How To Improve Consumer Interest In Indoor Foliage Plants

Houseplant Featured ImageOver the past years, studies have shown decreasing consumer demand for indoor foliage plants. Many factors have been suggested for this decline such as the economic recession, low interest/desirability, price, and so on. Several related questions arise, including 1) why are consumers reducing the number of indoor foliage plant purchases, and 2) what can the industry do to reverse the situation?

In 2014, researchers from universities across the U.S. sought to identify the primary barriers preventing consumers from purchasing indoor foliage plants. They also investigated the potential of using novel plant attributes to increase consumers’ purchasing likelihood. The study was conducted in Orlando, FL, and used a survey to assess purchasing barriers and consumer preferences. Key findings are discussed below.

Purchase Barriers And Solutions To Selling Indoor Plants

Barrier: Maintenance requirements (including fertilization and irrigation) are the primary reason consumers do not purchase indoor foliage plants. Potential issues arise from forgetfulness, lack of convenience, and time limitations.

Solution: There is an opportunity to promote low-maintenance plants and plant care options (such as slow release fertilizers and self-watering containers) to accommodate busy lifestyles.

Barrier: High prices, limited space, and limited light prevent consumers from purchasing indoor foliage plants.

Solution: Industry professionals can promote the value-added attributes of plants to validate the price points. Additionally, providing compact, low light plant options is a means of countering limited space and light.

Barrier: Consumers feel guilty if they kill a plant.

Solution: Industry professionals can continue to provide high-quality, healthy plants to reduce the possibility of consumers having a negative experience and provide detailed care requirements for those plants.

Opportunities Based On Value-Added Plant Benefits

Indoor foliage plants’ potential to remove air pollutants could be used to increase consumers’ purchase likelihood. Specifically, the study found that consumers positively respond to plants that remove more than 50% of volatile organic compounds. Plants naturally remove air pollutants; however, consumers may be unaware of this benefit. In-store reminders and educational advertisements are one means to improve consumer awareness of this benefit.

Consumers are also more likely to purchase plants that were promoted as sustainably produced (including certified organic and other organic production practices [but not certified]). If sustainable methods are used during production, these should be promoted because consumers value them.

Finally, the study showed that consumers preferred indoor foliage plants grown in-state, followed by domestically grown. They were less interested in imported products. If plants are sourced within the U.S., their origin should be promoted in-store.

Effective Promotion Of Indoor Plants Attracts Customers

Based on these results, the researchers believe there are untapped niches that green industry stakeholders can use to attract customers and influence their product choices. However, in order to reach those customers, in-store communications and promotions need to be used effectively. If they are not used, then customers are unaware of the benefits provided by the product. Consequently, both the industry and the customer fail to benefit from those value-added benefits.

The findings of this study clearly indicate that there is potential to counter barriers preventing purchase and use novel plant attributes in promotions to entice consumers. Ultimately, all of these actions benefit the green industry by enabling them to better meet their customers’ needs.

Citation for published article : Rihn, A.L., H. Khachatryan, B. Campbell, C. Hall, and B. Behe. (2015). Consumer response to novel indoor foliage plant attributes: Evidence from a conjoint experiment and gaze analysis. HortScience, 50(10), 1524-1530.

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