Study Consumer Behavior To Provide The Reassurance They Need

chad underwoodOver my years in this business, I’ve sold a lot of flowers, usually in mass quantities to big retail buyers. Some of those sales have been pretty big — millions of dollars even. Yet I’ve never been more proud of making a sale than times I’ve stood next to a fellow shopper in a garden center, providing them simple encouragement to make a purchase over which they were debating.

Consumers Need Reassurance

Nearly every time I visit a garden center, I have an experience that goes something like this: I notice a shopper appearing interested in a certain item. I watch them pick up and inspect the plant, read the pot or tag and make note of the price. They might even go as far as to place the item in their shopping cart and continue browsing the rest of the garden center for a bit, only to return the plant back to the bench it came from.

They give the little specimen so much attention and consideration. I can see that they want to buy it, but somehow, uncertainty doubt and indecisiveness prevent them from actually committing to the purchase. They hesitate. They’re just not sure.
And that’s where I come in. Before they can walk away for good, I simply say to them, “That’s a great plant you’re looking at! Good deal today, too!”

That’s it. Without fail, they look at me and reply, “Really? I’m just not sure.”

We then talk for a minute or two about the particular item. I tell them what I know about it, and I reassure them that they should buy it.

Guess what happens next? They do. Eight times out of 10, they end up putting that plant in their cart and walking to the checkout line. I know it’s eight times out of 10 because it’s happened to me so frequently in the past few years that I’ve started keeping track.

I’m convinced that the difference between them making the purchase or walking away empty handed is this simple act of me reassuring them that their selection is a good one. But why? Is the gardening public really so insecure about their ability to successfully select plants in their local garden center that they need reassurance (even if it comes from a total stranger) to feel good about their decision? I think the answer, at least in large part, is yes.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon in all types of garden centers and in all regions of the country, from the pop-up parking lot shop to the highest-end independent garden center, and from New York to New Mexico. It’s become clear to me that people all across this country, and across all sorts of demographics, are worried they will buy a plant, bring it home and kill it. They’re worried that it won’t work in the spot they have in mind. They’re worried that it might not be a good deal. They need more reassurance than many of us might realize.

Information That’s Available May Not Be Clear Enough

I want to make something clear: I’m not a plant or gardening expert. Most of the time, the knowledge I share with these folks about the particular item in question is basic stuff: information that was probably already provided for them on a sign, the tag or the pot.

So why does my unsolicited interjection in these folks’ buying decisions make such a difference? Is it just the power of suggestion? Or the power of the testimonial? Perhaps it’s because the information provided to them in signage and on tags was read, but not really understood.

The answer might be found in the book by author Paco Underhill, Why We Buy — The Science of Shopping.

Underhill is the founder and director of a company called Envirosell, which for more than 25 years has been extensively analyzing shopping behavior. His company does this by unobtrusively observing (i.e., spying on) shoppers, and then making extremely detailed notes of every aspect of those shopping experiences. The company reports that it currently observes as many as 70,000 shoppers every year in all sorts of retail settings, ranging from retail stores to banks to government offices.

Underhill knows what he’s talking about and his book shares many insights from his company’s work over the years. Everyone who supplies, services, supports, buys for or develops products that ultimately get sold in a retail setting, ought to read his book if you haven’t already.

It’s a fascinating read, divided into three sections. The first section considers the mechanics of shopping — how people physically react to the layout of a store, other people in the store and presentation of displays.
The second section deals with the demographics of shopping — the different behaviors people exhibit depending on age, gender and even whether shopping alone or with another person.

The third section of the book addresses the dynamics of shopping: how and why shoppers respond psychologically to the placement of merchandise in a store, packaging of the merchandise, and to the merchandise itself.

Now I’m no sociologist, either, but this book helped me realize that there are reasons (a lot them) for why we all behave the way we do when we go shopping. As an industry, we would be well-served by better understanding the idiosyncrasies of consumer behavior associated with our particular business. It’s worth studying.

It’s Worth Studying Consumer Behavior To Understand Where Their Needs Are

I have all these little moments with shoppers and I can’t help but think to myself how many more plants we could sell in this country if only we better understood how customers shop for plants and why they decide to buy or walk away. If I were a garden center manager, I’d be working hard to observe my customers as they shop my store. I’d try to understand why they make the buying decisions they do. I’d engage with them and ask them questions.

Most of the people reading this probably already appreciate my first point that our customers need reassurance. But how many people are actively studying why that is, and what can be done to provide it consistently in the retail setting?

Knowledge is power, and your understanding of consumer behavior is going to sell a heck of a lot more of your plants than I ever will with the unsolicited testimonials and advice I give consumers when I happen upon the stores you serve!

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Grow Initiative...
America In Bloom Project

August 29, 2016

Your Chance To Help America In Bloom As It Celebrates Its 15th Anniversary

America In Bloom is launching a fundraising campaign to help the group continue its mission of creating beautiful and vibrant communities across the country.

Read More
Next Generation

August 27, 2016

Australia Launches Initiative To Ignite A New Generation Of Growers

Hort Innovation Chief Executive John Lloyd says the goal is to identify and build future industry leaders at all stages of their career through investment in a host of new initiatives.

Read More
Albert Grimm, Jefferys Greenhouses

August 25, 2016

7 Ways Albert Grimm Strives To Be An Effective Leader

Grimm, Greenhouse Grower's 2016 Head Grower Of The Year, tries to live by the "Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People” from author Stephen R. Covey.

Read More
Latest Stories
America In Bloom Project

August 29, 2016

Your Chance To Help America In Bloom As It Celebrates I…

America In Bloom is launching a fundraising campaign to help the group continue its mission of creating beautiful and vibrant communities across the country.

Read More
Next Generation

August 27, 2016

Australia Launches Initiative To Ignite A New Generatio…

Hort Innovation Chief Executive John Lloyd says the goal is to identify and build future industry leaders at all stages of their career through investment in a host of new initiatives.

Read More
Albert Grimm, Jefferys Greenhouses

August 25, 2016

7 Ways Albert Grimm Strives To Be An Effective Leader

Grimm, Greenhouse Grower's 2016 Head Grower Of The Year, tries to live by the "Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People” from author Stephen R. Covey.

Read More
LuxFlora - feature

August 22, 2016

Check Out Luxflora’s International Adventures In Europe

A new, women-led professional organization provides its members the opportunity to gain insight, develop ideas, and build connections on its annual international trip.

Read More
Echinacea ‘Butterfly Rainbow Marcella’

August 12, 2016

IR-4 Project Receives Federal Funding For Pollinator An…

Grants from the Specialty Crop Research Initiative will fund IR-4 projects on protecting pollinators through ornamental horticulture, and downy mildew management strategies.

Read More
Emily Teng

August 11, 2016

American Floral Endowment Announces Its 2016 Scholarshi…

This year, thanks to the generosity of several donors, AFE awarded more than $35,000 to 17 students pursuing careers in horticulture.

Read More
Josh Henry, North Carolina State University

August 8, 2016

Get To Know Joshua Henry, Winner Of The 2016 Richard T.…

Henry, a graduate student at North Carolina State University, is pursuing a Master’s degree in horticultural sciences, with a focus on crop nutrition in bedding plants and flowering potted plants.

Read More
Workers

July 23, 2016

5 Reasons To Invest In Employee Training

Training and developing your employees is critical to the future success of your organization and the horticulture industry at large. Here are five reasons why your employees are worth the effort.

Read More
BeeSmart

July 21, 2016

How You Can Get Involved In Research

The Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) supports scientific research and students for the advancement of the horticultural industry.

Read More

July 9, 2016

Market The Experience Of Gardening, Minus The Fuss

Greenhouse Grower editor Laura Drotleff says the industry should promote plants and gardening in bite-size chunks that help consumers build skills.

Read More
Grower Education

July 7, 2016

Two Industry Veterans Discuss How To Meet The Challenge…

Two industry players have a conversation on how we can deliver the level of grower education needed to address complex issues associated with production practices and pest management strategies.

Read More
'Violets Pride' from Week's Roses Downton Abbey Garden Rose Collection

July 6, 2016

6 Key Insights From The Generations Of Flowers Study

Being local and offering expert recommendations are hidden opportunities in the floral business. This was one of six insights during a recent webinar analyzing the Generations of Flowers study from the Society of American Florists and the American Floral Endowment.

Read More
Sakata Birthday Cake Feature

May 28, 2016

10 Creative Marketing Ideas From 2016 California Spring…

Grower-retailers often look to breeders for ideas on how to increase plant sales with smart marketing plans. The California Spring Trials were filled with great concepts to reach customers.

Read More
HGTV_2015CAST

April 24, 2016

9 Business Predictions Smart Brands Should Pay Attentio…

Andreas von der Heydt, Director of Kindle at Amazon, recently predicted what smart businesses will do in 2016 to strengthen their brands and promote their products.

Read More
Lin Schmale 1996

April 23, 2016

SAF’s Lin Schmale Offers Lessons From An Industry…

Schmale represented the floriculture industry on Capitol Hill for more than 20 years. The advocate has recently retired, and shares some valuable insights from her career.

Read More
An Edible Evening At Stephen F Austin

April 11, 2016

How The Greenhouse Industry Can Propagate Gardeners The…

Jared Barnes at Stephen F. Austin University says we are the experts at propagating plants. That’s knowledge we can put to good use to envision how to attract new gardeners and future horticulturists to the industry.

Read More
Congressional Action Days 2016

April 5, 2016

Floral Industry Leaders Make Progress And (In Some Case…

Nearly 90 floral industry members gathered in the nation’s capital in March to meet with lawmakers in the annual event coordinated by the Society of American Florists.

Read More
Student Video Horticulture Education

April 2, 2016

Use Videos Featuring Your Millennial Employees To Recru…

Your Millennial employees may be the best spokespeople you have for your business. Why not encourage them to make a 30-second video talking about why they got into horticulture?

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]