7 Questions to Ask Before Deploying eCommerce for Your Farm
Before diving into these questions, it is essential to note eCommerce is driven by (and evolving due to) consumer expectations and experiences. Normal online browsing and ordering is typically for books, clothing and other shelf-stable items. Today, most ‘online ecommerce solutions’ are NOT designed to facilitate the buying and selling of perishable food directly from a Farmer. No online ecommerce solution will be a panacea (even solutions like Barn2Door whose sole focus is ecommerce for local food are not ‘perfect’), so be sure to use the following questions to evaluate your options, and to ensure a solution that makes sense for your farm, how you sell, who you sell to and how you fulfill orders.
1. Does the solution support multiple price lists?
Most Farmers sell their products directly to: (a) Retail (direct-to-consumer), (b) Wholesale (grocers, chefs and distributors), and (c) Private buying clubs. The goal is to offer Farmers flexibility when it comes to distribution channels and pricing by customer type.
Can Retail buyers purchase as a Guest? (if not, you’ll lose 50% of buyers)
Is Wholesale access gated based on login? (to protect your pricing)
Can you offer invite-only access to a Private store? (to access raw milk)
2. Does the solution suppport multiple pick-up & delivery options?
Farmers live busy lives and their schedules are often jammed. Your eCommerce solution needs to align with your preferred operating model: (a) pick-up locations (on-farm or drop sites); (b) delivery options that are geo-targeted (by zip code); (c) shipping (by mail); and (d) “to be arranged” (after your harvest dates are confirmed).
Are there limitations on the number of your pick-up & delivery locations?
Can you configure delivery options by customer type? (Retail v. Wholesale)
When your harvest date is unknown, can you “arrange” a pickup date online?
3. Does the solution support variable weights?
Charging for products by weight is the lifeblood of Farmers. Your eCommerce solution should be designed to help you maximize your revenues, and make it easy to reconcile the final price for your variable weighted items - with the click-of-a-button.
Can you accept a deposit then auto-reconcile a final price (when weighed)?
Are payments details stored securely, or do you chase down final payments?
Can customers purchase credits, then drawdown as items are ordered?
4. Does the solution integrate with your existing applications?
Farmers have no time - especially for tedious “data-entry.” Your ecommerce solution should make life easier with direct integrations to your newsletter (Mailchimp), social handles (Facebook, Instagram), website (Squarespace), merchant account (Stripe) and accounting (Quickbooks).
Do you waste time re-keying information into multiple applications?
Do you “pay” for these integrations to work with your ecommerce?
Does it just “work” and help you save time? (or, are your frustrated?)
5. What are the processing rates? (aka - read the fine print)
Too often what sounds like a good deal turns out to be more expensive in the long-run. Processing rates generally appear to vary between 2.7% to 3.0% with a flat transaction fee. However, be sure to read the fine print.
Are processing rates truly “flat” or are reward cards more expensive?
Are the advertised rates based on “card present” versus “not present” online?
Do your buyers have the ability to “opt in” and cover your processing fees?
6. Does the solution mark-up your prices, take a % of your sales, or charge buyers a service fee?
Pay attention. Many solutions in the market today will mark-up your Farm products (up to 15%). Other solutions will take a percentage of your gross sales (up to 15%). Some solutions, will recoup costs with a “service fee” charged to the buyer at checkout (up to 10%). Either way, the impacts can be significant for Farmers.
Do the mark-ups impact the competitiveness of your pricing?
Does taking a percentage of your gross sales seem fair for value received?
What is palatable to your buyers if a “service fee” is passed on at check-out?
7. What level of support is included with your solution?
Farmers often look for the “least expensive” solution, but fail to recognize support is often NOT included. Most ecommerce solutions only offer support via email or a self-help knowledge base. Chat and phone support is often at a premium (from $65 per incident to a flat $1,000 per month). And, rarely does support include a Farmer’s end customers.
Does your Farm have “live” support from a real person (in the USA)?
Do Buyers have access to “chat” support when buying from your Farm?
Does your solution provider “know” your Farm business?
Hopefully you have found the above 7 Questions to Ask Before Deploying e-Commerce insightful. We aim to be objective with the information we collect and share based on the best practices we have learned serving Farmers across the USA.
At Barn2Door, we won’t pretend to be all things to all people (we’re not a panacea and we acknowledge we always have room for improvement). But, you can count on us being transparent with our pricing and business ethics. Read our terms and conditions - we employ the “Golden Rule” in all that we do at Barn2Door.
If you want to learn more, or discuss ecommerce options for your Farm, then click here to: Request a Demo from a Farm Account Executive who is dedicated to serving Farmers in your state.
We would be delighted to learn more about your Farm!