Adapting to new technology is essential for growers struggling with the economy and poor weather this year, according to exhibitors at the Plantarium trade show.
Growers from Holland and other parts of Europe have had a difficult year, with sales hit by the recession and weather conditions. One exhibitor that has fallen victim to the downturn is Plant Publicity Holland (PPH), which will cease to exist at the end of the year after Dutch growers voted to stop funding the organisation.
PPH digital marketing specialist Remy Steijger, who is setting up a digital marketing consultancy, said social media will be an important method for companies to connect with consumers.
"The industry is really behind with social media. They use Twitter but write messages that would not be of interest to the consumer or they put something up without a link so there's no point."
Flower Council of Holland senior account manager Rokus Hassefras agreed that growers have to catch up. "The industry is changing very fast, from analogue to digital. Everything is very transparent, prices are always changing and new products get to the other side of the world in minutes.
"Social media is strong and growing, and allows direct contact with the consumers. We are two years ahead of the rest of the industry, but we are still too late."
He added: "In south Europe, sales have not been so good, but the companies are here at the show. They have had bad weather. People are not buying anything."
However, Dutch growers are more affected by the economic crisis than the weather, he said. "Plants are luxury products and people are spending less on them. You have ups and downs in this industry and it's a bad time. People are closing their wallets. The weather is always there and we have to be able to deal with it."
Dutch horticulture has not escaped the effects of the weather entirely. Of around 90 entries to the new-plant awards, between 20 and 30 were withdrawn because of the weather bringing down the quality, according to Frank van Suchtelen, who heads up the marketing activity for Plantarium.
"You must have ten plants to show uniformity," he said. "People don't have them so they've had to withdraw. If you enter and get bronze you can't enter again, even though the plant could have got silver or gold in another year. It's better to withdraw and enter next year."
Van Suchtelen agreed that this year's weather conditions have been challenging. "We started with frost and then had a very wet spring. We had a lousy July and then a very hot August."
British Exhibitors call to attend trade show
All-Round Communications owner Frank van Suchtelen, who leads the marketing for Plantarium, has said more British exporters should attend the trade show.
"There is no British participation and I don't know why that is," he said. "We have six exhibitors from Israel. It's a pity because there is enough good quality in England. We have a few at GrootGroen. There are two or three growers but it is always very limited. I can't find a good reason for it. International exporters should come here. I think they would do very well."
He added: "Thirteen per cent of visitors to the show come from abroad and of these eight per cent come from the UK."