London-based SmartPlant, whose digital app helps users to identify and care for their plants, has raised more than £200,000 in a crowd-funding campaign designed to help it further develop the technology.
“We shall be over-funded next week,” CEO George Williams, 27, told GTN Xtra as the Crowdcube campaing sailed past its initial target.
SmartPlant has unique features that could save retailers time and money while increasing customer retention and product up-selling. Longacres in the UK and Arboretum in Ireland are among a growing list of retail partners and celebrity garden designer Diarmuid Gavin has endorsed the product.
Customers who buy a plant at a participating retailer can use the app’s barcode-scanning technology to receive a free premium membership giving them monthly care advice for the plants they load into their ‘digital garden’, plus plant and pest identification and a chat service with more than 100 horticultural experts.
Once they scan a plant with the app, users are connected to their preferred garden centre and receive product recommendations. They can also input the plants they already own by selecting them in the SmartPlant library of more than 20,000 plants, all supported by monthly care information.
Longacres was quick to see the potential of SmartPlant for the garden industry, which has typically lagged behind in digital innovation. Beyond the benefits it provides to consumers, it can also reduce the workload of staff, all while helping Longacres to sell more products.
"Digital innovation like this in the gardening industry is long overdue, and we couldn't be happier to be working with SmartPlant,” said Michael Ainley, head of IT at Longacres. “SmartPlant's technology is already helping our customers to look after their plants and making it easier to keep in-touch with Longacres garden centres.”
In answer to those who might regard the “digitising” of the garden industry as undermining the position of highly-trained and committed planteria staff, George Williams stresses that SmartPlant is not a replacement for the human workforce. “We’re a plug-in,” he says. “We aim to make life easier for the staff
He also points out that the app brings “big data” into the garden industry, giving retailers an idea of who their customers are, crucial in an age of booming e-commerce. Due to a plethora of available purchase options, customer retention has become more difficult, yet more important than ever.
Significantly, SmartPlant’s 320,000 downloads are mostly by 25-35-year-olds, demonstrating how technology can foster an interest in plants in young. SmartPlant is currently developing its service for Amazon Alexa, so its jargon-free care advice can be delivered through the spoken word, a global first.
With a scope to allow communication between the app and Alexa, SmartPlant is planning to add a voice-recognition element to its plant care, which will allow Alexa to tell a user what plant care actions need to be taken in their garden. It will also help its users keep plant supplies stocked by asking Alexa to purchase the items they need.
SmartPlant currently offers users a free version of the app, which allows for up to three plants in their digital garden, or a full-feature premium service, both granting users access to speak to plant experts in their local area, and receive monthly advice relevant to their plants.
GTN Xtra has given it a try. It’s easy easy to understand and it works. We scanned a houseplant for an ID request and got an accurate common name identification from an expert within 15 minutes. We followed up with a request for the Latin mame and more information and this too arrived promptly.
The app should users with little knowledge of plants and gardening the confidence to know learn more and grow more – and it provides the garden industry with an invaluable link to a digitally-engaged generation.