Q&A: Mason Day

Supplement - Cultivate’16

What consumers are telling us about plants through the GrowIt! mobile gardening app.

June 7, 2016
Brooke N. Bates

After seeing a “national” survey with only 100 respondents from three states, Mason Day realized the green industry needed better data. Instead of growing the same plants every year, he wanted to learn which plants people actually wanted.

While working at Ball Horticultural Company in 2014, Day partnered with co-worker Seth Reed to co-found a mobile gardening app called GrowIt! to collect this data. The social network connects gardeners – who can search and identify plants, post photos and share growing tips – while the app tracks plant preferences to monitor consumer trends.

The app had 162,000 users when we spoke with Day in early May, and it’s quickly growing at a rate of 1,100 new users daily. With 90,000 active users, GrowIt! is essentially a 90,000-person survey, providing 15 million data points that tell us how consumers interact with plants.

Before Day and Reed present their insights at Cultivate’16, Day gave us a sneak peek of their session, “What Consumers Are Telling Us About Plants.”

Q: What prompted the idea to create GrowIt!?

A: Seth [Reed] and I were working for Ball Horticultural. Seth was 30 at the time; I was fresh out of college. We realized that if we wanted to be in the industry in 30 years, we had to get young folks interested in plants.

I said, ‘If we’re going to do anything, it has to be mobile.’ We’re always talking, as an industry, about getting people off their phones. Are we ever going to win that battle? We might as well try to get on their phones and be relevant.

The whole thought behind GrowIt! is to offer a resource for the home grower and, at the same time, collect data about what plant varieties and colors people like in specific locations and age groups, to help the industry drive relevant products.

Q: What demographics are represented in your user base?

A: The industry doesn’t always have the biggest pull for Millennials. When we were setting benchmarks, garden centers told us that 80 percent of the people on their email lists were over age 40.

Now, 52 percent of our users are under age 35. For an app, you might think that’s skewing pretty old, but for our industry, it’s actually pretty young – which is good for us, because we’re connecting with new growers.

Q: What are consumers telling us about plants, via GrowIt!?

A: I don’t want to say too much because we’ve got some bombshells to drop. But I will tell you it’s interesting to see what younger people like, and it’s not always the plants we think they’re going to like. The Millennial generation is the craft beer generation; they want beers you can’t find at any store. The plants they like are also harder to find.

Color-wise, it’s interesting to see which generations prefer which colors, and how closely Millennials’ preferences line up with Pantone’s Color of the Year.

Q: How can businesses use data from GrowIt! to understand consumers?

A: By the end of the summer, we’ll have packages to offer to retailers and growers. If you’re selling to a specific region, we’ll sell you information on what specific demographics are buying, the plants and colors they’re interested in. The ultimate goal is to increase profits, turns and customers.

We take for granted that people outside of horticulture don’t know a lot about plants. We joke about new plants every year, but to a lot of people, all plants are new when they step into a greenhouse or garden center. It’s interesting to get a fresh feel of what they’re interested in because it’s not the same as we’ve always thought.

Want to go? What Consumers are Telling Us About Plants, Monday, July 11 | 10:00 – 10:20 a.m.