Customer experience is taking garden centres to a new level

Customer experience. It’s a trend that, certainly within the retail sector, has been on a steep rise for years. According to the prestigious American magazine Forbes, in 2020, customer experience was cited as the main reason for choosing to shop at a particular store. Does this also apply to garden centres? If so, what is the best way for garden centres to engage with their customers?  How can we give them an experience that they won't find online? What does the ultimate customer experience look like in a garden centre? We spoke to Ben Boon, sales expert at Thermoflor. 

Hi Ben, customer experience in a garden centre, how does it work?

When people come to a garden centre, they come to relax.  It’s a completely different experience to shopping at a supermarket or going to a DIY store. When customers do that, they know exactly what they want – they bring along a shopping list and don’t waste time browsing. Garden centres are completely different. People come to a garden centre because they want to leave their hectic life behind. They come for tips and inspiration. Our aim is always to put a smile on our customers’ faces.

So it’s important to create the right ambience in a garden centre?

Exactly. A garden centre is the perfect example of an experience store. It’s all about emotion. Often, these are products you don't really need, but which increase your sense of wellbeing at home. You are buying ‘comfort and style’ and as a store, this is what you have to reflect.

What can garden centres do to improve customer experience?

There are several things they can do. The well-known example is of course to inspire your customers. This can be done by staging/combining products in a specific, attractive setting. You can also play on trends and provide information. For example, information on how customers can do their bit to fight climate change and make their gardens more sustainable.

Somewhere nice to eat is also a firm favourite: a welcoming restaurant or coffee shop offering a good selection of food and drinks is certainly a must in any garden centre that focuses on customer experience. We are also seeing a rising trend in children’s play areas. Mum and dad can enjoy a coffee and a piece of cake while the kids are having a great time in the ball park.

Sounds great, but does it translate into sales for the garden centre?

Firstly, customers will leave feeling very positive and you can’t put a price on that. Secondly, there’s also a positive effect on employees who benefit from working in a stylish, attractive environment. And most importantly: the figures don't lie. The better the customer experience, the more customers spend. This also results in more return visits and an even greater effect due to word-of-mouth recommendations. In other words, better sales both short- and long-term.

How do you see this trend evolving?

Garden centres emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. At the start, these were mainly growers who sold plants. So not much of a customer experience. Since the 1990s, there has been an increase focus on the look and layout of retail space and the shopping experience in itself.  The longer a customer stays in a store, the more they will spend. Of course, there are limits, which are highly practical, i.e. costs compared to benefits. In other words, there is literally a limit to the size of your ball park.

How does Thermoflor distinguish itself in terms of customer experience?

At Thermoflor, we work proactively by taking into account customer routing, store layout and location of the different departments. We also consider the technical aspects of customer experience: where to put transparent/non transparent roofs, which types of glass, which doors, the best methods of saving energy, etc. At Thermoflor, customer experience starts from the bottom all the way to the top.

A smart store design, requires various areas of expertise. At Thermoflor we make sure we work with the right partners. Synergy among partners, that’s our motto. Intratuin Deventer is a good illustration of this. Intratuin has been the market leader for years and is a pioneer in customer experience in garden centres in Europe.


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