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Lyndan Orvis ecommerce manager at Hayes Garden World on social media for ecommerce and retail

Agnieszka Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 02 August 2017

How Hayes Garden World uses social media marketing to raise visiblity of its retail products and service

Hayes Garden World logo 150x150Social Media Portal (SMP): What is your name  and what do you do there for Hayes Garden World?

Lyndan Orvis (LO):  I’m Lyndan Orvis, ecommerce manager at Hayes Garden World.

SMP: Briefly, tell us about Hayes Garden World

LO: We are a family run company with over 200 years’ experience in gardening and landscaping, back in the 1960's we were one of the first businesses to transform the modern-day garden centre changing our business model to a more retail focused environment. Since the early 1980s we have specialised in lifestyle products, importing from all over the globe. We now have over 1 million visitors to our Ambleside store each year and over the last 10 years have become an online specialist in the garden lifestyle sector. Our website now attracts more organic visitors than the garden centre and has no geographical restrictions with growth continuing to meet high expectations.

SMP:  Who are your target audience and why?

LO: Our Ambleside location in a relaxed tourist destination has traditionally meant our demographic has been the older generation nearing retirement or retired who are holidaying in the lakes, living here or have a second home in the area. They have a greater disposable income and can afford our lifestyle products which are a considered purchase or they have green fingers attracting them to our gardening products. This is not the case for our online business with 50% of our business coming from under fifties.
SMP: How did you initially attract users to site, social channels et al and how do you do it now?

LO: Building our brand and trust is key to our online success. We are long established business with decades of experience and knowledge where its key principles have always been customer excellence, all we needed was a channel to reach an audience and social media has provided that. Facebook, YouTube, Google Plus and Twitter are allowing us to reach a wider audience every day. Whilst social media is a driving force for our brand, Google is key to our revenue stream.

Hayes Garden World website image

SMP: What are the challenges that you’ve encountered and how are you overcoming them in what you have been doing so far at Hayes Garden World?

LO: Keeping up with the changing face of social media, digital marketing/remarketing is a mine field. Networking with specialists and partnering outside agencies is essential to ensure that the things we do are necessary and not because we are afraid not to, which can be a tough call when there are millions of users! A large amount of the social networking platforms and apps are not embraced by our target audience so engaging with them would be a huge waste of time and investment, but you only know this when you fully understand how each one works and then find a balanced argument of whether to engage or not.

Quantifying the return on social media investment along with the huge investment in content and video marketing are almost impossible to evaluate. They undoubtedly build your brand, but does this really result in brand loyalty when it comes to consumers parting with their money? We invest a five figure sum every year in this area and in an industry where ROI is the key indicator of success, why create something with no visible return! However, we do and we think it is a major contributing factor to growth and adds that 'je ne sais quoi' to our ecommerce recipe.

SMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far?

Been part of the online journey from the websites very first sale which was a huge highlight, that’s a £69.00 drinks trolley back in 2005 to the growing success that it is now. I have to say I have enjoyed so enormously every challenge put before me. In the early days sales and customer satisfaction were the daily highlights, hitting budgets, exceeding budgets were hugely satisfying and still are. But the high moments come now from re-structuring and departmentalising the huge variation of tasks that go into running the online business. This departmentalisation can only be achieved as growth reaches capacity, in order to remain profitable at all times. Recent recognition of our achievements at the recent Garden Retail Awards where we won the award for online excellence has to be the biggest accolade we have achieved and reinforces our belief that we are doing thing right.

SMP: Which are the main social channels are you using, why and which are the most effective for Hayes Garden World?

LO: Our main focus is on Facebook and Twitter @hayesambleside. We do some Facebook advertising and we find that we have a good reach across both of these channels. We find that utilising these two channels in combination allows us to engage with our broad target base. It also allows us to provide the public with useful and relevant information for their upcoming visit to the garden centre and it updates them on upcoming events.

Photograph of Lyndan Orvis, ecommerce manager at Hayes Garden World Hayes Garden World logo 300x300

SMP: What sort of activity / engagement are you receiving across the social channels that you use and how do you create / sustain this?

LO: In terms of activity and engagement we do get quite a lot across our social channels. This is mainly when we launch big social media campaigns which we do once or twice a year. Last Christmas we worked with charities across the UK to deliver Christmas Trees – we encouraged our users to like/share/tweet to help Santa deliver the Christmas trees and this brought great engagement (circa 12,000+).

Each year we try to hold a competition similar to this which allows us to really engage with our social media followers more than just with regular updates about the garden centre.
SMP: How are you measuring success other than sales?

It’s always more difficult to attribute social media success than other direct channels such as paid search as there is no direct correlation between a social media campaign and the amount of money that we invest in it – but we do use a number of metrics, in particular social reach and impressions are key to measuring how effective a campaign has been – this visibility often goes ignored by brands, but can be invaluable when it comes to encouraging new customers to visit the website – especially if they are looking for a product and we can then back this up with further advertising to push the brand name.

We do look to measure overall engagement across Facebook and Twitter channels – more so when we run the larger campaigns, but also in general with the smaller campaigns we will use the various Facebook/Twitter insights tools to evaluate how a campaign has fared.
SMP: What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities for your sector and the competition that you have?

LO: I think one of the biggest challenges within our sector is that it isn’t seen as an “online” or “digital” sector – rather it has always traditionally been a sector dominated by bricks and mortar shoppers. As a result, we need to find a way to engage with an audience which may not be traditionally digital. This means we need to think outside the box and look to engage not only with a broader audience, but also one which is not always easily engaged.

We can take a lot from what we’ve learned over years of bricks and mortar experience – looking to deliver the same service and standard that customers are used to in an online format. We take a lot of telephone sales and we know that in this sector customers often like to chat about the product or to find out more from our experts before they purchase, as such we aim to provide as much information and guidance as we can to them over the phone to allow them to feel confident making a digital purchase.
SMP: What is the most challenging part of building upon your brand presence in digital environments?

One of the biggest challenges is a lack of brand loyalty in the digital age. In particular, when there are a number of retailers competing against each other who all may have good reviews/trust signals and sell products at a similar price, that’s where we really need to differentiate from the competition. It’s also easy to lose sales this way if a competitor is significantly cheaper or does something new – we can’t afford to be behind the curve.

Investment in digital is key to our success and we are very forward thinking in our approach, we are constantly looking at ways to improve our digital offering and backing that up with the good levels of customer service and genuine knowledge of the products that has helped us to build such a strong client base to date.
Hayes Garden World website image

SMP: What do you think is going to be the most interesting aspect regarding ecommerce/social media, social networks and/or technology for the next 12 to 18-months and why?

I think there will be a number of changes in the next 12-18 months, in particular we have seen a huge shift to mobile with mobile searches outperforming desktop searches for the first time this year. In addition Google is pushing a mobile first index which is really going to change the way that online retailers look to attract customer. It will also push us to improve our checkout on mobile and really tailor our approach to users who want to purchase on the go.

Improvements in mobile also bring about other challenges – like continuing to improve our site speed and ensuring that we offer a brilliant user experience. We know that mobile users are often impatient so we need to be able to deliver a good experience to our customers or they will leave and go to another website.

SMP:  What are your top five predictions for ecommerce/ social media for the next 12 to 18-months and why?

  • Big shift towards mobile usage. Companies pushing more mobile friendly websites and improving their website experience for mobile users

  • Improved and simplified checkout processes. I think a lot of websites still over-complicate this and see huge basket drop-offs which is the easiest way to retain a customer.

  • Brand building. A lot of ecommerce companies will try to brand build to deal with an age of little brand loyalty – I’d expect more free next day delivery and returns etc. Small perks that set companies apart from others.

  • Facebook. I think this will become a lot more pictorial. We have already seen Facebook move to a more Instagram-style so I think imagery will become key here.

  • More competitors. I think more companies will look to utilise ecommerce as a method of sale and therefore markets overall will become more competitive, potentially driving margins and prices down.
SMP: What are your top overall five content/social media tips and why?

  • Knowledge. In this industry knowledge is key so we look to update our blog very regularly with our in-house expert Angela who brings years of experience providing handy tips and insightful articles which have a strong reader base.

  • Be succinct. A lot of companies try to over-complicate social media. Keep it to the point and provide the information that your customers need.

  • Go extra. In larger social media campaigns go that little bit extra to engage your customers and offer them value, they will reward you with loyalty and engagement.

  • Be original. Fairly straightforward but a lot of content is produced on a daily basis – if you are going to push something out there, make it original and make it data-driven or knowledge-driven where possible.

  • Know your audience. Take the time to research your audience and understand what they are looking for. Providing content that offers no value to your target market will leave you with dis-engaged users which won’t add value to your business.

SMP: Best way to contact you and Hayes Garden World?

LO: Best way to contact Hayes Garden World and myself is through our online sales number +44(0)15394 82333.

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