Business Issues: Marketing to Millennials

Social Media Will Be Your Biggest Influencer in Attracting Younger Customers
August 31, 2017
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Customers need to be so impressed that they’re motivated to remark or talk about your service.
Customers need to be so impressed that they’re motivated to remark or talk about your service. Photo: Getty Images
September 2017 – Millennials are changing the way plants are sold, and the more you understand those changes the more plants you’ll sell.

Will Heeman, the “chief daymaker” (head of brand, customer experience and marketing, etc.) at Heeman Greenhouses and Strawberry Farm near London, Ont., is an award-winning garden centre manager. He discussed “Marketing to Millennials” at this year’s Greenhouse Canada Grower Day.

Millennials love plants, and that’s very good news for retailers.

“Millennials feel that you are cool and that gardening is hip,” Heeman said. “Gardening is in, it’s trendy and it’s fashionable. Our products are so desirable.”

Himself a millennial – “I am under 30…barely,” he quipped – Heeman noted this age group wants to make the world a better place. Some 29 per cent of millennials feel gardening is among the ways they can do just that.


Millennials like activities that involve the whole family. Garden centres should have children’s programs and displays. Once youngsters are involved, so too are their parents.

So who is this target market? Millennials are those born after 1980, with a current age range of 17 to 37. They’re the most educated group in history, and they’re a larger group than baby boomers.

As employees, they need reassurance their job is important. And they don’t want just to do a job, they want to know why they’re doing it – taking a few minutes to explain this will go a long way to further motivating them.

As for customers, retailers have to be prepared because millennials have completely researched their garden centre and their products. They’ve thoroughly checked stores and brands online, so websites and social media accounts must be current, interactive and informative.

“I don’t want to give the impression that millennials are demanding or difficult,” Heeman noted, “but they like convenience and they want retailers to simplify their lives.”

Because of this, Heeman’s has been taking pre-orders online for sometime. For example, this year they pre-sold 300 Canadian Shield Roses.


Millennials are passionate about locally grown food, and are particularly keen on growing their own food.

Gardening can seem intimidating, such as the use of Latin in plant descriptions. “If you’re able to demystify gardening in any way, that will help take away the stigma of gardening as being seen as old and boring and disconnected.”

Improved signage is key. While some millennials will ask a lot of questions and keep staff on their toes, others will expect signage to tell them everything they need to know.

Create displays that show how the products can be used. Don’t just say what the plant is, but explain why customers should want it. “If you can convince them it’s important to add it to their garden, they will buy it from you, and it doesn’t matter how much it costs.”

Offer workshops, classes or online videos to give millennials the tools they need to be successful with plants. “You’re the local expert and they want you to be their plant guy.”

Some retailers offer personal shopper services, and millennials are taking them up on the offer. “If you make shopping simpler, it makes it easier for them to spend money with you.”

Will Heeman will be speaking about social media at next month’s Canadian Greenhouse Conference (Oct. 4-5) at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls. See the CGC preview section in this issue for more information, or visit

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