As successful business owners, you are aware of the importance of creating an enjoyable shopping experience for your customers. Product placement, a knowledgeable staff and a variety of merchandise creates loyal customers. Additionally, it is imperative to offer “value added service” thereby setting you apart from your competitors. Without these basic marketing elements, your store would not thrive and grow.
The same principles hold true for your pond department. Whether it is an aisle of pond products or just one shelf, creating a pond department that is easy to navigate in your store makes you the expert, and develops loyal customers.
Your staff also needs to understand how the products in your pond department work and how some products work together to provide the most enjoyable ponding experience for your customers.
Create the Need
According to the APPMA (American Pet Product Manufacturers Association), Americans own $139 million worth of freshwater fish. Customers are hungry for information on how to enhance the quality of life for their pets – and fish are no different, studies indicate. This gives you a prime opportunity to unleash the sales potential in the pondkeeping category.
Pondkeeping can be a profit center for your business and a means to gain loyal customers who’ll visit regularly for pond food, water treatments, disease remedies and cures, and accessories – a steady stream of revenue.
Here are some ways you can dress up your pond/water gardening department and enhance the shopping experience for your patrons.
• Crafting a pond department requires a little imagination and a lot of professional help! If you are new to pondkeeping, it is a good idea to lean on your supplier’s shoulders. Ask the manufacturer to help you develop your pond department. Visually build your pond/water gardening department with existing well-branded point of purchase materials and product packaging for impressive, cohesive look.
• Most manufacturers offer displays, complete with well-merchandised, portable shelving stocked with an assortment of pre-packed products, to keep your department looking sharp. And remember to not overlook the power of informative packaging, which can also make a dramatic aisle or end-cap presence.
• It is also important to create a visual experience in your store for your pondkeeper customers. Use large, colorful posters and signage that captures the beauty and enjoyment of a pond.
• Consider where you place products. Keep consumables, such as fish food and water treatments, at eye level.
• If space allows, build a pond inside your store, near the pond department. For stores short on floor space, opt for a water container garden for a simple, effective visual. The sight and sound of moving water draws customers in and helps them visualize and plan features for their home.
• Use how-to guides to show how easy it is to build a pond. Merchandise the department with attractive, instructional point-of-purchase materials that eliminate confusion on buying the “right” product.
As a supplier of pond products and consumables, you know that there is great deal of competition vying for your customers business. What sets you apart from them?
Start with understanding and educating yourself and your staff on pond products and how they work together. Ask your manufacturer to guide you in this process. Develop a keen understanding on foods- what and when to feed your pond fish. As the expert in this, your customers will keep coming back to you for advice.
Knowing your customers means, understanding why they have a pond and what purpose it has in their life. Are they looking to just sit back and watch the fish, or are they looking to build onto their pond each year with waterfalls and other embellishments?
Help your staff understand that pondkeeping can reach beyond the products on the shelf. It’s really a lifestyle. Knowing their customers will better prepare them for making knowledgeable and proactive recommendations. And over time, they’ll build trust and credibility for your brand.
Here are some tips to help you get to know your customers:
• Ask your customers to fill out a short informational card before they leave your store that you can keep on file. This can be as simple as a 3×5 card that asks for their address, email and phone number. On the back of the card you can document what they purchased and when so you will be able to refer to it when they come back in to your store.
• Consider offering a monthly or quarterly email or printed one-page newsletter that gives tips on anything from maintaining healthy, happy fish to choosing the right plants for a balanced ecosystem. TetraPond will soon be offering a monthly email newsletter that you, as a retailer, can send to your customers directly from your email address, thus positioning yourself as a destination for water gardening supplies and advice. For more information about the newsletter please email: email@example.com.
• Encourage customers to take a snapshot of their pond and water gardening creations and post the photos on an in-store bulletin board or feature them in your newsletters.
• Get to know your customers by talking with them. Ask them questions that are open ended and require more than a yes or no response. Such questions can be: How much time do you want to spend building your pond? What types of fish do you envision in your pond? Why did you decide to build a pond?
• Another way to add value to your customers’ experience is through a customer retention program. This type of program can include discounts, coupons, special product announcements and freebies.
• Offer to test customers’ pond water as a free service when they bring a sample of their pond water. It’s a beneficial value added service that helps build a relationship with the customer while creating a sense of expertise for you. Plus it provides retailers with the opportunity to provide a solution if the water needs a remedy.
Education = Loyalty
As the expert to your customers, providing educational tools will greatly enhance customer loyalty. Newsletters, take-one’s, brochures, books and magazines are all very important when building your pond department.
But don’t forget the obvious: product knowledge. If you and your staff don’t know how a filter works or how to choose the right pump for various sized ponds, your customers may find a retailer who can answer these questions- quickly and understandably.
Ask your manufacturer partner to provide you with education and information on how their products work. If you are new to pondkeeping, you may not know all of the different food options available for your customers to purchase. Or, more importantly, the importance of not feeding pond fish when the temperature falls below 39°F, as it is very harmful and sometime fatal for fish.
Stocking the Shelves
Now that you know how and why a well built pond department can greatly increase your business and sales, are you wondering WHAT products you must have? The answer is simple- it depends on how much space you have!
Focus first on the consumables and staple items that will keep a steady stream of repeat purchases and reliable income. Stocking those shelves with fish food — and understanding the basic knowledge of what and how often to feed fish — is crucial to creating a profitable pond department.
Explain to your customers the benefit of premium foods. By feeding fish premium food they will minimize food waste and cloudy water – and as a result, unnecessary pond maintenance.
Another way to lure and keep customers coming to your pond department is to make water and fish care easy. Line your shelves with water treatments that make the pond a healthy habitat. Water Conditioner that neutralizes chlorine and chloramines in tap water is fundamental product to carry. Consumers will need to de-chlorinate tap water and detoxify heavy metals every time they fill or top off their ponds to prevent harm to their fish such as burning gills and membranes.
Since algae are the nemesis of pondkeepers everywhere, you’ll also want to keep treatments to control green water and string algae and remove sludge build-up. Water gardeners strive for ideal water quality and pristine ponds where they can enjoy watching their ornamental beauties. Water clarifiers offer great benefits like keeping ponds clear by ridding them of contaminants that are removed by filtration.
Keep cures and remedies for fish disease so you’re equipped to help customers nurse their fish back to health. When fish are sick, you are one of the first lines of defense that customers will rely on to treat sick fish while preventing disease from spreading to healthy fish.
While you may not have the room or specialize in pond equipment, it’s essential to understand the primary functionality of filters, pumps and ultraviolet clarifiers on the market. Whether or not you sell equipment, it’s in your best interest to understand how the equipment works together to create a balanced environment for pond fish. As the pet expert, you’re in the position to recommend solutions on how customers can optimize their pond and make it more efficient.
From creating an inviting pond department to having a good understanding of pond products, developing your pondkeeping business will greatly increase your bottom line. Remember to work with your manufacturer as your partner. Then, educate your staff to work with your customers to achieve their goals, thereby achieving yours!