The introduction of mass merchants and big-box stores has increased competition in the green industry and could negatively impact the economic viability of garden centers. In order to compete against such retail giants, small, family-owned garden centers focus on offering exceptional customer service and developing meaningful relationships, which are keenly desired by customers. New media marketing campaigns are relatively low cost and if used correctly could positively impact the reputation, image, and profits of garden centers. Social media is used by over 75% of adults (Duggan & Brenner, 2013) and excels at fostering consumer engagement, interaction, and even relationships. Garden centers that are not using social media as part of their marketing strategy could be putting their business at a disadvantage. Additionally, social media can be used to foster relationships between businesses and consumers, resulting in positive returns on investment. This qualitative study used in-depth interviews with employees and customers of four garden centers in the Great Plains region of the United States.
1) What are stakeholder perceptions and attitudes towards new media marketing?
2) What barriers do employees and owners encounter when using new media to market their business?
3) What new media strategies are being implemented in the marketing of metro and non-metro garden centers?
4) What are stakeholder perceptions regarding customer interaction of new media marketing content?
Results of this study indicate that garden center operators continue to prefer traditional marketing channels, which include radio, television, and newspapers. They are skeptical regarding the ability of social media to generate a positive return on investment. Garden center employees identified that the primary barriers to new media marketing are with the time requirements associated with answering customer questions. Stakeholders are consciously using relationship management techniques (to various degrees), however the lack of measurement and strategy is hindering the profitability of those developed relationships. Although garden center operators don’t believe that their businesses should be using social media to advertise their products, customers indicated that they did want to see some targeted and relevant advertising in addition to educational content.
This study recommends that garden centers integrate a five-tier approach to developing relationship marketing strategies which includes creating measurable objectives, identifying user habits, identifying meaningful content, measuring the relationship, modifying the process and repeating.
Presented at the 2015 American Society of Horticultural Scientists in New Orleans, LA.