You’re not just a Garden Center, Not Anymore; Part 2

Posted on Posted in Informational

Last week we took an in-depth look at how a customer’s interaction with a different company can change their expectations of how they interact with your company.  Today we will be doing more of that with a hyper-focus on emerging technologies that you should be aware of. 

I’m not sure if you caught the latest segment of “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday or not, but they had an interesting piece on AI.  If you didn’t, you should. 

This is the technology that’s on the horizon, so where does your business fall on the spectrum of the technologically enabled?

 “75% of customers expect companies to use new technologies to create better experiences.” according to salesforce.com.  I beg you not to just read that last quote one time.  Go back and say it out loud.  That means that 3 out of 4 of YOUR customers EXPECT you to adopt new technologies to make their shopping experiences more enjoyable.  Now that it may have sunk in a little bit, ask yourself, what was the last technology that I adopted to make my customers happier?  Below I made a quick list of technologies that are available today that can help you do just that. 

Older technology that can still help today.

  • Self-Check Out
    • Kiosks that allow shoppers to check themselves out rather than waiting in line.
  • Buy Online Pick Up in Store (BOPUS)
    • Not always the best fit for garden centers but message me and I can help you get there. 
  • Emailing Receipts
    • This is a no brainer for the green industry
  • Loyalty Programs
    • Older technologies but are your loyalty programs moving the needle in the right direction. 
  • Customer feedback
    • Easy to implement, easy to maintain, catastrophic if left unmanaged.
  • Omni- Commerce
    • The real-time synergy of In-Store, Online, and Mobile Applications to create a unified shopping experience.
  • Mobile POS
    • Gives you the ability to sell in the yard to reduce the customers time in the store

“62% of customers are open to the use of AI to improve their experiences — up from 59% in 2018.”

State of the Connected Customer, Third Edition  |Salesforce Research 

The rising popularity of voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant is a prime example of how AI is becoming a part of everyday life. The role of voice assistants in the workplace, in particular, is growing: 63% expect them to play as big a role in their lives as smartphones, for example.

How can you drive effective customer engagement?

Given all these developments, how can companies improve their customer engagement? The research shows that success lies in delivering experiences that are personalized, real-time, and connected. All three are vital to any effective customer engagement strategy.

Instead of supersizing it just personalize It.

Most customers (73%) now expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. Personalization — already recognized by marketers as having a big impact across the customer journey — is a given. Customers want a tailored experience as they progress from first hearing that a company exists all the way through to deciding to buy from them. For example, from seeing your ad on the side of a bus all the way through to clicking ‘buy’ on your eCommerce site. They also want these tailored experiences coupled with concierge-like engagement from customer service.

The bar is rising fast in terms of what constitutes a “personalized” experience. A jaw-dropping 62% of customers now expect companies to adapt based on their actions and behaviors — almost in the manner of a great coworker who brings your favorite coffee when they know you’ve been having a tough week. A company, for example, may move you over to an onboarding campaign once you’ve become a B2B customer, or simply be informed enough to stop showing you ads for an item you’ve already purchased.

These kinds of expectations hold true across all generations, but are especially relevant for millennials, Gen Z ers, and Gen X ers. Yet only 47% of customers say companies are living up to these expectations, signaling ample room to improve.

Join me next week and we can talk about the last 3 ways you can more effectively use technology to drive customer engagement. 


Mark Nelms is a Business Development Manager for Soft Intelligence.  He has conducted over 400 interviews with retailers from almost every vertical and size.  In prior roles, he’s assisted clients like Cumberland Packaging Corporation (Sweet N’ Low), The New England Patriots, and NCR (National Cash Register.)