Swiping Right on Personalization: How an Ex-Tinder CEO Is Growing an Online Nursery Business 

Plant enthusiasts, gardeners and landscapers consider visiting a nursery in person as a necessity when it comes to selecting plants, shrubs, and trees. It allows them to inspect the plant up close, examine the leaves, and check for any signs of damage or disease. They can also receive expert advice on the best plant for their particular needs and learn how to properly care for it.

That said, buying plants online might not seem like the most attractive solution, as it introduces a lot of uncertainty and turns out to be a guessing game for customers in terms of what they will actually receive. 

But as eCommerce and online shopping continue to gain popularity, Fast Growing Trees, an online nursery, seeks to challenge the traditional notion of purchasing plants exclusively in-store. By emphasizing the convenience and accessibility of high-quality plant options, Fast Growing Trees aims to educate gardeners on the benefits of buying plants online. Furthermore, the company offers expert guidance to customers, even long after their initial purchase, further underscoring the potential value of online plant shopping. 

In a PYMNTS interview with Elie Seidman, former CEO of Tinder and current interim CEO of Fast Growing Trees, Seidman discussed the online nursery’s efforts to not only appeal to plant and garden enthusiasts but also introduce them to an experience typically reserved for in-person visits to nurseries. 

Unlocking Loyalty

Personalization has become a popular tool among retailers to enhance shopper loyalty, usually by providing product personalization and recommendations. However, Fast Growing Trees is taking a slightly different approach to loyalty, according to Seidman, as it prioritizes education and expert advice. 

See also: Nordstrom and Macy’s Lean Into Personalization to Lock In Shopper Loyalty 

Seidman noted that delivering exceptional service involves understanding that the level and type of assistance customers may need vary based on their expertise. That said, the company caters to customers who are already knowledgeable and prefer purchasing from Fast Growing Trees due to their quality, selection, and expertise.  

Meanwhile, the company also assists customers who are new to the field and require more guidance in the hopes that they will eventually become experts themselves. 

“I like the analogy of going to REI for outdoor gear. Even though I’m not an expert, I go there because I know they have experts who can help me choose the right gear. It makes me feel more comfortable knowing that they know what they’re doing and have chosen the best products. They’ve honed their skills with experts, and that benefits even customers like me who are not experts,” Seidman said. 

Education and Expert Advice

Seidman noted that not all customers need expert advice, and some may not even know it’s a part of the Fast Growing Trees experience and may not understand the value, at least initially. 

But for customers who value the approach, it can be viewed as an exclusivity of sorts. Many brands and retailers are dialing up their exclusivity, rather than their inclusivity, because catering to all lacks personalization. Focusing on your core customer, who understands and values your offer, can have a positive impact on your bottom line. This strategy is being adopted by brands and retailers such as Gucci, Saks, Allbirds, and even Dick’s Sporting Goods, who are doubling down on this tactic, as their loyal customers make repeat purchases. 

See also: Luxury Retailers Like Saks and Gucci Lean Into Exclusivity 

With that, the company’s expertise approach has played into the company’s core customer and has seen success, with referrals from a cohort of customers who understand the importance of seeking professional guidance and exchanging information. 

Purchasing the Right Plant

To meet customer expectations, Fast Growing Trees is developing a software visualization tool to help customers see how their chosen tree or plant will look in their yard over time. This tool is designed to aid customers in making informed decisions. 

In addition, Seidman noted that the company prioritizes the selection of trees and plants and quality, even if it means offering more expensive options, as providing low-quality products would be counterproductive and could harm their reputation. 

And to prevent customers from purchasing plants that are not suitable for their area, Fast Growing Trees has implemented various measures to prevent such items from being added to their cart. One of the company’s first lines of defense is to filter and display products based on the customer’s area and time of year, ensuring that this process can be scaled up efficiently. In addition, the company also scans all large orders for potential challenges before they are processed.  

Seidman notes that the company also has a separate process for those who want a more hands-on approach. For example, if a customer is preparing to place a large order and wants to see the exact plants they are about to purchase rather than relying on website images, they can proactively reach out to the company to accommodate their request. 

Tackling Shipping Prices

“Shipping is a significant challenge, and unfortunately, it’s only going to become more expensive as temporary surcharges become permanent,” said Seidman.  

It’s a challenge even for eCommerce giants like Amazon, which has started to impose fees on some returns to combat the increasing costs of shipping.  

See also: Amazon Charging New Fees on Some Returns 

That said, Seidman says the company has its own remedy. At the point of purchase, Fast Growing Trees presents customers with various pricing options for the same item. This strategy aims to offer customers the flexibility to choose between saving time or money.

And when a customer places an order, Fast Growing Trees’ experts will then advise on the customers purchase and provide guidance based on their specific situation. In some cases where certain items are unsuitable, they may advise the customer to remove them from their order. 

The duration of the journey from a customer’s arrival on the Fast Growing Trees website to placing an order can vary widely, from a few hours to several weeks or months.  

During the winter months, the company does not ship to many parts of the country. Many customers tend to plan and research their orders well in advance, similar to planning a vacation. The company holds these premade orders until the planting season and ships them accordingly. The duration of the journey also depends on the customer’s location and preferences, and Fast Growing Trees leverages complexity as an opportunity to simplify the process for its customers.