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  • Author or Editor: Bridget K. Behe* x
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Firms have limited resources that cannot be allocated efficiently to the market as a whole, but can be targeted to selected customer groups. Market segmentation is the process of dividing a market into distinct customer components. Selected products and services that best meet the needs of a selected customer group are targeted to that particular segment in a marketing strategy. Market segmentation and product-targeting concepts help management efficiently allocate scarce resources as part of a comprehensive strategy to expand revenues and profits.

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The retail portion of the green industry, valued at $50.55 billion, continues to provide a major connection between the industry and consumers. Given the importance of retailers in the green industry and little research exists that documents their advertising practices and impacts, the 2013 Trade Flows and Marketing Practices survey included questions to capture data for retail-only firms. This paper reports on the percentage of sales retailers allocate to promotion and advertising, including a breakdown of media used; point-of-sale (POS) materials and how they are acquired; how green industry retailers are using social media and mobile marketing [in particular, quick response (QR) codes]; the methods retailers use to collect customer demographics; customer loyalty programs (CLP); and how they are managed by retailers and a comparison of retail firms’ advertising practices by size of firm. A combination of mailed and Internet-distributed surveys resulted in a total of 699 useable retail business responses with greater than or equal to $1000 in annual revenue. The median expenditure as a percentage of sales on advertising was 3.6% for all retail firms responding with 33.7% spending no dollars on advertising. In examining the distribution based on media type, the Internet was the most frequently listed by firms (32.3%) with a mean expenditure of 42.5% of total advertising dollars. Social media was listed second most frequently (21.5%) with a mean expenditure of 29.6%. Newspapers were listed as the third most frequently used type of media (18.0%). Social media use is strong and among social media platforms, Facebook (60%) far exceeds any other platform. A third of the respondents (34.2%) reported the use of POS materials. A very small percentage of firms (3.0%) reported using QR codes and 19.4% reported having a CLP. Of those, 45.8% used customer purchase cards, whereas 35.4% used POS software. Nearly 33% of the firms collected demographic information about their customers. Of those, the method with the highest percentage use (multiple responses were permitted) was social media (50.7%) followed by CLP (48.9%), web visits (34.5%), questionnaires (15.7%), social coupons (13.5%), census data (3.9%), and marketing firms (3.1%). There were firm-size differences in seasonal employees and mean sales per employee with large firms having greater numbers than hobby, small- or medium-sized firms. There were no differences in the percentage of advertising media allocations based on firm size, but large firms used web visits, social coupons, and social media more than other types of firms to collect customer demographics. While, green industry retailers are currently using social media for marketing green industry goods, they have much more opportunity to use electronic media for CLPs and to begin using QR codes or other mobile-centric technologies to deliver in-store promotional information to consumers.

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Christmas tree and poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) sales are static or declining nationally and in Michigan. The objectives of this project were to evaluate a “buy local” educational media campaign (“Make it a Real Michigan Christmas”) designed to increase sales of poinsettias and Christmas trees. Consumer online surveys were administered four separate times (Oct. 2011, Jan. 2012, Oct. 2012, and Jan. 2013) to collect measures of awareness and knowledge both before and after each year’s educational media campaign. The survey asked Michigan residents about their Christmas tree and flowering plant purchases for the holiday, Christmas attitudinal questions (scored on a five-point Likert scale), awareness of this campaign, and demographic information. There were 1712 respondents, roughly split into a quarter per survey. Most measures of demographics and purchasing habits were very similar across the four sampling times. A little over a quarter (28% to 30%) purchased a Christmas tree the previous holiday, 16% to 20% which were live trees and 9% to 10% were artificial trees. Roughly a third (31% to 39%) of respondents purchased live poinsettias the previous holiday. “Make it a Real Michigan Christmas” had 3.3% to 5.0% of consumer awareness. Factor analysis identified two key attitudinal dimensions of the Christmas holiday. Factor 1 was described as a dimension of live Christmas trees being difficult, whereas Factor 2 showed a dimension of live trees being worth the effort. Participants were segregated into four clusters based on their factor scores. Emerging groups were either low/high on factor 1 (live trees are difficult) and/or factor 2 (live trees worth the effort). Few demographic differences were identified between the four groups, indicating they are relatively homogeneous in demographic composition. The largest group produced in the cluster analysis was 44% of the sample (cluster 1) and those consumers were more focused on the difficulty of live-tree purchases while the smallest group (6%, cluster 3) had factor scores less than 0 for both attributes.

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Consumer flower-color preferences are of interest to market researchers, plant producers, and retailers because this information can help them to anticipate accurately the sales product mix. Our objective was to determine consumer bract-color preferences for 47 poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch) cultivars. Visitors (124) to the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, rated `Sonora', a red cultivar, highest (4.6 of 5.0) of any cultivar. Nine of ten highest rated cultivars were red. We compared the ratings of poinsettia buyers with those of nonpoinsettia buyers and found only one difference: nonpoinsettia buyers rated `Jingle Bells III', a marble cultivar, higher (4.3) than poinsettia buyers (3.8). We also compared consumers who had purchased a red poinsettia to those who had purchased nonred colors and found that red poinsettia buyers rated `Sonora' higher (4.9) than nonred poinsettia buyers (4.5). Men rated `Red Elegance' higher (3.7) than women (3.3), whereas women rated `Freedom White' higher (3.1) than men (2.4). We found few differences between men and women, buyers and nonbuyers, and nonred buyers and red buyers, which may indicate a relatively homogeneous market that does not greatly differentiate among poinsettia bract color.

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Two surveys (one of 101 florists and one of 122 businesses) determined that florists spend little time or money recruiting commercial accounts. Poor communication among businesses and florists was a problem. Of the responding businesses, 91% were never contacted by their florists for any reason, and the methods florists did use for recruiting commercial accounts were incompatible with the means that businesses used to choose florists. Because 79% of businesses made some type of purchase from a florist during the year, florists could pursue commercial accounts as a way of increasing sales. When recruiting new accounts, florists should consider businesses' product preferences, peak gift-giving times, and purchasing preferences.

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Declining bee populations has garnered media attention, which has pressured plant retailers to ask or demand the reduction or elimination of neonicotinoid insecticide use in greenhouse production. This study investigated consumer perspectives on eco-friendly ornamental plant production practices in combination with a variety of insect management practices. Data from an online study were collected from 1555 Americans in May 2015. Over half (55%), nearly half (48.2%), and more than 30% of the participants felt that “bees are not harmed,” “better for the environment,” or “plants that attract bees,” respectively, was a characteristic of bee-friendly insect management practices. The latter group erroneously confused bee-friendly insect management practices with plants that are a potential food source for bees. When asked to rate various insect management plant production practices on a five-point Likert scale, consumer mean scores were positive (defined here as 3.5 to 5.0) for “plants grown using bee-friendly insect management practices,” “plants grown using insect management strategies that are safe for pollinators,” “plants grown using best insect management practices to protect pollinators,” and “plants grown using insect management practices that leaves no insecticide residue on the plant.” Plant species accounted for 31.6% of the decision to purchase the plant, followed by price (25.1%), insect management strategy (23.3%), and eco-friendly practices (20.1%) that was similar to prior published findings. Analyses showed that plants labeled as “grown using bee-friendly insect management practices” were worth $0.26, $0.26, $0.89, and $1.15 more than plants labeled as “grown in a sustainably produced potting soil/mix,” “grown using recycled/recaptured water,” “grown using protective neonicotinoid insecticides,” and “grown using traditional insect management practices,” respectively. In addition, plants labeled as “grown using best insect management practices to protect pollinators” were worth $0.10, $0.10, $0.73, and $0.99 more than plants labeled as “grown in a sustainably produced potting soil/mix,” “grown using recycled/recaptured water,” “grown using protective neonicotinoid insecticides,” and “grown using traditional insect management practices,” respectively. Thus, selected insect management strategies were valued more, on average, than eco-friendly production practices.

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Fresh and processed tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) consumption has increased 40% in the United States over the last two decades. Through better breeding, fresh tomatoes now are marketed in different forms, sizes, colors, and flavors. However, little published information exists concerning consumer demand, preference, and demographic characteristics related to fresh tomato consumption. Taking advantage of a high percentage of Internet use in the U.S., two web-based surveys were released to approximately 6000 e-mail addresses reaching people in every region of the U.S. The surveys contained a total of 61 questions, including 50 digital images of five types of tomatoes (cherry, grape, cluster, plum, and regular slicing) with combinations of three additional factors (price, lycopene content, and production style) and demographic information. Among 389 respondents, 76% preferred and purchased slicing tomatoes in the 4 weeks prior to the survey. These were followed by grape/mini-pear (42%), plum (36%), cluster (27%), cherry (25%), and yellow slicing tomatoes (4.4%). Overall, production method (organic vs. conventional) had low relative importance in comparison to price and tomato type. However, younger participants (<age 38 years) placed more importance on production method. Participants between ages 39 and 57 years were the most price-sensitive, and female were less sensitive than males. Younger participants (<age 38 years) were less price-sensitive and placed more importance on the other attributes (production method, lycopene content, and tomato type).

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