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Where do consumers go for trust?


March 18, 2009
By By John Stanley

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trustMarch 18, 2009 – Consumers are looking for information on environmentally friendly gardening and believe retailers are the source. This must be a golden opportunity for the garden retail market. Unfortunately, only 22 per cent of consumers trust salespeople and trust is a big area that retailers will need to work on to capture these sales.

According to the Environmental Lawn and Garden Survey carried out in the USA in November 2008 for the National Garden Writers Association, 89 per cent of US householders believe it is important that they garden in an environmentally friendly way, but only 3 per cent believe they have the knowledge to do it.

This must be a golden opportunity for the garden retail market. Especially in these tough times, when consumers are cocooning at home and looking to their garden as a place of retreat from the woes of the world.

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Consumers should be rushing to garden centres to talk to the garden experts to get advice and then purchasing the relevant products in full confidence that they have been talking to the experts in the subject.

If only that were the case.

In the same week that I read the above report, another report came out of the USA that stated:

78 per cent of consumers trust their own research
74 per cent of consumers trust their friends
59 per cent of consumers trust independent consumer group reports
40 per cent of consumers trust online news
33 per cent of consumers trust newspapers
22 per cent of consumers trust salespeople

What is lacking is trust strategies across the whole of business. As a result, consumers are at one of their lowest points in trusting salespeople. If we can build trust, we can grow sales. The consumer, I believe, actually wants to trust us, but has become very sceptical about people involved in sales in general.

As the world moves through these recessionary times, trust is becoming increasingly important. Companies that are not trusted will quickly fall by the wayside as customers shift their allegiances to those whom they do trust.

Now is the time to look at your trust strategies and develop new ideas to provide your business with a point of difference.

Leaflets are a key

How often have you been to a retailer who has explained to you how to do something? At the time you fully understood what was explained, but when you get home you forgot some of the key message?

Research carried out by Stand Point Marketing Research for the Independent Garden Center Show in August 2008 was based on how to get Generation Y and Generation X to spend more in garden centres. One of the findings was that “how-to” leaflets were exceptionally important to them. I realise this is not a new idea; “how-to” leaflets have been around for many years. But they key is, do your leaflets appeal to today’s target market and are you using them as a positive reinforcement tool when talking to your consumers?

Some companies are now developing “how-to” videos that they can place on YouTube and provide a password for their customers so they can view the information when they get home.

Tell them you are experts

People need to know that you are the experts at what you do; otherwise they will assume you are just sales people. If you have qualifications, display them in a prominent position. If some of your team are passionate about a specific area of the business, make them the hero of the area they are passionate about so that customers can relate to them. I work with one business where they use the word “hero” and it makes a big difference to customer faith and trust in your team member knowing the subject. If a customer comes up and asks, for example, about roses, the salesperson will say “Come and meet Mary, she is our rose hero, she loves roses!” This provides a real confidence boost for the consumer.

In previous articles, I have mentioned the team promoting their favourite plants. I recently saw this implemented brilliantly at Décor Gardenworld in New Zealand. Each team member had their favourite plant and it was promoted accordingly with the team members name on the point of sale sign. This provided credibility and encouraged trust in the eyes of the customer. It implied that those team members really did know their plants and were avid gardeners.

Create tangible value

We live in a period where price will not be the sole driver in the future. It has become a driver now as both consumers and retailers adjust to the new economy, but the 70% off sales campaign can only last so long. Then we will need to get back to providing real value. Many retailers have forgotten about the value offer and that provides an opportunity for proactive retailers to build value into their trust strategies.

Value is now about tangible things. It is providing realistic solutions, showing the customer ideas, guaranteeing not only the product, but the advice given as well. The value offer needs to be reassessed and should become a corner stone of your business.

The independent advantage

In my travels now, I see a major shift occurring in the market place. A few years ago, it was the national and global retailer that was trusted, now the independent local businesses have an opportunity to work on a more level playing field and gain momentum in the trust battle. Consumers today want to trust the local independent retailer. Consumers realise that like they themselves, local businesses are having it rough too. Consumers have become sceptical of large corporate businesses due to the bad press many large businesses have had over the past few months.

As a result, the local retailer now has an opportunity to develop a trust strategy and grow their business.

Garden centres, as a local retailer, can now benefit from the present economic climate. Once the initial shock of recession has passed, consumers will change their buying habits. As Faith Popcorn discussed in the early 90s in her book The Popcorn Report, consumers will spend more time at home and “small home luxury” industries will benefit. This includes the garden industry. We are already seeing signs of consumers rediscovering their garden and wanting to grow plants again.

Countries that have been in recession longer than others, such as New Zealand, are seeing their garden industry experience reasonable growth, especially in the Grow Your Own food and patio living categories.

Provide value and trust now, and while your business will still be on the economy roller coaster, it will have a definite positive point of difference compared with your competition.


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