Kirstenbosch Plant Fair: Cape Town’s biggest indigenous plant fair


Plant indigenous

This was a first for the Kirstenbosch branch of the Botanical Society: hosting their annual Kirstenbosch Plant Fair ONLINE. Following the onset of the second wave of Covid infections in the Western Cape, this branch decided to adapt smartly and host this much-loved plant fair online instead, to ensure the necessary funds were raised for their conservation activities, while keeping their members safe.

The BotSoc Kirstenbosch Branch

 While in the process of revamping their current website, the small Kirstenbosch branch team, led by branch manager, Catherine Gribble, took on the mammoth task of planning and rolling out the 2021 virtual plant fair. The brief to LoveGreen was to setup and design the online shop, and to assist with marketing the plant fair to BotSoc members, plant lovers and gardeners in Cape Town.

Easy to use and trustworthy

How do you organise more than 10 000 plants on an ecommerce platform, ensuring it is easy for first-time shoppers to understand and complete the transaction? Answering these questions formed the basis of our approach and of the online shop’s layout.

There was an additional loophole to overcome during this plant fair: finding a way to ensure shoppers could choose when to collect their plants in a Covid-friendly way.

By using Woocommerce, with payments taking place via PayFast, along with a few dedicated ecommerce plugins, we could set the system up to provide hourly timeslots for collection (Delivery & Pickup Date Time for WooCommerce Pro), for a period of 1 week once the fair had concluded. We categorised the products into plant types, and set up an advanced search system (Advanced Woo Search and Themify – WooCommerce Product Filter) and custom menu bar. We could also add links to SANBI’s PlantsZAfrica website where readers could find out about growing tips and conditions for most products.

One of the biggest jobs was to source images of all 1 000 plant species. Well done to Gianpaolo and Catherine for all their efforts in compiling and adding all the information.

The social media marketing (driven by the Kirstenbosch team and LoveGreen) focused on preparing our audience to shop online easily, and feel safe and secure during their online shopping experience. To build excitement during the online fair, we also highlighted indigenous best sellers, held a lucky draw giveaway and used coupons to generate more sales during the final weekend. 

“I simply cannot thank LoveGreen enough for their outstanding work on this project! Agile, innovative, professional and friendly – it was a pleasure working with them. They kept me involved throughout the development process, providing excellent support after we went live. Nothing was too much trouble for them. Their inspiring vision and the fresh, crisp design of the platform and the social media campaign were a winning combination.””

– Catherine Gribble , Manager BotSoc Kirstenbosch Branch

Gardening for Happiness

To counterbalance a time of great anxiety caused by the Covid pandemic (and other concerns, such as the runaway fires in Cape Town earlier in the year), the theme of the 2021 Plant Fair was “Gardening for Happiness”. We chose elements from the lovely new BotSoc branding, focusing on those “warm” BotSoc branding colours such as yellow, orange and red, to accompany the BotSoc green, to give a feeling of mental and physical wellbeing.

When you donate a plant, you help the Botanical Society, Kirstenbosch branch to restore and protect our wonderful Cape Fynbos biome.“

We loved this idea, suggested by the Kirstenbosch team, to offer shoppers one final chance to donate to this good cause. As such, the donation option was featured as a pop-up on the basket and on the cart page, as well as in the footer of product pages. We’re grateful to the more than 70 shoppers who opted to donate to the branch while completing their order, and in so doing, helping to further support the branch.

The result? The successful launch of the first digital
plant fair for the Kirstenbosch branch.

With a total of more than 6000 plants sold, a few lessons learned along the way, and a range of fun messages to keep the interest strong throughout the two weeks, the Kirstenbosch branch now has a platform in place that can be used in other formats in the future. It was great working with the Kirstenbosch team on this innovative new way of still reaching people, even when a pandemic prevents business as usual.

Our thanks to the BotSoc Kirstenbosch branch: Catherine and Gianpaolo, as well as BotSocSA.

I collected my Kirstenbosch Plant Fair plants yesterday. What a pleasure it was: the friendliness of the volunteers, the excellent organisation and the health and beauty of the plants all contributed to almost creating the festive excitement of the “normal” Kirstenbosch Plant Fair. Thank you for organising a superb event and making indigenous plants so easily available for gardeners.””

– 2021 online shopper

I would also like to congratulate you on such a lovely online buying experience. Your admin and friendly staff were a pleasure.”

– 2021 online shopper

My order was duly collected on 12 June at the appointed time slot. All the plants were planted on 14 June and are now enjoying the delicious rain being delivered even as I type. Thank you for the organising this novel event.”

– 2021 online shopper

Tina uses her knowledge of all that is digital, and combine it with her love for nature and beautiful things – colours, leaves, petals and patterns. She is our website developer. When is she is not in front of her computer, you might find her out in her food garden, growing organic vegetables and flowers. Or out exploring the fynbos and Renosterveld around the Kogelberg area. 

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