If you weren’t selling your farm products directly online already, the coronavirus pandemic should have sealed the deal.
In today’s hectic, convenience-driven (and now health and safety-concerned world), local food farmers should be selling directly online to their customers. The good news is adding online sales to your marketing mix brings with it the potential for greatly expanding beyond your current customer base. Plus, it makes sales convenient and easy for you, too — assuming you implement the right online shopping platform.
Why do Consumers Want to Buy Farm Food Direct Online?
In the 21st century, convenience is the name of the game.
Yes, consumers still want to buy food and farm products that are high-quality, good for the environment, healthy, tasty and support their local economy. But if they can’t find your products conveniently, everything else becomes a moot point. Their pantries are bare. They just spent a long day at work, commuting, or in endless Zoom meetings. The last thing they want to spend their precious free-time doing is navigating parking, long lines and crowds, especially when there are already increasingly more “click-of-the-button” online food ordering options.
Even before the Covid pandemic, grocery shoppers were shifting to e-commerce sales. In a January 2020 survey, 63 percent of grocery shoppers said convenience was highly valued. Two-thirds of shoppers even said they were willing to pay more for convenience, including paying for a third-party delivery or online fee service.
When the coronavirus pandemic started, two things happened. Even more shoppers switched to online orders. And they become even more focused on supporting healthy, local food options. Empty grocery shelves brought home the reality of a precarious commoditized food supply system. And the threat of a potentially deadly virus made feeding your family healthy, fresh and locally-grown food a lot more critical.
Overall, online grocery shopping surged. An April 2020 survey found more than 30 percent of U.S. households had purchased groceries online in the past month, double the numbers versus pre-Covid sales. And, 43 percent of those shoppers say they will continue to buy groceries online after the crisis is over.
All across the U.S., local food farmers scrambled to move their sales online. Those who were set up for direct online sales or who rapidly made the switch saw immediate benefits.
Washington state farmer and Bow Hill Blueberries co-owner Susan Soltes reported a 400% increase in online sales since the start of the pandemic.
Eventually, the pandemic will be a (welcome) piece of history. Undoubtedly, some customers will shift back to in-person food purchases. However, the numbers solidly support a continued increase in e-commerce sales. An increasingly digital-savvy consumer base and a plethora of new buying apps all aimed at making shopping as convenient as possible is a trend that is here to stay.
Online Direct Farm Sales Can be a Boon for Your Farm Sales
None of this is bad news for local food farmers. Especially if you set up your online shopping platform, so it is quick, convenient and as easy for you to use as your customers.
Online sales mean you can offer your previous loyal customers a new and easy way to buy your food. It can also attract a whole new slew of shoppers looking for locally-grown, healthy food they can purchase conveniently.
And, instead of sitting at a farmer’s market hoping somebody shows up to buy all those vegetables you picked, with online sales you can pick and pack your products to order, saving time and streamlining your labor needs. But, that assumes you’re not sitting in front of a computer screen for hours every day trying to navigate the back-end of a complicated e-commerce system!
There are a plethora of online e-commerce options available for farmers. Some are universal, made for any online sales or, a plug-in for your existing website. Others target specifically food and farming sales. And some are online-platforms that pull together many farms similar to yours but offer individual sales transactions, attracting a broader base of potential buyers.
Whatever you decide to use, to ease the transition and make the experience convenient for both you and your customer, make sure your e-commerce sales platform includes:
- Seamless connection to your social media channels and existing website.
- Easy to use and manage from any device, including mobile phones and tablets.
- Mobile point-of-sales for in-person sales to seamlessly combine online and farmer’s market or farm stand sales.
- Capabilities for accommodating CSA box sales.
- A rapid payment system so you get your money quickly.
- A geolocation service that matches buyers to farms in the area (important for multi-farm online sales platforms).
- Loads quickly and seamlessly.
- Has room to highlight your farm and plenty of opportunities for pictures of your farm and farm products.
- Provides accurate and time-saving reports that will help you evaluate your sales and make smart business choices.
Bottom line, if you’re not selling your farm food direct online already, there has never been a better time to do so!
Food4All is a free, online ecommerce platform built specifically for local food farmers, farmer markets and anyone selling farm, ranch and artisanal food, whether it’s fresh food, value-added items, or CSA’s. We offer free tools, technologies and a simple-to-use platform that will bring customers (new and old) to your online farm store and easily collate orders and get you paid.
For more information, check out our website at www.food4all.com.