The cell phone has amassed colossal marketing power for retailers, brands, products, and services. And it could (should) be the key that unlocks a robust, effective way for the green industry to reach millions of consumers.
Some IGCs and big-box stores have been using texts to talk to consumers for a number of years. But growers should consider conducting their own text message marketing, or partnering with their retail and landscape contractor customers to bolster the captivating story of plants.
Texts are somewhat easy to deploy and they’re certainly easy for the consumer to read. More than 90 percent of people read a text message within the first three minutes of receiving it, according to Mobilesquared, a global mobile research firm based in the UK.
Text message marketing supports and enriches the standard (or not-so-standard) tag found on most plants in the retail setting. Horticultural Marketing & Printing in Dallas has launched Mobile Advantage, a service that allows both growers and retailers to connect with consumers via text messages and mobile sites to ultimately drive more sales.
“The consumer is changing and the industry is changing,” says Jack Davis, CEO of Horticultural Marketing & Printing. “The plant tag was the primary means of communicating with the consumer. But the weakness there is the tag can’t contain all the information the consumer needs to be successful.
“A lantana in Chicago is an annual, where in Dallas it could be a perennial, or in Miami it’s an evergreen shrub. The consumer may not know all of the cultural information. The tag has been a good tool, but with mobile technology, you have all the information you need at your fingertips.”
Davis’ company partnered with Blue Calypso Inc. to deploy the KIOSentrix technology which allows consumers to text short codes (which are located on a plant tag) to a number that is exclusive to the brand, grower, or retailer. The consumer receives a text that allows them to opt in to receive information on plants, for example. It also provides the consumer with a link to a page dedicated to extensive information on that plant – cultural information, planting tips, design ideas, companion plants, etc. Horticultural Marketing & Printing tested the technology this year with Lowe’s stores and Monrovia.
“This mobile technology helps growers develop partnerships with retailers that goes beyond just plants,” Davis says. “It helps the retailer drive overall sales. The success of the grower is dependent on the success of the retailer. And the success of the retailer is dependent on engaging the consumer and getting them to come back and buy more plants.”
In some circumstances, the “text for more information” option was supported by POP so consumers would better understand how to use it and how it could help them make better plant choices.
Retailers can also use this technology to promote tie-in products such as pots, fertilizers or watering wands.
“You can engage the customer, you can target market them, and that’s powerful if you do it the right way. It’s an excellent way to build brands,” Davis says.
In more than 1,100 Lowe’s stores, there were 57,882 mobile engagements from March 1 through May 31 from the short codes, most of which were out of store, creating an opportunity to drive future store visits, Davis says.
This technology obliterates the old QR codes, says Andrew Levi, CEO of Blue Calypso.
“QR code deployment was poor, usage was poor. Only about 6 percent of mobile users had a QR reader on their phone, and they often failed to work in the retail setting,” says Levi. “We’re a data-driven society, we do more research and due diligence before we make a buying decision.”
Push the message
Monrovia rolled out short codes and texting on its tags for the first time this year in conjunction with its brand refresh, says Kristopher Lichthart, digital marketing manager at Monrovia.
The text codes, which took the place of QR codes, appear at the bottom of the tags, and push the consumer to a mobile site for expanded information on that particular plant.
“We’d been looking at ways to get more information about our plants to the consumer in ways they want to receive it – on their phones,” Lichthart says. “We saw this as a way to help consumers be more successful with our plants – giving them a recipe for success when they get home. We wanted to be positioned as a resource for gardening information.”
The mobile site houses more than 4,000 plants from Monrovia’s catalog. From there, consumers can sign up for quarterly gardening updates. Monrovia used POP at SummerWinds and McDonald garden centers to support the texting campaign. Monrovia also worked with the two IGCs to cross promote items on the mobile site.
Lichthart says the rollout was successful, and for next year’s tags Monrovia plans to increase the font size of the text codes, as well as other tag upgrades such as changing the shape, making them easier to read and using more color.
Mobile gardening coach
To help consumers feel more comfortable with plant purchases and post-purchase care, Bailey Nurseries tested a text message program for its Endless Summer hydrangea collection this year.
Endless Summer consumers who opt in will receive reminders that are tailored to different regions so they’re getting proper and timely tips. The tips primarily focus on the four most common hydrangea issues – understanding wilting; pruning; fertilizer; and winter prep, says Ryan McEnaney, communications specialist at Bailey Nurseries.
“Educating consumers on how to get the most out of their plants is one of the most important things that we can do as a brand. With constantly evolving technology, reaching and engaging the consumer becomes more and more challenging, but a text program allows us to deliver a quick and targeted message without being obtrusive,” he says.
Beginning in 2017, all new Endless Summer tags will have information about the text program. Bailey Nurseries is offering POP that highlights the brand’s Life in Full Bloom campaign, as well as the text program.
“Retailers have been really excited about the program. We’ve heard that it’s a great resource and talking point not only for their customers, but also can be used for training their employees,” McEnaney says. “If everyone is getting the same, timely information, it makes it easier for their staff to answer questions on the sales floor or phone. Consumers have been grateful for the information, and it’s led to even deeper conversations on the phone and social media.”