The United States environmental horticulture industry, or green industry, comprises wholesale nursery, greenhouse, and turfgrass sod producers; landscape design, installation and maintenance firms; as well as wholesale and retail distribution firms such as garden centers, home stores, mass merchandisers with lawn/garden departments, brokers and re-wholesale distribution centers, and allied trades suppliers of inputs to the industry. Firms that provide landscape services are not well documented in the literature. One of the few peer-reviewed publications about any landscape marketing or business practices was published 25 years ago from a survey of 62 Georgia landscape architects (Garber and Bondari, 1992a, 1992b, 1992c). Florkowski and Landry (2000) found labor to be the major expense of landscape firms. Haynes et al. (2007) more recently included the landscape sector in an industry survey of business practices in Iowa. They found that within the service sector, landscape installation and general landscape maintenance were the primary services offered. They also found the ability to hire qualified personnel was the most limiting factor for the service sector (Haynes et al., 2007). In the Lawn and Landscape 2016 State of the Industry report, finding quality labor was the biggest concern of respondents (45%). Information about business practices, product mix, challenges facing business growth and management, establishment of prices, sales methods, and advertising is rare for this important sector of the green industry. Landscaping and horticultural services is the largest individual industry sector in terms of employment and gross domestic product contributions [1,105,526 jobs, $54.70 billion (Hodges et al., 2015b)]. As businesses become increasingly dependent on technology for marketing, it is important to understand how the landscape industry uses technology, specifically the Internet, effectively.
Since the 2008 Trade Flows and Marketing Practices survey (Hodges et al., 2010), technology use by businesses has increased (Charness and Boot, 2009; Dukes, 2014). More people use technology in their daily lives, and therefore, technology-based marketing has become a more viable avenue for businesses to reach consumers. Current research shows that 81% of American adults use the Internet; over half of them are using two or more social media sites (Duggan et al., 2015). Technology from an advertising and promotion standpoint can include webpages, online newsletters, e-mail messages, text messages, blogs, quick response codes on products, and a wide variety of social media. In the Paid Social Media Report, social networks and blogs are the top online destinations, accounting for most of the time spent online by U.S. active Internet users and reaching 80% or more of those users (Nielsen, 2013). In this article, we look at the use of the Internet in sales generation and advertising by landscape firms.
Given the importance of landscapers in the green industry and with little research documenting their business practices, we sent the 2014 Trade Flows and Marketing Practices survey to a wider variety of firms in the green industry to include data from landscape firms who provided a variety of functions (e.g., landscape services, retail sales, and plant production) (Hodges et al., 2015b). A wide variety of green industry businesses answered questions about product type, product form, sales method, advertising, factors determining prices, and factors impacting business growth and management. The objective of this article is to describe the marketing and business practices of landscape service providers gleaned from that survey.
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