pohmer on marketing: Communicating an Integrated Message

February 9, 2001 - 01:00

Last month we discussed the importance of in-store message communicators such as POP materials, signage, etc., in influencing consumer purchasing behaviors by providing education and enjoyment. Selling the "experience" of buying — focusing on the emotions of buyers and the enjoyment our products will bring them — will allow you to compete more effectively for your fair share of the consumer packaged goods category dollars your customers are spending.

Like you, I’ve read that retailers should be spending a minimum of three to five percent of their sales dollars on advertising to entice consumers into the store. Note that the purpose of advertising is to entice, to provide a reason — be it price, uniqueness of an item or a seasonally appropriate message — to get potential buyers to physically visit your store. But, advertising itself doesn’t sell them anything. The actual purchasing decision is not made until they enter your front door and walk through your store.

Advertising alone doesn’t work

If you don’t spend at least as much (or hopefully more) attention to influencing shoppers’ purchasing decisions once they arrive in your store, then you’re wasting the dollars you’ve spent on advertising. Further, it’s been shown that only a small percentage of a retailer’s customers are drawn in through advertising. The vast majority are drawn in by past enjoyable buying experiences, impulse ("just driving by") or other reasons. The better job you do of providing compelling reasons for consumers to purchase once they’re in your store, the higher the likelihood you can convert those shoppers into buyers. That is where you need to place more emphasis in order to increase sales volume, in addition to making the consumer feel more successful and more satisfied so they become repeat purchasers.

Consumer studies show that the public truly likes the greenhouse industry’s products. However, many times potential buyers are not provided enough information to build the confidence necessary for success with their greenhouse puchases or provided enough reasons to buy your products in the first place.

Before we discuss what specific elements of an integrated in-store message are needed to influence the typical horticulture buyer’s purchasing behavior, I’d like to issue a challenge to you. Take some time to visit retailers in your local markets; not only other garden centers, but supermarkets, discounters, home improvement retailers and specialty stores — including some located in shopping centers and malls such as Pottery Barn, Bed Bath and Beyond, Crate and Barrel, Pier 1 Imports and Sharper Image. Though these retailers don’t necessarily carry the same products you do, they are direct competition for your customers’ dollars, and many of them provide exceptional in-store product support. After going to these stores, walk through your own store looking at your product support as a consumer would (not as the store owner) and determine if you really do compete effectively with these other retailers.

Education and information

Studies have shown that greenhouse product consumers are starved for information on two levels: 1) Information necessary to make a good purchasing decision in the store, one that will provide the solution to their need or intended use, and 2) information that will make them successful with their purchase once they get it home. Walking through your store, they may see an interesting plant or be intrigued by the flowers on a shrub, but they probably have no idea what the application could be in their own home. Clear, concise and specific information becomes a necessity in that case, not an option. Terms like "moderately moist" or "partial shade" or "medium temperature" that are seen on much of the signage and labels today have no real meaning or use to the consumer if you haven’t provided a definition of exactly what those terms mean in layman’s language. And, if they are confused, chances are they won’t experience success with their purchase.

Many of the products we offer are new hybrids or enhancements of existing products. It’s important that you communicate not only the features of these products, but also what the real and perceived benefits of these features are for the consumer in terms that they can understand and that are meaningful to them.

Granted, there isn’t enough room on a 7 x 11 sign for all of this information, but think of the possibilities of an integrated approach by 1) actually utilizing the space available on that 7 x 11 sign, 2) putting up a category wall poster or hanging sign to facilitate purchase decision-making and 3) offering a variety-specific full color stick stake or hang tag and a product-specific care sheet to accompany the purchase to its new home. Each informational element unto itself only provides some of the required information; combined, they provide the consumer with everything they need for product success and enjoyment.

Another good marketing idea is to print a Web site address on all point of sale (POS) information, labels and tags that will allow the consumer to access more detailed information on the products they purchase. The Web site address can be the retailer’s, with a plant or chemical glossary on your site, or a link to the supplier’s Web site where information is available. Or, you can print the grower’s or manufacturer’s Web site on the POS information. The key point is to let your customers know that additional information is available to them, more than what is provided at point of purchase.

A successful integrated approach must be undertaken by all parties involved in your product’s sale — the retailer, the supplier and the printing company — keeping a clear focus on the consumer’s needs.

Many of your consumers are "occasional gardeners" and are purchasing many of your products for the first time. As a result, many of them are not familiar with all of the accessories or items that may be required to allow them to complete the planting or that will help ensure success. For instance, you can sell an orchid to a customer and hope they’re successful with their purchase. Or, you can develop a sign and a display that sells not only the orchid plant, but plant food, a container, orchid mix/moss and a book on orchids — all merchandised together. This integrated approach not only helps build the consumer’s confidence and offers them a higher chance of success (the primary goal), but also increases your transaction dollar value and profit potential.

Next month we’ll review the other key components of an integrated consumer message approach: Entertainment, the experience, emotion and enjoyment.

About The Author

Stan Pohmer is president of Pohmer Consulting Group, Minnetonka, Minn

Hal Gillette
Hal Gillette
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Stan Pohmer is president of Pohmer Consulting Group,
Minnetonka, Minn. He can be reached at (952) 545-7943 or via e-mail at spohmer@pohmer-consulting.com

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