The People Behind the Plants: Reaching Today’s Consumer By Ana Olvera

While end consumers may not always be your direct customer, growers should still take advantage of opportunities to connect with them.

Plants are common — from highways to ditches and front yards — and consumers largely take them for granted. In doing so, they stop short of recognizing the $163 billion horticulture industry behind those plants, as well as the entire supply chain-coordinated effort to produce plants.

Greenhouse growers, in general, have some of the coolest operations, strongest company cultures and most endearing personalities in the horticulture industry. That all deserves to be shared with the end consumer. Not only would it benefit your specific operation, but it would also serve to benefit telling the story of the entire horticulture industry.

How can growers reach the end consumer and help them take notice of the industry and the stories behind plants? As technology, marketing, and purchasing habits shift and change more rapidly, it’s led to disruptions in how we communicate with consumers and who is responsible for that communication from within the supply chain.

Growers have a unique opportunity to step into the spotlight and tell the “rest of the story” about plants. Growers can help share the excitement of our industry that goes beyond Mother’s Day and Memorial Day and in turn engage consumers in creating an awareness that there is something worth paying attention to when it comes to plants and the people who produce them.

Being in the Moment

Consumers have access to more information than ever before. With the advent of the internet, not only are facts, figures and specifications available, but the opinions of 3.5 billion other internet users, as well.

Couple the resources of the internet with mobile devices that literally put all of this information at consumers’ fingertips, and micro-moments are born. Micro-moments, as defined by think with Google, are when “people reflexively turn to a device — increasingly a smartphone — to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something.”

These are the “need” moments — need-to- buy, need-to-find, need-to-know moments — that propel especially younger generations to the internet. These decision-making moments also shape preferences. The first useful resource to quickly and accurately provide information, products, or resources is the one who wins the first battle of brand loyalty and consumer trust.

This is where a future-oriented grower could capitalize. Growers have an opportunity to be the “hands-on” expert in the eyes of the consumer. The avenue of the internet gives growers freedom to tell the story of plants, rather than relying solely on retailers to do so. A grower who is able to consistently appear as a top search hit becomes the “micro-moment” champion of being available and useful the moment a consumer needs information.

Prides Corner Farms, Costa Farms, Bushel & Berry and Bloomin’ Easy are just some of the great examples of how growers can accomplish this. With relevant growing information, tips, guidelines for success, practical uses for plants and retail locators, growers can take a lane on the information highway and directly interact with consumers.

One key in differentiating yourself would be geography-specific information relevant to consumers in your location. While many growers ship across the country, you know your area best. When it comes to plants, soil and the weather, environment can be the difference between success and failure. For example, simply knowing that a large portion of your area experiences a certain soil type can lead to different recommendations and plants that generate gardening success more easily.

Social Storytelling

Technology has certainly created some paradoxical challenges when it comes to developing relationships. We’re more connected than ever before but also less connected. Couples eating dinner together are connecting with Facebook friends (instead of each other), and high schoolers tweet at each other rather than talk to each other.

Yet, social media has also connected people across states, countries and the world, and has allowed stories from businesses and individuals to be told to a broader audience. For growers reluctant to beef up the information on their website, simply telling your story and sharing your expertise via social media is a great way to interact with consumers.

The resurgence of the American- grown cut flower movement has capitalized on this significantly. Just head over to Instagram and check out Floret Flowers (@FloretFlower). While Floret Flowers does sell
some items directly to consumers, the flowers themselves are sold wholesale. That hasn’t stopped the company, however, from sharing their love, passion and expertise on various cut flowers with a broad audience. This leads to a strong following of end consumers (because who doesn’t love pretty flowers in their social media feed?), who in turn have the confidence to request specific cut flower varieties from their florist.

Similarly, growers can accomplish two tasks with a strong and active social media presence: (1) showcase the quality and care of your plants to potential retail customers; and (2) also increase an affinity for plants and horticulture in the end consumer. Imagine a conversation like this at a garden center, “I saw on ABC Growers’ Instagram this great new coleus. Do you have it?” Plus, Instagram especially is a great platform for letting the high-impact visual nature of beautiful plants speak for itself, while also providing bite-sized, but relevant, information on what the plant is, how it grows and why it’s special.

Step Into the Spotlight

Growers have just as much responsibility for increasing the relevance of plants in consumers’ lives as do the retailers and breeders. As our industry continues to compete for consumers’ discretionary dollars, it will take a united effort to share the story of the people behind the plants who have dedicated their lives to their production and propagation. What better way to do this than with video?

Smartphones don’t just make it easier for consumers to get information. They also make it easier for you to share information. Customer experiences no longer begin and end in a physical store — they begin online. Through video, growers can start to build this digital experience that highlights both product and person. Video topics can include everything from a morning walk- through to a quick tutorial on how to pinch or prune a plant. Excited about a new variety you’re growing? Start streaming Facebook Live and share why you love it and why you think consumers will love it, too. You can also wish your followers Happy Holidays, give live reminders of necessary plant care, or share a little bit of the production process, whether it’s transplanting or shipping.

Consumers Want the Information You Have

To get a better idea of the kind of content consumers are looking for, Google Trends offers a multitude of insights backed by data gathered from Google searches. The Google Trends platform lets you see what people are searching, when they’re searching for it and where they’re located. Essentially, it gives you a strong foundation of how to target information based on what people are already looking for. For example, a comparison of the search terms “plant” vs. “landscaping” vs. “gardening” reveals that plant-term searches are significantly more prevalent than either landscaping or gardening searches.

This data and information indicate exactly what consumers are looking for and where growers have the opportunity to step in. Whether through specific website information, social media sharing or video content curation, growers have more opportunities than ever before to connect with consumers. In connecting with consumers, growers will also be showcasing their brand and operation to potential retail customers, who can in turn work in tandem with the information you’re providing.

What’s important for growers to recognize is that they do in fact have something to offer consumers, and there is potential to develop a relationship between consumer and grower. Growers can create interest and show consumers the big picture, which all helps the consumer to see plants in a different light and recognize them for their beauty and functionality, as well as the industry of people behind each and every plant.

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GPN recognizes 40 industry professionals under the age of 40 who are helping to determine the future of the horticulture industry. These individuals are today’s movers and shakers who are already setting the pace for tomorrow.
Kait Barry
Susan Judd
Alex Kantor
Liz Hughes
Andrew Konicki
Kit Leider Pierri
Lauren Kirchner
Michelle Opela
Judson LeCompte

GPN January 2022 cover
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