It’s no secret that amidst this global pandemic, how we, as a society, do things have radically changed. Every single facet of life has been mangled, jangled, and spun around, leaving many business owners struggling to keep sanity and their stores open. From blanket “non-essential” store closures to social-distancing mandates, shopping has become less of a pleasurable experience, not just for the customer but also for shopkeepers. With the risk of massive fines and penalties to the loss of business to online retailers, the crisis has put retailers through the wringer. With no end in sight, the only way to stay afloat in these tumultuous societal seas is to be ahead of the game and implement a bulletproof garden center digital marketing strategy.
Just having an online presence during the crisis is simply not going to set you apart from the rest of your competition during this crisis or any other upcoming curveballs the world throws at you. In a way, your digital media campaign is present in your store to the world, when in some cases, there is no other way to get physical feet on your footpaths.
Your potential customers, in many cases, have spent countless days in their homes, staring at their yards and living rooms, looking for a way to improve the life around them. After peering out their window for a few minutes every day, eventually, your potential money-spenders will turn to the internet for inspiration and guidance. Are they going to find you, or a limitless span of links and redirects to stores hundreds of miles away or even online-only retailers? Are you going to show up at the top of the search bar when that young couple in the new subdivision in town decides that they want to plant a “COVID Garden”?
You may think your garden center has plenty of digital media, but it is enough to withstand another crisis? Check out this checklist of five weak spots almost every garden center has in their digital media campaign and then take a long look at your strategy? Are you coming up as the weakest link? Grab a pen and paper; you may want to take notes!
Is your website optimized?
Even if you’re ahead of the game and have a website for your garden center, is it doing you anything more than supplying curious people with your hours of operation? Your logo and some beautiful pictures of your merchandise will surely enchant people into wanting to spend some money with you. Beyond the front page, you need to assure yourself that you’ve got plenty of quality content to back it up. In-depth articles offering support, ideas, and care tips create an online experience as if customers are physically in your store and not starting at a screen.
Speaking of screens, are you positively sure that your website is navigatable on all screen sizes and operating systems? Since many people have been housebound, desktop time can be significantly reduced because of online schooling, sharing the computer as a work station, and gaming to pass the time. That family computer is working overtime, leaving potential customers looking for you via tablet and smartphone. If your page is not optimized for mobile devices, your website could potentially aggravate more than help. Have you ever tried to navigate a restaurant website on your smartphone trying to find a menu and end up going somewhere else because the pinch and zoom were just too frustrating? Your garden center website is no different. Nobody wants to have to zoom in to see your hours or specials!
Are you there for your customers?
Take notes from successful online-only business retailers; be there to chat with your customers if they need help. Stores have integrated an instant messaging icon that appears on every page of their website. This icon ensures the customer that they can shop with confidence and that, as a store, they’re there to help with every step of the shopping journey. Nothing is worse than online shopping and having questions but having to hunt for an email address, compose an email, and then wait (sometimes for days) for a response. You have a fully baited hook with online shopping and browsing, but the messenger is the yank that lands the sale.
Having an employee on call to answer instant messenger message doesn’t have to be a full-time office position and can be done from virtually anywhere. With apps some available apps, you can be out exercising your dog in the local bark park and answering questions about arborvitae at the same time. For less-involved inquiries, you can have an automated response bot that answers them for you but with your personal touch and personality.
Do you have click-to-call?
Human interaction is increasingly important in these, sometimes solitary, times. Being able to reach out to a real human over the phone is one of the most crucial parts of developing a solid relationship with your customer. You want anyone looking for you to be able to find you at the top of the search bar and able to get in touch with you without any hassle of searching for a number. In a study conducted by Google, 57% of customers prefer to call a business to get answers as opposed to other methods of communication. If you’re to pair that 57% and make up for the rest of the population with your instant messenger icon, you’ll miss out on very few inquiries.
The click-to-call button is increasingly crucial during the COVID-19 crisis because many spenders place orders over the phone instead of in person. Every time that phone rings, you should see dollar signs and a strategically placed call to action button can make that phone ring off the hook. It’s up to you to make sure there is a person physically there answering those questions and hopefully selling those products that have been longing to go home with someone and put cash in your till.
Is Your Social Media Streamlined With Social Distancing?
It’s quite difficult to explain an autumn fern’s foliage’s delicate nature in fall over the phone! Although you want that phone to ring, many things can get lost in translation when carrying on a conversation about plants. As a garden center, you pride yourself in catering to all five senses, but unfortunately, with reduced capacity and social distancing, this makes showcasing them all almost impossible. You can’t smell a rose through a computer screen; you can, however, have an employee demonstrate sniffing the rose in a quick Facebook post. You may not be able to have people relaxing to the sound and serenity of your fountains, but you can have a daily meditation video of one of your fountains running.
Since stay-at-home orders are in place (or slowly being lifted), your customers are turning to Facebook to waste time. Much of this increase is from the public looking towards social media for information and the latest reports on the crisis; however, there is only so much news one can consume. A strategically placed social media ad of your favorite soothing fountain can offer the public a welcome respite from the doom and gloom that has become social media. Suppose your garden center social media strategy includes happy flowers, soothing meditations from your fountains, and potentially cheerful content. In that case, your brand will become a pleasant oasis during the hours of social media scrolling society has become normalized to.
Are Your Emails Blasting?
An excellent way to tap your potential customers’ shoulder and encourage them to shop with you is to send heartfelt, non-commercial email blasts. A quick and straightforward email outlining your safety and sanitation protocol can offer your customers a peek into your store without ever leaving home. Instead of surprising them with mandates when they arrive, inform them via email personally that you care about their safety but still want to see them. Using your email list to assure potential spenders that you’re going to survive the crisis but not without their help, is a great way to garner interest. These emails can be weekly and include a brief overview of any changes (if any).
Are these key elements missing in your strategy?
It’s okay, we can help! Contact us today to COVID-19 digital media strategy for your garden center and set you in a position to win, no matter the crisis!
Nikki Weed has been in and around garden centers for more than half of her life. Starting at an incredibly young age, she realized she was drawn to horticulture and even more towards the business aspect of it. Her accolades include writing for Garden Center Magazine, being a keynote speaker for countless garden shows, and 20 years of footwork in garden centers. She spends her time growing tomatoes in the desert, unsuccessfully, and hiking the mountains of Arizona.