Customers come in all shapes and sizes. There are the "plantaholics" whose gardens probably resemble botanical sites. They already know what’s what, where to plant it, when to prune it and what colour it will flower. They probably offer to lecture at your gardening club and are always first to tell you when something is amiss.
But plantaholics are few and far between. More likely your customers will have an idea in mind but not be sure what will be best suited to achieve their aims and what the plant will expect in terms of aftercare. These customers need information and advice. Get that right, and they will be back for more.
Some customers will pop into a garden centre simply to visit the coffee shop. At the time, for them, the plant is a bit of an also-ran. Your challenge is to sell them a plant and give them everything required to look after it properly so they enjoy it and come back for another.
A well-designed, attractive and informative plant label is essential to all groups of customers. It may only provide confirmation for the plantaholic, but that is good — confirmation that they are right leaves them with a warm feeling inside. For those with some, limited, little or no knowledge of plants, the label can make or break a sale as well as subsequent customer satisfaction, influencing whether they will return for a repeat experience.
Over the years we have seen labels become bigger, packed with evermore information and latterly joining the age of technology through digital media. While stock labels have a major role for many lines, especially bedding plants, for others — and particularly high-value plants — the bespoke label gives growers and retailers a sales aid that can reflect their business as well as sell the plant. But you have to get the design right, choose the correct picture and use that photograph professionally.
"With bespoke labels, we’re seeing a renewed focus on image quality in terms of style and consistency of photography, and the size of the image in relation to the design. This seems to derive from a greater focus on brand, for both growers and retailers," says Floramedia UK managing director Nick Mathias.
"Four-colour printing on the front and reverse of the labels is also on the increase, with growers taking the opportunity to incorporate more imagery. Each customer develops their own look and feel and there is an increased request for this to be developed and rolled out across various elements of point of sale to give plants more coordinated impact at the point of purchase."
The four-colour label still has a lot of life left in it. Bamboo Print managing director Duncan McLintock says: "Two or three years ago, our industry was wondering whether it would start to be edged out of the way as more information and imagery became available via handheld devices and in-store screens. While there continue to be some very exciting developments in those areas, the colourful, waterproof plastic label certainly seems to be holding its own for the time being."
Growers and retailers looking for an answer to the challenge of keeping hanging labels smartly merchandised while ensuring label information is easily accessible can now find two solutions from Floramedia. It has created the Label Clip and Curved Information Stick to hold labels securely in place. Mathias explains: "Our retail customers told us they spend a lot of their time rearranging labels that have been moved by a gust of wind or putting back labels not replaced by customers.
"It is important for labels to face customers as they walk along lines of plants so that they can see what is what. The picture also needs to be clearly visible to catch their attention. The Label Clip and Curved Information Stick will hold each label firmly in place and save retailers time and resources on adjusting their plant labels on a daily basis."
The Label Clip will secure a label to Floramedia’s bamboo information stick. It is easy to fix the clip, which grips the stick. This solution is particularly appropriate for indoor plants, making care information more easily accessible.
"The clip can be used indoors or outdoors," adds Mathias. "It is made from polypropylene and is transparent so will be aesthetically pleasing when used with any colour label. A 7mm punch hole is all that is required to fix the clip to the label. We have created this product ideally for houseplants, but it would work equally well with seasonal plants."
He continues: "The curved Information Stick is 21.5cm and holds a label at a 45° angle. This makes the label easy to read because the angle will point up towards the customer. The stick is green and also made out of polypropylene."
Reflecting the just-in-time ordering by many growers, Bamboo Print continues to bring more operations in house. McLintock points out that there are big benefits from doing so. "It gives us much better control on time-sensitive projects," he explains. "It’s been an exhilarating year in that we have had to respond quickly to a number of customers who were unable to assess their requirements until comparatively late in the season."
Bamboo Print is currently busy on a number of design projects for new and existing customers in both the UK and Ireland, where McLintock believes optimism seems to be making something of a comeback. "Budgets remain under pressure, but it’s always interesting to have challenges," he says.
As customers’ desire for more information continues to grow, there is now an increasing trend towards the use of QR codes to augment the information the can be found on the plant label. QR codes that link back to Floramedia’s FloraLinQ — a solution developed to work with plant labels and point-of-sale material — provide additional information at the point of purchase and are now available on the company’s new design of stock labels.
Kerley & Co has taken this one step further, commissioning a web application for Petunia Tumbelina Priscilla. Accessed through a QR code displayed on the label, the customer is provided with a wealth of information and images, all designed to be viewed through a smartphone or tablet.
The web application was commissioned by David Kerley and meets the company’s objectives. He says he wanted to give younger consumers — aged 24 to 35 — the confidence to buy by providing more information than could be found on the reverse of the label.
"This is a simple-to-use web application accessed via a QR code on the plant label or promotional material," says Mathias. "The pages within the app enhance the label description with extra information and images, giving the consumer the confidence to purchase the plant. Once home, it can be used as reference point for aftercare with handy tips that reflect the season."
Bed cards have been widely used for some time, the aim being to show customers what a plant looks like when grown and give them key plant details. But worn or inconsistent bed cards can make a garden centre look messy and less professional.
This month, Joy of Plants has launched a new service to help garden centres stamp their brand on bed cards and also reduce the cost, waste and hassle of printing them. The service promises to do away with advance ordering and storage of preprinted cards. Just print what you need, on site, when you need them.
The service is web-based and has been designed to be simple to use. By signing up for a yearly license, garden centres can log in and print bed cards whenever they like. There are more than 9,100 UK plant varieties from which to choose.
Joy of Plants director Terri Jones says: "When you sign up, Joy of Plants adds your chosen branding to the designs so that all the bed cards you print have your logo and colour scheme. If you want a more bespoke design, Joy of Plants can set up templates just for you."
Each bed card contains an image and plant information from the Joy of Plants database as well as a QR code for scanning with smartphones for further information about the plant. "If you also have the Joy of Plants ‘Plant Finder’ on your website, you will then have consistent plant information on your website and bed cards," adds Jones.
The bed cards can be printed in a variety of sizes and are designed to fit the ever-popular Green Magic bed card holders. Printing can be completed on paper using an office laser printer and then laminated, or the cards can be printed directly onto polyester sheets via Oki printers.
In addition to providing both stock and bespoke designed labels to growers and retailers, Hortipak has seen a real desire from the industry for beautifully designed and targeted support point of sale and packaging. General manager Tracey Dunn explains that this has led to the company’s "Connecting People with Plants" philosophy.
"Some of Hortipak’s first considerations when designing labels and support products for our customers are how we can help consumers connect to gardening, how they can best enjoy the experience and how we can encourage them to come back for more, thus helping growers and retailers in increased return business. We want our products to not only sell more plants but to sell success to the end consumer," she adds.
"We know that the best way to do all of the above is to present a sales proposition that is attractive, informative, true, achievable and relevant. By using descriptive text and care instructions written by horticulturists, alongside professional imagery from the exclusive Nova Image Library, consumers have a product that they immediately understand and can succeed with — designed in-house by our experienced team who all specialise in design for the horticultural retail market.
"Relevance is also a very important part of this proposition. We have added pot wraps, plant carriers, banners and then packs to our range over the past 12 months. As well as supplying innovative new ways of packaging and promoting plants for the customer, each of these supports important retail events throughout the gardening year, ensuring that plants and products are presented to the consumer with relevance and giving them a clear expectation when purchasing as well as giving growers and retailers every opportunity to market products to attract new and returning sales from all groups of the consumer range."
As well as normal production of labels, catalogues and point-of-sale material, Bamboo Print has increasingly become involved in more conventional packaging for supermarkets and high street discounters. "We hear a lot about these retailers winning market share in the grocery sector and it seems to hold good for horticultural products too," notes McLintock.
It is worth remembering that a lot of customers browsing around the garden centre will be looking for presents. At Floramedia, Mathias has noticed increasing interest from growers and retailers wanting to develop plants’ gift potential.
"Special-occasions labels and coordinated point of sale are proving a simple and cost-efficient way to do this," he says. "All the key season are covered — Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day." Each occasion is celebrated with a number of deigns to reflect the growers’ and retailers’ styles.