Farmers markets must carefully consider their options before signing up for a farmers market e-commerce platform.
The last few years have seen both negative and positive effects on regional farmers market sales. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, consumers were increasingly turning to online shopping. The pandemic forced markets to shut down. Those who stayed open scrambled to put together online ordering with pick-up or delivery options.
But there has been an upside in all this chaos. Farmers markets that took the time to set up a rigorous online sales outlet have now captured a growing market share, which is vital for farmers markets looking to future sales. More than ever before, consumers want to purchase healthy, locally grown food. The caveat is — they need the shopping process to be easy, convenient and safe — i.e. online.
E-commerce platforms like the Food4All Hub are explicitly designed for farmers markets, food coops and regional buying groups and are an obvious answer for a market looking to venture into online sales. The trick is finding the right platform.
3 Things to Consider When Choosing an E-Commerce Platform for Your Farmers Market
- How Easy is it to Manage?
- Will Vendors Want to Use It?
- How Much Will It Cost?
A Farmers Market Online Sales Platform Must Be Easy to Administer
Most market managers are underpaid or even volunteer their time. They have a laundry list of tasks to accomplish to keep their market running smoothly. The last thing they have time for is confusing and unwieldy online sales software that requires hours to implement and more hours to maintain every week.
When reviewing possible online solutions, consider the following:
- How easy will the platform be to set up and who will do the bulk of the set-up work?
- What is the maintenance requirement?
- How are payments dispersed to vendors? Does the market manager have to do that?
- Who manages products, prices and inventory?
- What reporting functions are available and how easy are they to run?
- Will the online system integrate easily with the market’s already established website and social media outlets?
- If there is a problem, how accessible is customer service?
A well-designed e-commerce sales platform should ease market manager’s administrative burdens, not give them more! So, make sure you choose an online platform for your farmers market that doesn’t require more staff time to run.
Your Vendors Must Be on Board
Managing a farmers market is a bit like herding cats. Market vendors should be excited about the online sales platform your market has chosen. The whole idea is doomed from the start if your vendors are not onboard
So, make sure you pick a system that your vendors will be as psyched to participate in as you are. But what kind of system will your vendors appreciate?
Like the farmers market staff, the system needs to be user-friendly and easy for vendors to implement and maintain. But the platform should also have dual benefits for your vendors. Farmers don’t have time to manage multiple different e-commerce platforms for every sales channel they participate in. If vendors can use the platform you choose to manage all their online sales — even those they make directly or in venues that aren’t your farmer’s market — that’s a significant added benefit to them!
Food4All’s Hub solution for farmers markets and food buying groups is a natural extension from Food4All’s online e-commerce platform developed specifically for farmers, ranchers and food artisans that need an online way to direct market their products. If the vendors in your farmers market already have their own Food4All account, all they have to do to participate in your market’s Food4All Hub is click a button and join.
If your vendors don’t have an e-commerce solution yet for their business, they will find that setting up a Food4All account to join your hub gives them an online, direct-market sales outlet that easily integrates with their existing website and social media. And, ideally, it can be used to manage all their online sales and even their point of sales transactions!
How Much Will It Cost?
Farmer markets can’t afford to ignore the costs of an online e-commerce sales platform. But there are several things to keep in mind when assessing online sales expenses.
First, there is the cost of the technology itself and how the pricing is structured. A significant upfront cost can be prohibitive, especially if the market will need to ask the vendors to help cover the expenses. Percent of sales pricing structures can seem more affordable, but if the platform takes off, you’ll end up paying a significant chunk of money to the software provider.
But that’s just the technology costs. As we have already discussed, an unwieldy program that requires constant maintenance and data entry will end up increasing the cost of operations needed to support online ordering.
Bottom line, farmers markets need an e-commerce business model that will fund its operation. The business model should be built into the platform itself. Food4All accomplishes this by charging a small fee to consumers — not the vendors or the farmers market — for every transaction made on the Food4All platform. And the market can choose to charge vendors a percentage of sales in order to fund the cost of market operation. Sales proceeds are deposited directly into the vendor and market’s bank account.
Interesting in learning more about the Food4All Hub solution for your farmer markets’ online sales needs? Schedule your free demo today!
Food4All is a free, online platform built specifically for local food farmers, farmers markets and anyone selling farm and ranch goods, whether fresh food, value-added items, or CSA’s. We offer free, simple to use tools and technologies that will bring customers (new and old) to your online farm store and easily collate orders and get you paid.