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...
Feature image The 2015 Perennial Plant Of The Year, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

August 27, 2015

The Perennial Plant Association’s Regional Symposium Will Be This October In Dallas

The Perennial Plant Association plans to hold its Regional Symposium October 5 in Dallas, Texas, in conjunction with the All-America Selections/Home Garden Seed Association's Summer/Fall Summit held October 5 to 8.

Read More
september_grow_rodale institute

August 25, 2015

Hospitals Are Getting Into The Organic Food Business

Growers investing in the organic food movement could serve a growing new area with vegetable transplants and starts, as well as produce, as hospitals begin to prescribe healthy diets and nutrition, and even go so far as to grow their own food. As part of a new phenomenon among progressive hospitals, health professionals are beginning to realize that without health and nutrition, programs and techniques may be done in vain or worse — obsolete. As more patients seeking a healthy diet turn to nutritionists, who recommend sugar-free, alkaline diets to prevent disease and aid in recovery, hospitals recognizing this trend are taking action. St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa., recently contracted with the nearby Rodale Institute to manage an organic farm, established in 2014. The hospital, part of a six-campus network, aims to provide excellent healthcare, part of which includes educating patients about the benefits of a plant-based, organic diet. […]

Read More

August 21, 2015

Proven Winners Announces Roadshow Events For 2015

Proven Winner's Roadshow Events, held across North America, provide growers and retailers with the opportunity to learn how to grow Proven Winner's newest varieties and receive information about industry trends.

Read More
Latest Stories
september_grow_rodale institute

August 25, 2015

Hospitals Are Getting Into The Organic Food Business

Growers investing in the organic food movement could serve a growing new area with vegetable transplants and starts, as well as produce, as hospitals begin to prescribe healthy diets and nutrition, and even go so far as to grow their own food. As part of a new phenomenon among progressive hospitals, health professionals are beginning to realize that without health and nutrition, programs and techniques may be done in vain or worse — obsolete. As more patients seeking a healthy diet turn to nutritionists, who recommend sugar-free, alkaline diets to prevent disease and aid in recovery, hospitals recognizing this trend are taking action. St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa., recently contracted with the nearby Rodale Institute to manage an organic farm, established in 2014. The hospital, part of a six-campus network, aims to provide excellent healthcare, part of which includes educating patients about the benefits of a plant-based, organic diet. […]

Read More
3D Green Printer

August 11, 2015

3D Printers Sprout Living Designs

Project PrintGREEN is turning 3D printers into on-demand gardeners after designing a “green” 3D printer in 2013. The printer produces living prints, printing customized objects in a variety of sizes and forms. The project was created at the University of Maribor in Slovenia, with a goal to unite art, technology, and nature, creatively producing living designs with the help of technology.

Read More
Roots To Re-Entry’s ornamental plant nursery donates plants to local community gardens

August 4, 2015

Roots To Re-Entry Transforms Lives

An inspired employment initiative takes green-job training behind prison walls to help inmates find jobs in urban agriculture and the landscaping industry upon their release, and along the way, it is changing lives for the better. The Roots To Re-Entry (R2R) job training program, conceived by the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society (PHS) and its partners, does more than teach inmates of the Philadelphia Prison System the skills they need to find meaningful employment; it also teaches them invaluable life skills. The PHS staff leads participants through a 16-week course that includes hands-on projects designed to teach them horticultural skills and provide them with training in landscape maintenance and greenhouse growing. In addition to English and math, the nonprofit Federation of Neighborhood Centers (FNC) offers supplemental courses in health education and employment preparedness. Upon inmates’ release from prison, the FNC assists R2R graduates with the transition to life outside prison walls by […]

Read More
USDA Logo

July 15, 2015

USDA’s 2014 Floriculture Crops Summary By The Numbers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its 2014 Floriculture Crops Summary in June. Here are some of the highlights: The total crop value at wholesale for the 15-state program with $10,000 or more in sales is $4.07 billion, compared with $4.25 billion in 2013 The percentage wholesale value of floriculture crops is down 4 percent from the 2013 valuation There are 4,849 producers for 2014, down 21 percent in the 15 states, compared with the 2013 count of 6,115 2,510 of producers had sales of $100,000 or more in 2014, down 5 percent from 2,632 in 2013 733 million square feet was the total covered area for floriculture crop production in 15 state area evaluated in 2014, down from 735 million square feet in 2013 $1.82 billion was the wholesale value of all bedding and garden plants, including herbaceous perennials, representing 46 percent of the value of all reported crops The wholesale value for […]

Read More
LuxFlora logo feature image

July 5, 2015

Luxflora Wants To Create A Lifestyle Movement

A new organization for women in horticulture plans to take on some of the industry’s toughest marketing challenges by promoting the use of flowers and plants in everyday living.

Read More
AmericanHort_HortScholars

June 23, 2015

AmericanHort Announces 2015 HortScholars

AmericanHort has selected six students from across the country to serve as this year’s HortScholars. This rigorous, competitive application process identifies some of the industry’s brightest professionals and helps to launch their careers in horticulture by providing education and networking opportunities. The goal of the HortScholars program is to provide students with an enriching professional development experience that increases their knowledge, industry awareness and career enthusiasm. 2015 HortScholars: • Sarah Leach Smith, University of Delaware • Bobby Nance, Virginia Tech • Madeline Olberg, Purdue University • Nick Sobecki, Ohio University • Emily Teng, University of Hawaii • William Yoho Jr,, Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute HortScholars will be on-site at Cultivate’15 (July 11-14 in Columbus, Ohio) and receive complimentary Cultivate registration, lodging and meals. Additionally, they will receive a complimentary one-year AmericanHort membership. On-site at Cultivate’15, HortScholars will assist the Generation Next Community with events, conduct presentations that share […]

Read More
July 2015_GROW Perspective_Katie Ketelson

June 23, 2015

MegaMashups Take Plants To The People

It’s no secret I love plants. It’s probably not much of a secret that I love beer, too. And in my perfect world, I’d have a permanent beer garden decorated with galvanized containers stuffed full of flowers, high-rising arches of hops and endless rows of hydroponic strawberries for everbearing enjoyment. But all that costs mega money, so I’ve settled (for now) on orchestrating mega mashups focused on my loves mentioned above, striving to reach an audience that doesn’t even know our industry exists. I’ve long preached about how we need to go to the people. Meet them on their turf, so-to-speak. We can’t expect Gen X or the Millennials, or heck, even my parents, to walk into our garden centers on a whimsy. And frankly, why would you want to be so passive? Your customer spends their extra dollars at the coffee shop, at the mall and at the bar. […]

Read More
Michigan State University’s Bailey GREENhouse Sells Produce And Tea To Campus Dining Facilities

June 20, 2015

Michigan State University’s Bailey GREENhouse Sells Pro…

A greenhouse operated primarily by Michigan State University (MSU) students has begun exploring new crops, including herbs, to produce a line of tea. The Bailey GREENhouse, completed in 2012, gives students from MSU’s Residential Initiative for the Study of the Environment (RISE) the opportunity to experience hands-on learning about organic growing methods, composting and the food cycle. The greenhouse, which was built in partnership with Residential and Hospitality Services, the Department of Community Sustainability, RISE and the Student Organic Farm, is a passive solar hoop house intended for the production of certified organic culinary herbs and salad mixes. Students plant, grow and harvest herbs and microgreens using soil from university composts. All of the produce is certified organic, and is sold to MSU dining facilities, including Brody Square, The Gallery at Snyder and Phillips Halls, the McDonel test kitchen and the Kellogg Center Hotel & Conference Center. The new tea line […]

Read More
Sporticulture Offers A Way For Growers To Promote Plants And Football

June 20, 2015

Sporticulture Offers A Way For Growers To Promote Plant…

Cortland Smith, the president of Walnut Springs Nursery in Glenwood, Md., has two passions: plants and sports, specifically football. Earlier this year, he found an opportunity to blend them together in a way he hopes will benefit the entire industry. This past spring, Smith launched a company called Sporticulture, Inc., which provides access to sports licensing and marketing opportunities to growers, retailers and landscape contractors. The company’s first partnership is with the National Football League. Working through Sporticulture, growers will have the ability to produce team color plants in officially licensed NFL containers and tags. “Walnut Springs is a grower first and foremost, and Cort wants a program to benefit growers and give them the opportunity to add profit margins and sell plants at a higher price utilizing the power of the NFL brand,” says Pete Gilmore, director of business development at Sporticulture. “We are encouraging growers to utilize their […]

Read More
Urban Gardens

June 19, 2015

Urban Gardens Feed The World On A Local Level

Growing food in small spaces and urban gardening go hand in hand, no surprise there. But the fact that there are 200 million urban farmers worldwide, supplying food to 700 million people may be a startling revelation to those who equate food production with large rural farms. According to a fact sheet report from the Food of Agriculture Organization of the United Nations entitled “Feeding Cities, The Role of Urban Agriculture,” the 700 million people urban farmers supply with produce accounts for 12 percent of the world population. Aside from the obvious benefit of helping to feed a burgeoning world population, urban farms, the newest trend in a greener future, are a source of revenue for under- or unemployed residents. They also provide on-the-job youth training and community education and shorten the journey from farm to plate. And the benefits don’t end there. Urban farms may be small, but they have […]

Read More
american-hort-logo

June 18, 2015

Introducing SHIFT: An AmericanHort Initiative

AmericanHort, along with its research affiliate the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI), introduces SHIFT: An AmericanHort initiative. This innovative research project takes a hard look at the future of the industry. What was once announced as the “the future of retail” research project isn’t just about retail anymore — it’s about how the collective industry can rise to the challenge of meeting modern and future consumers’ expectations. This research demands a shift in strategies, thinking and paradigms. It forces us to think and to ask ourselves, “What if we started doing things differently?” SHIFT is the largest research initiative of its kind for the industry. The resulting data, insights and recommendations paint a clear picture of opportunity for all industry businesses to capitalize on trends and even get ahead of the curve. SHIFT is the future of consumers, the future of retail, the future of the supply chain and the future […]

Read More
AFE young professionals council

June 17, 2015

AFE Launches Young Professionals Council

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) has established the Young Professionals Council (YPC), which consists of 21- to 35-year-old students and professionals in the floral industry. YPC members will use their skills and strengths to help reach other young professionals interested in becoming leaders in the floral industry, provide guidance and feedback on AFE’s programs, and get involved in leadership and learning opportunities through AFE’s programs. “There are crucial industry challenges that need to be addressed, and the YPC is a significant program that I believe will help benefit the industry. I look forward to working with the driven young members of this group to help spread awareness of AFE and build a stronger future,” says AFE trustee and YPC board liaison Dwight Larimer. Current members include: • Tha Cha, grower at Cha Veggies • Joshua Craver, Ph.D. student at Purdue University • Eric Fernandez, director of mass markets and business […]

Read More
growing for futures logo

June 15, 2015

National Garden Bureau To Offer Grants To Therapeutic G…

National Garden Bureau (NGB) will grant $10,000 this fall to be split among three therapeutic gardens in North America as part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness of horticulture and support the benefits of gardening. After fundraising for a vocational therapeutic garden in Chicago last year, NGB is expanding its support of gardens that promote the health and healing powers of human interaction with plants. Beginning this month, NGB will begin accepting applications from therapeutic gardens that meet the following set of criteria: 1. Have a defined program using the garden to further particular goals for participants lead by a qualified leader. Examples include horticultural therapy, occupational, physical, vocational or rehabilitation therapy in a garden setting or using gardening to promote positive social relationships within a community. 2. Offer a nature experience/interface for population served, including, but not limited to veterans, special-needs children or young adults, the elderly and/or those […]

Read More
James_featured

June 3, 2015

A Wait-And-See Approach To Variety Selection Serves The…

Greenhouse Grower’s Medal Of Excellence For Industry’s Choice panelist James Russell of Armstrong Growers discusses standout varieties from 2015 California Spring Trials and explains how his team decided on the plants that would be chosen for production at their operations. Team Armstrong included myself, Production Manager Heather Hydoski, Desert Operations Manager Anthony Pytel and Sales Manager John Mellon. We make variety selections for our own trials during this event that will ultimately make the actual changes in the programs we offer our customers. Over the years, we have learned to hold back and wait to see how plants perform in the ground before we make any additions or deletions. Many new plants stand out and tempt us to jump into full production, and, yes, we still break the rule occasionally in the name of getting a plant out before our competition does. We feel our customer should not be the test case, […]

Read More
Amy Daniel with daughters

May 20, 2015

Fall Creek Farm & Nursery’s Amy Daniel Suppor…

Amy Daniel, marketing and brand manager at Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, has a passion for marketing and branding that led her into the green industry early in her career, when she and a friend started their own agency, and she began helping her parents — then owners of a retail nursery — with marketing services. Daniel’s career in the field started in the 1980s, after she finished college with degrees in journalism and advertising. It wasn’t long before she began to feel frustrated with the status quo in the industry. She and a friend from college, agreeing there was a better way to do things, decided to start a business. “I guess now looking back, we were probably young and naive, but it all worked out really well,” Daniel says. “We started our own advertising agency/marketing and PR firm. I ran that for two decades. It was very successful.” […]

Read More
susie raker featured

May 12, 2015

Manage Costs To Increase Profitability

Business profitability and health is about more than just sales. Growers can get in trouble when they don’t look at the complete picture when it comes to cost accounting. Susie Raker Zimmerman shares how the team at C. Raker & Sons keeps costs and profits in check.

Read More
Suzi McCoy with GM Logo

May 6, 2015

Garden Media Group’s Suzi McCoy Urges Women In Horticul…

When Susan McCoy, owner of Garden Media Group, started promoting roses and shrubs for The Conard-Pyle Co. (Star Roses and Plants), she knew the horticulture industry was the right place for her. What she didn’t know was how much the journey would reshape her business for the better. Now, she encourages women in horticulture to invite others to be a part of the industry.

Read More
indoor-vertical-farm

May 5, 2015

World’s Largest Indoor Vertical Farm To Be Developed In…

A former industrial site in the Ironbound community of Newark, N.J., will be redeveloped into the world’s largest indoor vertical farm. The $30 million project was recently announced by RBH Group, Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, Prudential Financial Inc. and AeroFarms, in partnership with the City of Newark and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA). The vertical farm will serve as the global headquarters for AeroFarms. “We are excited to redefine not only the Garden State but also agriculture overall,” says David Rosenberg, CEO for AeroFarms. “Partnering with RBH, Goldman Sachs, Prudential, the City of Newark and NJEDA allows us to bring our global headquarters and the world’s largest indoor vertical farm close to where the consumer is, offering a fresher, more nutritious and delicious product while also creating jobs in the community.” According to Ron Beit, founding partner and CEO of RBH Group, AeroFarms will anchor its broader Makers […]

Read More