KSU research finds majority of horticultural businesses have not adopted online direct selling, industry in early stages of using the technology


Research by the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement at Kansas State University found that a majority of horticultural businesses have not adopted online direct selling with Amazon, eBay and other websites, and that the industry is in the early stages of using this technology.

Kansas State University nursery crops and horticultural marketing specialist Cheryl Boyer, an active participant with the Center, says selling horticultural products online is a unique challenge because consumers want plants that are ready to go when they arrive in the mail.

“Consumer expectations are changing,” said Boyer.  “They want to go to Amazon and get a quart-size annual delivered to their house in two days with no mess in the box.  Perfect plant, no damage.  We’re just kind of fascinated by this idea and how do we help stakeholders in Kansas get a leg up on this business.”

As part of the research project, Boyer says they were able to get access to the membership for a national horticultural association and they started looking at their websites to see if they were selling on Amazon, and if not, if they had their own fully-functioning shopping cart on their site.

“We found that of 498 businesses, four were selling on Amazon.  Now this isn’t comprehensive, it’s sort of a benchmark, first look kind of situation, but we think it’s nicely representative.  Then we found just a handful more that sold on their own shopping carts.  Most of them were very difficult to use, they weren’t very user friendly.”

 While a majority of the horticultural industry is not engaging in online direct selling, Boyer expects to see that change in the near future.

“As land values near urban centers get more and more expensive, we think people are going to want to continue to live in their smaller communities and they need to have a viable business. And, our shipping options are getting better and better and so it’s exciting to see the industry stay on top of these things.”

This spring, Boyer says they’ll be looking at characterizing the Amazon Plant Store to make Kansas growers want to use Amazon as a way to sell their horticultural products.