From the Editor: December 2012

November 21, 2012
Written by
If you’re not on Facebook or Tweeting, you’re not connecting with the newest generation of consumers.

The Millennials (or Generation Y or Echo Boomers) are proving a challenge to marketers, if only because they’re changing the way the retail game is played. Technology is the reason why – Millennials are constantly connected to the Internet and social media.

Joe Lamp’l, a.k.a. “Joe Gardener,” is one of the most recognizable faces in consumer horticulture, with shows on the DIY Network (“Fresh from the Garden”) and PBS (“GardenSMART” and “Growing a Greener World”), and as a regular commentator on NBC’s “Today Show” and ABC’s “Good Morning America,” to name a few.

He was a keynote speaker at this year’s Ohio Short Course, tackling the topic, “Can You Hear Me Now? Voices from Beyond the Greenhouse.”

Millennials are ages 17 to 34, highly educated and community oriented. And while they’re generally “strapped with student debt,” they are spending on plants, notes Lamp’l, primarily on containers for smaller spaces, i.e., balconies, and in growing their own food. “The good news is they’re receptive to our industry and our products.”

Millennials sure do their homework. They don’t so much buy something as they “research” it. To reach them, you’ve got to be involved with social media of all kinds. They’ll most often visit your website before they visit your store.

Lamp’l suggests growers provide “real-time” crop images on their social media accounts, along with plant availability updates and specials. Breeders must have new compact varieties in the market, given the smaller living spaces Millenials call home.

Retailers should invest in QR product codes to better utilize their websites. Millennials are big on “mobile technology,” as information is increasingly being accessed via cellphones.

The biggest selling point in reaching them is that they are very self-expressive. (One in three has tattoos, and one in four has piercings.) “There’s no better place for self-expression than gardening,” said Lamp’l. “Give them choices for personalization.” Provide added-value opportunities.

And it’s not all about low-maintenance plants. “It’s not so much a fast food lifestyle for them, but more a bistro experience.” For retailers, this means having display gardens to inspire them. “Sell the sizzle of the salsa, not just the tomato.”

Lamp’l points to the popularity of food shows that have made “rock stars” out of chefs. There’s no reason gardening can’t be just as popular. “Plants and gardening are just as sexy. We need to tell our story in the media, just like the food industry has.”

So what’s the bottom line? It’s a very connected generation, and growers and retailers have to reach out to them in non-traditional ways. Print and radio advertising won’t have as strong an effect as a good Facebook campaign.

The more information, the better, but it must be readily available and it has to be current.          

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