MSU’s Behe Provides Marketing and Retail Strategies to Help Sell During the Coronavirus Pandemic
On April 2, Michigan State University professor Bridget Behe shared marketing and retailing strategies for garden center retailers in a recent webinar.
During the webinar, “Garden Retail Strategies to Sell in the Current Environment,” Behe said that demand is currently very high for plants and related materials; the challenge garden centers are facing is how to get product to customers — or how to retain and reassure customers in states where IGCs have been forced to close, including her home state of Michigan.
For retailers who cannot sell plants (even remotely), she suggests that they:
- Do what’s legal — remain closed, but remain in close contact with your network, including customers and trade associations.
- Do what’s ethical — implement social distancing rules, use “no-touch” sales methods like online payments, etc.
- Do what is positive and helpful — tailor your messaging (both online and in-store) with positivity. For closed stores, work toward changes that will be necessary during the pandemic of COVID-19, as these changes will likely be a part of “the new normal” in the future.
Behe reported that customer demand is high for basics including topsoil, mulch and vegetable plants and seeds. She suggested setting up a “take-out menu” of goods that could be included in an enewsletter or shared on social media.
Items on the menu should include bundles, such as a pizza-themed bundle with Italian herb plants, or a color-themed bundle with flowers in the same color.
Then, customers would place and pay for an order online or over the phone, and the garden center could either deliver the items or the customer could pick it up via a “contact-less” visit — the garden center would place the order in a cart left in a designated parking spot and the customer would pick it up, or the garden center could operate a sort of drive-thru, in which the driver stay in the car and pop the trunk of their car and staff would load the items in the trunk.
During this pandemic, Behe emphasized that it is crucial for garden centers to stay in touch with their customer base. Even if you’re closed, continue to post messages on social media, send out enewsletters and update your website. “It’s literally your lifeline to your customers,” she said. She called upon IGCs to share positive messaging about gardening and its benefits to their followers and customers.
Also as part of IGCs’ messaging, she not only encouraged stores that have been closed to contact their governors to deem the stores an essential business that should remain open, but also pointed out that IGCs should encourage their customers to do the same.