Hillier garden centres launches into webcasting

Hillier Garden Centres are embracing new technologies to reach their customers and keep them informed of events, new plants and coverage of events in store.

Andrew McIndoe, Hillier MD, has been blogging his progress at the Chelsea Flower Show for the past two years, including at HW. This year he added videos to the daily blogs.

McIndoe said: "Staff and customers would sign in to the blog each day and watch the short videos which I filmed on the exhibit. It captured the mood, excitement, and sometimes the pressure of building a gold medal winning exhibit, and I could upload the videos within minutes, which was a bonus."

The success of the videos this year led Mark Pitman, Hillier operations manager, to think of new ways to use the technology to communicate with their customers.

Pitman said: "We’ve been using short videos for some years now on our website to promote individual plants, and we experimented with publishing extracts from an hour long talk we hosted in store."

This led Pitman to consider the use of webcam technology to carry out a live broadcast at one of the stores in June: " I broadcasted our Chelsea exhibit via a webcam during the first two days of the show, and it then occurred to me that the talks we host could be broadcasted in the same way, so we trialled it at Hemel Hempstead last week and it was a resounding success."

Hilliers programme of talks are unique in the industry and audiences regularly top 150 in some stores.

Pitman emailed the Hillier customer database with the details of the date and time of the talks, and a weblink to test the connection and download a ‘trailer’ a week before the talk. On the day, the webcam broadcast lasted an hour while the talk was in progress.

He said: "It was great. We had many viewers during the talk, and I invited questions via text, which I relayed to the speaker at the end. We had loads of comments from customers who thought the idea was superb, particularly from those that couldn’t make it to our stores during the day."

Pitman believes the potential for the videos/webcasting is enormous, particularly for  staff training and development and is currently developing  a series of short training videos for in-store staff. But in the meantime  he is planning the next series of webcasts at the Autumn talks – you can view the first one here http://www.ustream.tv/channel/hillier-at-the-chelsea-flower-show-2010

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