The plant you carefully cultivated catches the eye of the consumer. If the plant itself hasn’t already made the sale, the consumer looks to the tag and wonders, “Should I buy this plant?”
Are your plant tags closing the sale?
Research shows that the unassuming plant tag can carry its weight in the sales process. But tag printing and marketing experts say you will have more success with your tags with a shift in your thinking: Tags are an informational and marketing tool for the consumer.
“Growers have looked at tags as a necessary evil because, as an industry, we have produced grower tags not consumer tags,” says Rick Vulgamott, director of sales at John Henry. “Tags were always difficult for growers because they just did not want to deal with the process.”
Bob Lovejoy, president of HIP Labels, agrees. “Too often, a tag is looked at from a cost perspective, not as an offensive tool, a marketing tool, as it should be.”
“A well-put-together tag works as a ‘silent salesperson,’ and helps the customer decide if the plant is right for them without the need to search the store for a plant expert,” adds Ann Marie Phaneuf, director, channel sales at SATO America.
What Information Is A Must?
To make that shift so your tags are really tools for the consumer, you first need to understand how the end consumer uses plant tags.
“We’ve done a lot of market research on this,“ says Gerry Giorgio, creative director at MasterTag. Customers use tags at three points of engagement:
- At the point of sale, in order to make a decision to buy.
- At home, when they are planting and need space, height and location information.
- The following year, as reference for what worked well and what didn’t, leading to another buying decision next year.
“Gardeners have told us that the most important information on a plant tag, in order of priority, is: planting location (sun/shade); type of plant (perennial/annual); the common name, not the botanical name; and when it will bloom,” Giorgio says.
Basic information is important, particularly considering the fact that many of today’s consumers haven’t grown up with gardening as a hobby around the home. For example, Giorgio says many consumers who want to garden don’t understand the difference between a perennial and an annual. One option to consider with tags is using plain-spoken wording such as, “Will re-bloom every year” for perennials and “Will only bloom this season” for annuals, he says.
What Else Is Important On Tags?
In addition to the basics, Vulgamott says he believes consumers are looking for solution-based plants and the tag should reflect that knowledge. Is your plant solution-based? If it repels deer, attracts hummingbirds, provides color or has another application, put it on your tag, he says.
“Growers should position ‘Why Statements’ front and center on tags. Answer ‘Why should I buy this?’ right on the tag.”
Companion plants can also be a good addition, since consumers don’t automatically know what plants go together well,” he says.
Size considerations are important. Giorgio suggests using a 10-point font at minimum. While it may limit the information you can include, your target market, women ages 30 to 55, may strain to read anything lower. Make the tag size proportionate to the plant, as well, he says.
Zone information is also something to think about. “For regional growers, it’s becoming a little less significant,” says Bob Schmitdke, senior account executive at Horticultural Marketing and Printing. “If you ship plants nationwide, keep the Zone information. Regional growers can replace the Zone chart with helpful growing and maintenance information.”
Should Growers Use Photos?
Particularly with annuals, some people suggest that having a photo of the same blooming plant you’re looking at is a waste of valuable real estate on a tag. Lovejoy isn’t so sure that’s the case.
“Photos are the most effective use of space and the best, easiest and fastest way to attract a consumer,” he says. “Try to show the plant in a landscape setting.”
Phaneuf agrees. “Pictures are very important,” she says. “If a plant is not currently blooming, the tag can paint that picture. Also, for items such as trees, a picture will let the consumer know what it will look like when it matures. With blooming annuals, pictures can also be used to show suggestions of plant configurations.”
Giorgio says certain plants like basil just don’t need an image. “A recipe for a delicious basil salad might intrigue the customer more,” he says.
What About Bilingual Tags?
As some growers ship to other countries — and as America becomes more multicultural — adding information in a second language has been more common on tags. While there are advantages, that strategy can be tricky.
“Tags have to be larger to allow for printed translations. There are also issues with who does the translation. Some English phrases simply don’t translate nicely,” Lovejoy says.
Vulgamott says he is seeing a trend where growers are questioning the need for both English and Spanish on tags.
“Surprisingly, we’ve had multiple growers tell us they are near removing the second language as we begin targeting a younger generation,” he says.
Some growers he works with believe as newer generations of immigrants are schooled in English and speak the language more, they don’t expect to see anything but English.
Should You Use Advanced Technology On Your Tags?
QR codes for smartphones and tablets haven’t been as strong a selling tool on plant tags as some anticipated.
“The truth is, I don’t see a lot of people scanning tags at retail. As long as there is a code, there is a challenge,” says Lovejoy. “I don’t get the sense our customers are using them as frequently.”
It’s likely, however, that technology like this will become more ingrained with consumers over time, especially when making decisions.
“The consumer is getting used to researching and making decisions on their own. The use of QR codes is growing and helping consumers learn more prior to purchase,” Phaneuf says.
Our experts suggest using QR codes if you can link to quality content: pictures, in-depth information, troubleshooting tips, how-to tips, and possibly, recipes.
“QR codes should always link to content that expands on the information found on the tag.” Giorgio says. “They should also always link to a mobile-ready site. And while a website can be useful, I think it is better to have a specific message such as a short video on the plant you are considering or a landing page related to the plant and some additional information.”
QR codes are an added value for the grower, Schmidtke says.
“If they already have a database of plant material with pictures, it’s not that expensive to add to their website,” he says.
Other technologies, such as augmented reality or image recognition, could eventually offer gardening consumers a better shopping experience, but are far from common at this point.
“Gardening apps probably offer the greatest opportunity to be used today. The barrier to entry here is development costs,” says Giorgio.
What’s The Best Way To Manage Tag Inventory?
Every grower’s goal is to reduce tag inventory. Lovejoy says he has seen tag rooms with hundreds of thousands of dollars of excess inventory.
“This might sound funny coming from me, but growers need to buy fewer tags,” he says. “Growers need to work with suppliers who are determined to reduce their on-hand inventory.”
Schmidtke suggests ordering tags in two phases.
“Growers should use the 80/20 rule and print the bulk on the first, lowest-cost printing job,” he says. “If tags run out, growers can use other ways, but not carry the tag inventory. Most of the larger tag producers handle this with digitally produced tags printing smaller quantities on smaller presses.”
What’s The Bottom Line On Selecting The Right Tag?
Keep your eye on the gardening consumer, says Giorgio.
“Provide what they want and you will add value to the plants you grow. It’s easy to get caught up in what a grower or retailer needs in a tag. Yet, the gardener is the ultimate user,” he says. “Go to school on them and include a tag with your plants that best serves their needs.” GG