Who's your customer?

Features - Management

Looking for some insight as to who is buying your products? Here's some data collected by Ball Horticultural Co. about who's buying and why they're buying.

January 21, 2011

In today’s ever-changing market, you not only need to be a quality grower, you also need to be a knowledgeable, aggressive, competitive salesperson. Producing the right varieties in the right quantities are issues that growers deal with every year. Wouldn’t it be great if you could sell out of all your crops this year? That would be a year for the books. Some of the answers to varieties, colors and quantities of plants to grow are related to knowing who your customers are and how they react to current trends.

Consumers are bombarded all the time by television, radio, print and social media about trends and what’s hot. This occurs with every change of the season. Growers look at past sales figures and attempt to predict what is going to sell. Half of the planning process is knowing who is buying your product.


Ball Horticultural Co. collected data in 2008 about gardening consumers through survey groups, internet surveys and store observations. The company looked at the basic gardener in active, declining, lapsing (stop and start) and non-gardening consumers in various age ranges. The company found that with the exception of the 55+ years-old age group, the majority were active gardeners. In the 55+ age group the majority of people were still gardening actively but the lapsing category had substantially increased, probably due to physical limitations.

Ball Horticultural looked at the same age groups and asked people to classify themselves as a master gardener, gardening enthusiast, casual gardener or unenthusiastic gardener. The company found that gardening enthusiasm increases with age. Our industry is selling primarily to the enthusiastic and casual gardeners.

Consumers were asked if the time they spend gardening has increased or decreased and why this change has occurred. More than 70 percent said their time gardening has increased. This is a very positive sign. Those people who indicated the time they spent gardening has decreased included mostly lapsed and non-gardeners.

Potential customers
The lapsed and non-gardener groups are still potential customers. When people in these two groups were asked why they garden less or not at all, the main reasons were not enough time, physical limitations and lack of garden space were the top reasons. Gift promotions, special events and seasonal offerings are good ways to get these groups into garden centers.

Customers who are buying
When gardening consumers were asked what was the least important characteristic for a purchase decision they said full green leaves, cost and bloom size. Many growers think they have to offer the largest flowers and greenest plants for retail. What consumers really are looking for are full-looking plants that deliver seasonlong color with high bud counts.

Convenience and freshness are plant qualities that consumers have indicated are important, but the plants also need to look healthy in order to make the sale. Consumers were asked their reasons for where they purchase their plants. Time efficiencies along with other product availability was the number one reason consumers selected a retailer. The next most important reasons were healthy flowers and customer service.

Once it was determined where and why people were buying, they were asked what would cause them to leave a retailer and shop somewhere else for plants. The top reason was unhealthy plants.

Gardening for function, fun
With the current popularity of home vegetable gardening and renewed interest in DIY projects, our industry has the perfect opportunity to increase sales. Gardening for function will hopefully transition to gardening for fun. In the past, gardening was a hobby, a point of neighborhood pride and something shared from generation to generation.

Today hobby gardening has become a low priority, neighborhood pride morphed to curb appeal and traditions have become a solo event. Gardening has become a function of the outdoor living trend. Garden retailers have to create a shopping experience that stimulates ideas for their customers and bring back the fun.

The major reason that unenthused gardeners garden is because it improves home value. None of the master gardeners feel that gardening is a function that improves home value. This diverse thinking shows how creative our industry has to be in order to appeal to the various gardening consumer groups.

With the recent increased sales in the real-estate market opens an increased opportunity for sales. Sellers need their homes to be appealing and over 50 percent of the people surveyed feel that new home owners have an obligation to decorate the outside of their homes. Plant retailers need to have decorative pots and containers available throughout the year and for the different seasons to take advantage of this demand.


The average gardening customer
Based on the data collected the average customer is an active gardener who is casual to enthusiastic about gardening. This customer is age 35 to 55 years old and has a limited amount of time to garden. This customer is looking for convenience and freshness in her shopping experience and wants healthy plants that will last throughout the season.

Based on this information, growers and retailers need to be very conscious of product quality and the shopping environment. Seasonal changes stimulate gardening customer sales and growers and retailers should to be ready to meet these changes. Look, listen and follow the trends your customers are reacting to.

Jerry Gorchels is technical product representative, Ball Horticultural Co., (630) 588-3179; jgorchels@ballhort.com.

Types of shoppers

Several years ago, during the California spring trials PanAmerican Seed Co. offered a presentation on “Knowing Your Customer”. The information presented was based on data collected from a 2004 survey called Frank about Women in which five main types of shoppers were identified. Although the economy and people’s priorities have changed in the last few years, customer personalities have not. Even though the survey focused on women, the types of shoppers is really gender neutral.

Feel Good Shopper: These are consumers who shop to feel good about themselves. Shopping is their “pick me up.”

Butterfly Shopper: These consumers shop with friends, go from shop to shop looking to make sure they don’t miss anything and are exposed to the greatest amount of trend influence.

Zealot Shopper: These are shoppers who wake up and create their shopping lists over their morning coffee. “I shop therefore I am.”

Mission Shopper: These are consumers who enter a store with a list or specific items in mind. In a garden center, this type of shopper can account for 15 to 40 percent of the store’s customers.

Anti-shopper: These are customers who enter a garden center and find the products they’re looking for. They then go to the register, make their purchases and then they’re gone from the store. They’re purely functional shoppers.

For more:   PanAmerican Seed, (630) 231-1400; www.panamseed.com.