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Why should garden centres understand the customer journey?

If there’s one thing we love about the garden industry, it will be the fact that everyone is pretty hands-on. A roll up your sleeves and get it done mentality if you will. You know what we’re talking about since you probably have that mentality yourself as well. We’re not consultants and we will never become consultants either since we’re hands-on as a company as well.

And perhaps handsome, but we’ll leave that on the side for now.

But sometimes, it’s good to take a step back to get a better understanding of what’s actually happening around us and how it affects us. The customer journey is a prime example of this. We take it for granted that customers shop at garden centres, but if you want to drive more traffic, you need to understand how customers make decisions about what to buy and where. In other words, the customer journey.


Customer journey 

We’ve developed an easy to understand graph to explain the customer journey. It also explains our role in the customer journey:

Customer journey

As you can see, three factors are playing a decisive role during the customer journey:

  • Offline marketing (bottom)
  • Online marketing (top)
  • Your garden centre

One cannot be successful without the other and we’re going to explain the five stages of the customer journey:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Purchase
  • Service
  • Loyalty


Meet your customer: Suzan

To make the process easier to understand, we’d like to introduce Suzan to you. Suzan is a 42-year old woman living in Liverpool, busy with her career but she loves to do some gardening every now and then. She’s not a hardcore gardener, she just hopes plant survive a few years. She’s growing an apple tree for her kids to have a homegrown apple pie next autumn. So now you’ve met Suzan, it’s time to explain how she bought a new pruning shear at her local garden centre.

Meet your customer


Step 1: awareness

Suzan is pretty inexperienced so she doesn’t know she needs to prune her apple tree late winter. Luckily, she was reading a news article in the newspaper about gardening and she read she had to do just that.

Since she wants to have apples to make her apple pie in September, she went to Google and searched for “How to prune an apple tree”. She looked up the instructions on Wikihow.com. Suzan realised she needed a new pruning shear since the old one was a bit rusty. So now she’s aware she needs to buy a new pruning shear: the first step of the customer journey has been taken!



Step 2: consideration

After putting the kids to bed, she grabbed her iPad and went to Google to search for “pruning shear apple tree”. She doesn’t have a clue yet what pruning shears to buy so she hopes websites will give her relevant information.

Suzan opens a few webshops but they don’t really explain if the pruning shears are suitable for apple trees. Luckily, she ended up on growveg.com which explains exactly which shears are required for apple trees.


Now she knows she needs a lopper to reach the high branches. The next Google search she does is “best loppers”. Suzan ends up on the gardeners.com website explaining all the different brand’s and models and their pro’s and cons. She takes some time to read and compare products: she’s considering her options.  

Eventually, Suzan decides the Fiskars Telescopic Lopper fits her budget and requirements.

The purchase phase has two options: online or offline. We’ll explain both of them below since the customer journey differs per channel.


Step 3: purchase

If Suzan wants to buy this lopper online, she will enter a keyword like “buy Fiskars Telescopic Lopper” or “Fiskars Telescopic Lopper online”. The keywords “buy” and “online” are declaring her intention: she wants to buy it online.


Via Google Shopping, she clicks on a link pointing her to a website and she orders the lopper. This is where the online journey ends, but how about an offline purchase?

Usually, customers don’t narrow their search process down to a specific product if they want to buy offline. Suzan would have stopped after realising she needs a telescoping lopper and would try to find a local store. Customers who are in the market for these tools normally just walk in, pick one from your range and buy it. They won’t narrow it down unless it’s an expensive product. In that case, Suzan would have entered a keyword like “Lopper Liverpool” to find a garden centre (or any other store) selling loppers in her area.

The keyword Suzan uses makes her intention clear: does she want to buy online or visit a brick & mortar store?


Step 4: service and loyalty

After Suzan bought her new lopper, she’s still unsure how to use it properly. She goes to YouTube to look up a video about pruning apple trees by using the search word “prune apple tree”. A video of Crocus shows exactly how to prune her apple tree: Crocus.co.uk is clearly putting a lot of efforts in the service they provide by creating videos like this.


Because Suzan bought the lopper in-store and used her loyalty card, you can send an e-mail to her before the winter kicks in: “How to prepare your garden tools for winter?”. This e-mail explains to her how to clean and store the garden tools Suzan bought at your garden centre. Now Suzan knows how to store her lopper and to prevent it from getting rusty.

Going the extra mile helps to build a long-term relationship with your customers. For most garden centres, the story ends after step 3. But we recommend you to look at step 4 and 5 as well. If you focus on step 1 to 3, you might get customers in your garden centre (or on your webshop). But if you optimise step 4 and 5, some of your customers will become recurring visitors and ambassadors of your garden centre.


Why does the customer journey matter? 

With every purchase, customers follow these steps to make a decision. It can take a few minutes or a few weeks but every purchase goes through this cycle. If you understand this cycle, you can easily identify where you should focus on to increase your traffic flow or online sales. At Garden Connect we use the customer journey frequently to discuss what online marketing channel should be used in which stage. Doing the right things will help you to get customers like Suzan to your garden centre.

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