Retail disruption: Threat to or opportunity for your business?
By Gabrielle Stannus
How are businesses and hobbyists ‘disrupting’ greenlife’s retail sector using existing technology? We investigate the marketplace to find ways to help your retail nursery or garden centre sell more plants and products to more customers.
All greenlife businesses seek new ways to sell plants to consumers at some point in time. We examine how plant sellers are using existing technology to ‘disrupt’ the retail sector.
Attendees at Greenlife Industry Australia’s ‘Healthy Plants, Healthy People’ conference last year had the fortune to hear futurist Gihan Perera speak about disruption by design. Gihan claimed that leading businesses are changing the way our economy operates by using the technology of today, not that of the future.
“Uber didn’t disrupt the taxi industry by swooping in with magical new technology. The technology was readily available, but the taxi industry chose to ignore it. The same applied to banks being disrupted by fintech, traditional real estate agents being disrupted by online portals, and Kodak being disrupted by digital cameras (In fact, Kodak invented the first digital camera),” says Gihan1 .
So how are plant sellers using existing technology to disrupt the retail market?
Facebook says that it built Marketplace to make it easier for people to buy and sell in their community. In the United State of America, three types of business can now sell their products on Facebook Marketplace: Automotive, real estate and retail & ecommerce. In Australia, car dealerships can sell vehicles through Facebook Marketplace, but selling in other categories is currently only open for individuals. However, if you look hard enough, you will find retail nurseries already operating on the community Marketplace, alongside many private individuals growing plants in their backyards.
Retail nurseries are finding their way onto Facebook Marketplace, judging by the Viburnum odoratissimum post seen here Image: Facebook
Facebook ‘Buy and Sell Groups’
A quick search of the 'Buy and Sell Groups' listed on Facebook (based on the author’s location), shows a proliferation of public and private groups selling plants and related greenlife. How many retail nurseries can claim to have this many names, i.e. email addresses, on their CRM database/mailing lists?
Facebook 'Buy and Sell Groups' offer convenience and accessibility to prospective plant buyers, whilst allowing ‘hobbyists’ to earn income Image: Facebook
Selling direct to customers from wholesalers via Instagram reduces the need for this plant ‘retailer’ to maintain a physical nursery Image: Instagram
Why maintain a retail nursery, when you can visit a wholesaler and conduct live plant sales directly with your customers via Instagram? That is the business model being followed by at least one innovative Sydney business. This plant re-seller visits wholesale nurseries, selecting only those plants that buyers commit to purchasing via a live Instagram feed, i.e. in real time. Express postage or pick up options are available to the buyers, with a strictly no hold or plant sitting policy.
Retail platforms such as Amazon Australia, Catch and Kogan offer a multitude of allied greenlife products to buyers including books, plant stands, tools and other garden accessories. However, except for a limited range of succulents found on Amazon, the only plants on offer via these platforms are artificial ones.
Other online marketplaces
Those retail nurseries who are early adopters are using eBay and Gumtree to reach more buyers either through direct selling or advertising. eBay’s platform to sell plants and other products is more sophisticated than Gumtree’s online set-up. Buyers and sellers on eBay can advertise and/or search for plants, seeds and bulbs, filtering selections by climate, light, plant form, soil type, features, season of interest, colour, watering requirements and more.
Online presence only
Some plant sellers are doing away with physical stores and pick up locations, offering local delivery and express post services via their website, e.g. The Plant Exchange run by Jane Rose Lloyd, otherwise known as ‘The Strange Plant Lady’ on Instagram. Others like The Botanica Box offer botanically inspired goods including live plants, boxed and delivered to the customer’s door or that of their chosen recipient.
Some retail nurseries are using Gumtree to promote their plant range, either as direct listings or advertisements Image: Gumtree
Warehouse sales with a difference
Not all newcomers to retail plant sales are eschewing a bricks and mortar offering. However, the new breed of plant business is conducting sales with a difference. Take for example The Jungle Collective's upcoming Indoor Plant Warehouse Sale / Safari Party. Yes! Safari Party. The Jungle Collective, a self-described pop-up nursery, holds plant sales with more than a moderate amount of fun factored in. Customers attending these ‘parties’ are rewarded with discounts on plant sales if they wear fancy dress, in this instance, a safari outfit.
This new breed uses its own language to cleverly market their services, using words such as bespoke, lush, and curate. Why would you visit a nursery or garden centre when you could be visiting an Urban Plant Boutique?
KABUU sells seedlings through farmer's markets and direct to home gardeners and farmers. This social enterprise allows home gardeners to pre-order seedlings online thus growing only what is needed, conserving resources, keeping their costs down and passing savings onto their customers.
Perera, Gihan 2019, Disruption by Design: Leading the change in a fast-changing world, First Step Publishing, Leederville WA. (page 250) (Image captions)