BHETA Viewpoint from Paul Grinsell, Home Improvement and Garden Sector Director at BHETA.
Like many of us in the garden market, last month saw me at Glee 2018, checking out the latest trends and product innovations and as research companies and trend forecasters have been predicting for some time, one of the most striking aspects of the show was to what extent smart technology has come of age for outdoor applications.
According to Mintel’s 2018 report on gardening trends, smart-connected devices are now moving into the mainstream. Almost half of consumers who are not already in the market are now interested in purchasing and Mintel’s figures fit right in with what Scarlet Opus calls the ‘Eco 2.0’ trend which pushes clever, environmentally conscious, adjustable controls.
Most smart garden devices do one of two things. Either they automate a task, or they monitor the environment around them and inform the gardener of what to do next. More and more often, the two combine as for example with a greenhouse vent which opens and closes automatically according to the temperature it detects, or a connected sprinkler gathering weather information, and using it to automate a watering schedule.
Not so long ago the most amazing product on demo at gardening shows was the robotic lawnmower, but now we see plant pots incorporating plant sensor technology so that they can keep the householder informed about the need for watering, sending information to phones, tablet or computer, or simply to a handy display on the pot itself. Even the most basic plant sensors measure soil moisture and compare it with a plant database to yield specific advice on when to water that species. More sophisticated products do the same for ambient light, humidity, temperature and even levels of fertilizer. They can also measure multiple plants at once, enabling the use of a single sensor to monitor a whole garden.
Take all these variations and multiply them by the number of garden products and categories to which the technology can usefully be applied – greenhouses, cold-frames and propagators, watering systems (including the water-saving benefit), pots and container gardening, garden maintenance, garden lighting – to name but a few, and you start the appreciate the retail potential of smart gardening.
In fact, the sales opportunities are as varied as consumer motivations for wanting smart solutions. It may be saving time, or effort, or learning about what’s going on in the garden environment to enhance decision making or improve precision. It may be a seasoned gardener looking for assistance, or an enthusiast trying to collect data. It may be a homeowner trying to cut a water bill, a grandparent trying to get the grandkids into gardening with the aid of novelty tech, or a Millennial apartment dweller who would otherwise struggle to keep a houseplant alive.
Having assimilated all the possible sales angles, how do you capture the sale? Mintel is very useful on this, observing that while smart-tech is more and more popular, many consumers need help to use it well – especially when it comes to installation or optimum set up. Being able to answer questions about the kind of signal used, whether the device is weather-proof, what kind of power source is needed, is it compatible with other devices, can it be voice-controlled …. is vital. Except for some robot lawn mowers, all smart outdoor devices have accompanying apps and communicate with the cloud in some form or another, so some technical understanding – which not all garden consumers will have to the necessary level – is a real opportunity.
Smart garden sales require smart garden retailers. For it is the retailers who help with installation, aftersales and advice, who will win the battle for sales.
To find out more about BHETA membership and access to trends advice and market data, contact BHETA on 0121 237 1130