|From left to right: Sid Raisch, Kristin VanHoose,|
Jonn Karsseboom and Nicholas Staddon.
Speaking about their online experiences were panelists Kristin VanHoose, owner of Hydrangeas Plus®; Jonn Karsseboom, "Rebel Leader" at The Garden Corner; and Nicholas Staddon, director of new plants and company spokesperson for Monrovia Nursery Company.
In attendance, based on a show of hands, were many retail garden center owners who have yet to launch a business website.
Raisch kicked off the discussion by stating that today's “ground zero” of customer relationships is online, citing research which has shown that more than 70 percent of transactions begin online. "Many customers are coming into retail settings with more information about the products sold than many retailers are knowledgeable of," Raisch said.
"The goal of our website is to drive customers into independent garden centers," Staddon said. Monrovia has only recently made a substantial push into social media outlets such as Instagram and Pinterest, and incentive-driven online marketing programs. "The biggest challenge of marketing online versus retail sales is making sure inventory matches what’s being promoted online," Staddon said.
VanHoose said that her business established its Internet presence early on in 2000/01. Today, they have more than 71,000 friends on Facebook and actively advertise on Google.
Asked what's the future of her online marketing strategy? VanHooose replied, "Expanding social media and refining the business's back-end shopping cart platform. "Most people are using three different software programs: one for inventory, another for processing credit card sales, and so on. Getting them to work together is the biggest problem. Off-the-shelf solutions are very inflexible.
Informative, short videos were cited by Raisch as a key component of keeping customers on your website, and Karsseboom is a big porponent of the practice, posting videos weekly to YouTube.
Explaining his online strategy, Karsseboom said, "A lot of people think having a website means selling to the world. But I see it more as, 'Is there something we can do for our existing customers to make them buy more?' My goal is to keep customers in their garden." He said his biggest challenge is keeping photos updated on the website so that they reflect what’s in inventory.