Many years ago I was travelling through South Africa and stopped at a small town where I noticed they had a small plant nursery. I went to look at what they were doing and was greeted by the plant manager. To him, I was another customer. As we walked though the nursery he picked a leaf of a plant and said “Taste it”. I chewed the plant leaf and wow, what an experience. The plant was Stevia rebaudiana, renowned for the sweetness of its leaves. Within the leaf, Steviol glycosides has up to 150 times the sweetness of sugar.
I could still take you back to that nursery and show you the location of the herb department and still remember the experience well.
This plants person knew something about marketing that many people have still not discovered.
Customer inclusion is part of the game rules.
Upmarket supermarkets know the rules
Upmarket supermarkets are aware that the secret is customers like to feel, taste, small and touch and customer involvement is critical to sales. Demonstrations and food sampling is therefore a critically important part of building the sales.
Research in the food industry shows that 70% of customers will sample food if offered, and if the sample station is positioned correctly, 30% of those that sample the food will purchase. Clearly this is a major selling opportunity.
This industry knows that to be successful there is a formulae:
- Be consistent. If you have a sample station on a Saturday morning the customer expects it to be there every Saturday morning.
- Select sample demonstrators that have tasted the product themselves and have the personality to engage with the consumer.
- Make sure you have sufficient product in stock.
- Position demonstrations at least one third of the way into the shopping experience as you want the customer to linger longer.
- Position the product for sale at the demonstration location and about 5 metres or 15 foot away from the tasting to give the customer a bit of thinking time. Make sure the product is clearly signed as the product they have just tasted.
Supermarkets also know that tasting will not work for all demographic groups. Most Millennial consumers will taste, but often do not want to get engaged with the salesperson during the tasting. This means that self tasting is also acceptable in-store.
Independent Garden Centres …do they all know the rules?
My experience in South Africa is not that common, I believe the rules of the tasting station in the supermarket are just as effective, or even more effective in an independent garden centre.
We have seen the growth of edible gardening and the emergence of a new consumer who is less aware of plants than the generation before them.
The herb department is a critically important department in the garden centre.
- Every home owner should have an essential herb collection to enhance their meals
- My colleague Sid Raisch talks about the value of sharing food as a means of engaging the consumer, I cannot agree more
- The herb tasting creates a “halo” effect. Once you have included the consumer in the experience they are likely to become more loyal to your business and talk to their friends about the experience.
We are all aware that consumers are looking for a different experience and that customer inclusion is cost effective way of building the business. The tasting station we know works in the top end supermarket and this is a technique that could be easily incorporated into the garden centre. The supermarket often recruits supplier demonstrators or tasters for the occasion. I believe we should have the engagement skills within our own teams to develop these sales. It is a great way to get the plant management team to build relationships with the consumer.