A new coalition of green industry experts plans to help independent garden centers (IGCs) reap the rewards of the millennial market.
Centered around Smart Plant Home, an app designed to track customers’ plant purchasing habits and provide expert growing advice—with the ability for retailers to link directly to the customer to suggest care, purchases, and promotions—the alliance offers a cohesive network of services for IGCs. Members of the coalition include:
- Bert Wahlen, CEO, Smart Plant Home: An app trusted by hundreds of thousands of plant owners and created with independent garden centers in mind, Smart Plant Home features products, plants, videos, and information customized by IGC and per user. With 89 percent of the app’s audience falling into the 18-44 age demographic, Smart Plant Home serves as the central hub to attract a younger audience to IGCs.
- Shaun Quinlan, President and CEO, Prince Corporation: With a customer network of more than 3,000 IGCs, farm stores, and pet specialty stores throughout the Midwest, Prince Corporation understands retailers’ needs. As part of the coalition, the company intends to help retailers reach a younger, more technologically savvy audience for profitable growth.
- Ken Klopp, CEO, The Perfect Plant: The in-store digital engagement of The Perfect Plant’s information centers gives retailers a tool to train employees, engage customers, and enhance consumer plant knowledge—all customized to the IGC. It’s an ideal marriage of Smart Plant Home, a personal app for consumers customized by retail location, and the on-site kiosk and website plugin of The Perfect Plant at retail.
- Jeff Dinslage, CEO/President, Home and Garden Fulfillment, Inc.: With a network of 20 plant and hard good fulfillment locations, Home and Garden Fulfillment helps retailers reach new markets by enabling them to expand their product line and tap the eCommerce sales channel. The solution has a revenue share component that incentivizes all parties to ship healthy plants safely and in accordance with all state and federal regulations.
Engaging customers at home—and at retail
Connecting to younger customers and increasing foot traffic at retail serves as an overriding goal of the coalition. Using the Smart Plant Home app, customers create a digital garden of their plants, giving retailers a footprint of all the plants the users own. Based on the app’s information, retailers understand their customers’ buying preferences, allowing the retailer to send customized notifications that encourage like-plant purchases at the IGC, in-store promotions, or announcements of special events based on the customer’s zip code.
Additionally, the app creates loyalty and engagement with customers by providing expert advice. Users receive a custom care calendar, reminding them of when and how to tend their plants. Customers can upload a plant photo for identification, take a photo of a problem plant for diagnosis, or search for plants that work well in specific situations, like on a balcony. The personal, expert interactions build trust among millennials and enhance their knowledge and confidence for future plant and garden purchases. Smart Plant Home also builds community: with more than 81,000 Instagram followers and the 40,000 posts with its custom hashtag #peoplewithplants, millennials spread plant love on social media. (Smart Plant Home even offers a plant-driven book club to bring green lovers together.)
“Technology can create two different realities: one that separates us, and one that brings us together,” says Bert Wahlen, CEO of Smart Plant Home. “We use technology to connect us back to the Earth and back to our roots, while fostering a community of people with plants. We turn a store into an interactive retail experience, so customers want to come in, scan the plants, and explore the shop. We promote the IGC’s products and locations to keep the customers coming back.”
Creating trust and assessing trends for bottom-line results
Smart Plant Home retail members benefit both from the trackable information available and the direct contact with customers in their region. As a Smart Plant Home retailer, all of the IGC’s plant and product inventory is uploaded to the platform, allowing customers to scan bar codes on site for product information and to upload plants to their digital gardens. When a customer scans a plant on site, the app changes to feature that store’s home screen, plants, promotions, events, videos, and more. Users' zip codes connect them to their local IGCs.
“As a distributor, it is our mission to provide complete fulfillment solutions that are accurate, clean, dependable, and on-time to our retail partners so that they can continue to grow their businesses,” says Shaun Quinlan, President and CEO of Prince Corporation. “Partnering with other industry leaders to share information and leverage today’s technology for the benefit of the IGCs and their customers is a win-win for everyone.”
While the four partner companies offer services that might be seen as competitive, the individuals behind the brands realize that to reach the lucrative millennial market—and boost the bottom line of IGC customers—working together to achieve common goals outweighs individual concerns.
“Our goal is to help grow local nurseries and independent garden centers to their full revenue potential using the scalable power of technology,” says Jeff Dinslage, CEO/President of Home and Garden Fulfillment, Inc. “By offering an easy pathway to web solutions, we give green businesses the opportunity to establish and grow their digital presence. Younger customers expect top technology experiences, and by working with our green partners and sharing information, we help our IGC customers meet the demands of those consumers.”
The in-depth reports provided by Smart Plant Home keeps an eye on trends and actual traction points of customer behavior. It shows what the customer owns at home and what they’re looking for, which aids retailers in cross-selling and upselling appropriate plants and products.
“There needs to be inherent value in the products and solutions we provide customers,” says The Perfect Plant’s CEO Ken Klopp. “My ultimate goal is to help businesses and people succeed; to serve people and solve problems others haven’t been able to. When an IGC performs well, all of us in the green industry benefit, so it makes sense to combine resources to help our retail customers succeed.”
Technology savvy and local lovers
One of the main reasons the partners decided to focus on IGCs involves the purchasing habits of millennials. Younger consumers expect excellence in purchasing experiences and demand top technological tools to make the experience seamless. Plus, millennials eschew chains and “Big Box” conglomerates in favor of locally-owned stores. By offering top technology, enhanced customer in-store and in-app experiences, and engaging with customers on site and through thoughtful post-purchase follow-up, the partners feel confident that IGCs will win millennial consumer loyalty—and long-term profits.
For more information:
Smart Plant Home
The Perfect Plant
Home and Garden Fulfillment, Inc.