on the top left faster than something on the bottom right.And we see high prices physiologically faster than low prices. So if you have a higher price point on a plant, put that information on the lower right side. That way, your customers will be drawn in to see the benefits of the plant before they see the price.

On the other hand, sale prices are a great marketing tool. Behe suggests placing those in a more prominent position.

Here’s how she breaks it down:

  • For a low price, all you need is the price.
  • For a moderate price, you need features and benefits.
  • For a high price, you need the benefits.

“We need to think about the information that is on our side,” she said.

Signage tips

Consumers find high-complexity signs more attractive than more simple designs. They also read more of the high-complexity signs.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean more words. “We’ve got to have signs with more imagery,” Behe said. For example, an image of a full sun is a good alternative to putting “full sun” on a sign.

“It gives us some space to think about it,” she said.

Better service, better sales

Phil Wrzesinski has a short list of things you need to improve sales at your IGC:

  • Know units per transaction
  • Repeat and referral business
  • Team member handbook
  • New hire training procedures
  • Training videos
  • Continuing education
  • Store policies favoring customers

Wrzesinski is a third-generation independent retailer with 24 years of experience, including heading up his family business, Toy House and Baby Too in Jackson, Michigan. He shared his best practices for improving customer service and increasing sales at IGC Show in Chicago.

The first thing to note is that if your units per transaction are going up, you’re doing a good job.

Customer service and sales go hand-in-hand Wrzesinski said. And customer retention comes from repeats and referrals. While repeat customers typically come from giving good service, referral business comes when you give over-the-top customer service, he said.

“If your repeat and referral doesn’t add up to at least 70%, you need to work on your customer service,” he said.

Employee handbooks

Having a resource for employees to refer to when they have questions is critical to improving sales, Wrzesinski said. Spell out exactly what your employee policies, store procedures, special services and evaluations are. That way employees can answer any questions customers might have about sales, returns or anything else.

“It’s complicated on our end so that it is easier on the customers’ end,” he said.

When you’re coming up with your policies and procedures, it’s important to think about the customer, not about yourself. Wrzesinski noted that everyone has had a customer try to pull one over on them, but you can’t make your general policies about one or two bad customers.

For example, don’t refuse to take a credit card because of a fee. “You’re saying those pennies are more important than that customer,” he said.

Phil Wrzesinski tells IGC Show attendees how to attain more sales with memorable customer service.
PHOTO by KATE SPIRGEN

Flowers every day, every way

Flower expert, TV personality, garden center owner and fourth-generation florist J Schwanke is bringing flowers back into everyday life. Sharing research from Rutgers, Harvard, Texas A&M and the University of Florida, Schwanke explained how adding flowers help improve the lives of those who surround themselves with them.

Here are some of the benefits he shared:

  • Homes with flowers have fewer arguments.
  • Patients who receive flowers in the hospital get better faster.
  • Flowers help lessen depression.
  • They help increase creativity.
  • Flowers can help you enlarge your circle of friends.
  • Having flowers around increases happy thoughts overall.

Generational differences

Baby Boomers – Boomers generally want to have a stable environment, and flowers are part of creating that. They’re more likely than any other generation to purchase flowers once every week or two.

Gen X – This generation is more likely to purchase flowers for others than for themselves. However, they’re more likely to buy themselves flowers if they’re surrounded by call-to-action messaging and decorating hints like “Treat yourself” or “Brighten up your home.”

“They need that permission slip,” Schwanke said.

Millennials – Nearly half of Millennial shoppers spend less than $50 on flowers annually, but unlike Gen Xers, they’re more likely to buy flowers to celebrate their own special occasions. They’re also more likely to purchase flowers if they’re bundled in smaller bouquets at cheaper prices because they prefer to pick and choose to make their own bouquets.

The other thing they’re interested in is the shelf life of the flowers.

Gen Z – The latest generation is less brand-conscious than Millennials, “which is a huge benefit to us as an independent garden center,” Schwanke said. Like Millennials, they’re concerned about the environment and want transparency.

J Schwanke shares his expertise on the needs of each generation’s flower lovers.
PHOTO BY KATE SPIRGEN