What A Garden Center Learned In Two Weekends Of Watching
Today’s Garden Center's 10% Project helped Lakeview Nurseries' owners see they know a lot less about their customers than they thought.
June 19, 2012
Over two weekends in April, ladies from the local garden club followed 40 Lakeview Nursery customers and noted their every move as they shopped.
The ladies took detailed notes. They jotted down basic information, including how long each person was in the store, their gender and approximate age.
They also recorded the customers’ behavior — if they used a cart; which route they took through the garden center; if they spoke to the staff and what they purchased. And they made comments about anything distinctive. For instance, a 40-something couple read a lot of tags and signs. One woman in her 30s who had a child with her bought items from almost every department and received help from staff in the plant department.
All this data proved to be a treasure trove for Harvey and Bursch.
Surprise! Your Main Customer Is A 30-Something Couple With Kids!
Before the research began, Harvey guessed that her most important customer group were women in their 50s and 60s.
It was quickly evident why she thought that. More than 81 percent of that age group talk to garden center employees and all of those who spent more than 40 minutes in the store fell into that age bracket.
But the younger crowd not only was more likely to make purchases, their purchases were more likely to be large ones.
Here are more details Lakeview learned about their 20- to 40-year-old customers:
- It’s the group most likely to add impulse buys at check out. Four out of the six impulse purchases during the study were made by this group.
- 13 out of 16 customers (or 81 percent) in this group made purchases, the highest percentage of any age group.
- It's the second most likely group to talk to staff, after the 60 to 80 year olds.
- Average time in store: 19.5 minutes.
Harvey says that, considering how many children go through her store, she may need to add some children-related impulse items to her check-out display.
The Immediate Changes That Had To Be Made
When Harvey and Bursch had a chance to review the results of the observational study, they spotted a number of problems that needed immediate attention:
Foot Traffic Needed To Be Redirected. Lakeview Nurseries created a wide racetrack to help drive traffic to all parts of the store. The observational study showed that customers were leaving the racetrack well before they reached all departments. The staff created a new display at a place where a wide opening lured many customers away from the racetrack. The display visually blocked that common exit point and more customers remained on the racetrack.
Add-on Sales For Shrubs Were Not Happening. Customer success with shrubs and trees are a high priority for Lakeview Nurseries, so persuading customers to buy soil amendments at the same time is part of employee training.
The study showed the add-on sales were happening only half the time.
Harvey called an emergency staff meeting to address the problem.
“We did something unusual at that meeting — because my regular teaching method didn’t seem to be working. We used role playing as a way to teach the new staff how to overcome resistance to our suggestions of soil amendments. We hadn’t done that in years and it must have done the trick because soil amendments are up 10 percent YTD.”
More Effective Than Mystery Shoppers?
Because of the immediate payoff she saw from the garden club ladies' observation, Harvey plans to replace the mystery shopping program she uses with more observational studies.
"This observation process has turned into a really great way for us to get some perspective on what’s working and what isn’t." Harvey says. "It was so easy to do — just ask someone who isn’t related and doesn’t work for you to watch customers move around the store and note where they go and what they do."