Smart Retail Tech All Garden Retailers Can Use

Rogers Gardens Seasonal Gifts
Good lighting spotlights important merchandise and subtly enhances customers’ experience of your store.

Your store may be dark for the winter, but it’s never too early to think about the light of spring and opportunities to improve within your store.

Take note of how many national retailers are making capital improvements, altering product assortments and brands, employing more part-time staff, trying new promotional tactics, and modifying services including store hours. Are you thinking of making changes to retain your best customers? Are you considering taking control of some operational costs? Is there a dark side to your retail environment?

Retail shopping survives today because it has evolved. Retail has morphed into a blend of displays, services, events, category-specific brands, exclusivity, location and, most importantly, customer satisfaction! It’s more than the thrill of the hunt for a great bargain; it’s an experience.

Are you striving to offer a “good to great” retail environment that entices today’s consumer to shop your store? Who will spread the word?

Even If You’re Not Online, Your Customers Are

Today’s retail report card (so to speak) is found in the smartphones used by millions of consumers, young and old. The smartphone shopper has the upper hand on obtaining information in great detail, including product descriptions, specifications, weights, where-to-buy locators and consumer ratings. These ratings, mostly written by the customers themselves, carry a lot of weight in purchasing decisions. The mobile app and Google have forever changed the way we communicate, research and ultimately buy.

Price is the culmination of the customer quest, but if we didn’t consider life’s experiences, then we’d all shop at Amazon. The overwhelming majority of consumers want the experience. Price means nothing if a product is out of stock, unavailable or located miles away. Shopping is a life experience, whether it’s inside brick-and-mortar stores or online.

Developing your own mobile app is a worthy consideration only if you’re devoting the time and effort to change and update your store’s events and news at least weekly. You are just a tap or a push notification away from being noticed.

Good Lighting Enhances Products — And Saves Money

LED lighting and solar energy can save hundreds of dollars on your store’s electric bill. Almost every store renovation that I’ve seen recently deploys some type of LED lighting. This lighting uses, by rough estimates, one-eighth the energy versus traditional incandescent bulbs.

The average life of LED is well over 20,000 hours. Think of how many times you’ve changed out the track-lighting bulbs in your store. They last approximately 1,600 hours maximum.

That’s about 133 days when lit for 12 hours a day in your store. Just count the lights up, folks. If you have 20 bulbs of 60w in the ceiling, that’s the equivalent of running a hair dryer non-stop all day. If you want both long-term and short-term return on your investment, think about upgrading your electrics, inside and outside. You might save some considerable money and put off upgrading your electrical panel that might be currently overloaded.

Another area of your retail space that may need lighting is your display cabinets. Are there dark shelves and products due to the depth of the shelves? Do you see shadows surrounding the displayed product?

If you can’t position your track lighting into the display zone, you may look into newer LED strip lighting. These are the same style shown in many refrigeration cases in food stores. These strips illuminate when the doors open and go off when they close, and typically use about 11 watts each. Another benefit is that they emit no heat! Check incandescent display spotlights located close to flammable materials and products for clearance and replace with LED.

In the Apple App Store, there’s a unique app called Lightmeter by White Goods; it measures LUX reading. Try it out in your store to determine if you need more brightness in your display areas.

Show Off Your Plant Knowledge by Working with Existing (or Your Own!) Apps

Our responsibility as good stewards of the garden industry begins with sound recommendations for our customers to help them be successful in their gardening, planting and lifestyle endeavors. Even if you’re not developing your own mobile app, you can leverage several existing apps to supplement the expertise of your staff and enhance your customers’ outcomes.

Bonide Chemical offers a fantastic app that’s a free download. It’s an online version of a gardener’s problem solver for plants, weeds, insects and animal controls. Identifying garden issues and having the correct remedy available right on the shelf, it’s a must-have app for any garden center staff member. Griffin supports you with many Bonide products in stock.

Garden Answers, a revamp of the original Garden Compass app, is a free download. Its plant-identification feature can instantly ID more than 20,000 plants, supported by detailed information about each species. The app also offers diagnostic help for more than 200,000 common questions about pests, disease and other issues just by snapping a picture and sending it to their network of garden experts.

Identification of trees is easy with the Leafsnap app, developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institution. According to the Apple App Store, this free app currently includes trees found in the Northeastern U.S., and Canada.

For another reputable resource, try Armitage’s Greatest Perennials and Annuals. This app was created by Dr. Allan Armitage, professor emeritus of horticulture at the University of Georgia, Greenhouse Grower columnist and one of the better-known professionals in our industry. The Armitage app features recommendations on more than 1,000 plants along with photos, video guides and more. It’s easy to navigate and an insightful tool, selling for $4.99 for iPhone, iPad and Android users. The app also includes a directory of garden centers. It’s free to be added to the retailer directory; simply e-mail Dr. Armitage at [email protected] to learn more.

Retailing doesn’t have to be a mystery to solve! Use your own observations in the marketplace for you to craft a better, brighter retail environment. By bringing more light and knowledge to your space and your products, you’ll profit in sales and save on operational costs, while bettering the consumer’s experience in your store. Staying hungry for the next best thing may keep customers from straying to your competitors.

John Johnston is Retail Education Manager for Griffin. He can be reached at [email protected]

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