LFM’s Mobile app: “As easy as ordering from a large scale distributor”

Chef Matt Louis of Moxy Restaurant in Portsmouth, NH inspects his produce.   Photo credit:  Emily Corwin, New Hampshire Public Radio

Chef Matt Louis of Moxy Restaurant in Portsmouth, NH inspects his produce.
Photo credit: Emily Corwin, New Hampshire Public Radio

This past winter, in between snowstorms in the Northeast, I managed to sneak in a visit with Andre Cantelmo of Heron Pond Farm and Josh Jennings of Meadow’s Mirth Farm.  They were in the process of putting together a producer cooperative, along with another farm, Kate Donald of Stout Oak Farm and were looking for a streamlined way for their customers (mostly restaurants) to place orders via mobile device.  They had been delivering individually to restaurants and knew how much chefs relied on their mobile phone to communicate with them.  Their goal was to streamline the order management process for their cooperative while making it convenient for their customers to order.

Fast forward about 7 months and their cooperative is up and running and serving dozens of restaurants in the Seacoast region.  New Hampshire Public Radio accompanied them on deliveries to several customers a few weeks ago and interviewed several chefs, including Chef Ryan LeBossiere of  Flatbread Company in Portsmouth, NH.  Ryan perfectly summed up why LFM provides custom ecommerce mobile apps for our customers:

 

“I can do this order while I’m walking down the stairs to get chicken from the freezer. The app makes sourcing locally as easy as buying from a large-scale distributor.”

 

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Several years ago when we began thinking about a mobile app, the primary target users were consumers.  But as we started talking to our customers, we heard story after story of chefs sending them texts to place or update their orders.  More than a year after we launched our first mobile app, it is clear that many chefs, like Ryan, appreciate the convenience of ordering from their mobile phone or tablet. The app helps LFM customers connect with chefs seeking locally-sourced food without the hassle of “juggling phone and email orders.”  Some food hubs that serve restaurants, like Three River and Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance, receive 30-40% of their orders via mobile app.

LFM currently has published 25 customized and branded mobile apps to the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.  The apps integrate seamlessly with the rest of LFM’s food hub management technology  including planning, order, and distribution management.

June 2014 Newsletter

With peas and strawberries in abundance at our local market, and Memorial Day behind us, the busy harvest season and our 5 year anniversary have snuck up on us.  We have much to be thankful for and we’re excited to include you in our celebration.

We’re holding six exciting giveaways throughout June and July, with one lucky food hub getting a complete package (value up to $2,700), including a branded mobile app, website, training, and implementation with no initiation fee and no monthly minimum subscription fee for one year.  Read more about our anniversary promotion and how to enter in this post.  Our first winner will be announced Monday, June 16, so enter right away for your best chance to win!

We are also offering a new “Starter” pricing option, that includes core product features with a standard template for your order page.  Read more about this new option and a payment plan for startup food hubs below, plus hear about our new website, our NGFN food hub conference report,  an updated mobile app report, and a recap of LFM news.

New website!

We quietly published a new website a couple of months ago, with a resources section and an ever growing set of customer profiles.  We invite you to browse and let us know what you think!

NGFN conference – a big success!

We attended the NGFN conference in Raleigh back in March and got to put faces to many of the voices we speak with on a regular basis.  We saw more than a dozen customers including Kristen from Our Harvest (pictured in the middle with Amy and Laura).  Our session on Challenges and Opportunities with Multichannel Sales with panelists from Penn’s Corner Farm AllianceIdaho’s Bounty, and Farm Fresh Rhode Island drew a crowd and lots of engaging questions.  If you missed the session, you can download the mp3.

 

 

 

 

 

Mobile app update

Since our release of our first customer branded mobile app a year ago,  we have carefully observed the impact of mobile on our customer’s businesses.

In our last newsletter, we reported that mobile orders were 28% larger than web orders on average.  We’ve refined our reporting to differentiate between mobile, web, and admin orders (previously web and admin entered orders were lumped together).  With this adjustment, mobile orders are an aggregate 48% larger than web orders across all sites with a mobile app.

Our customers are also seeing an increasing number of orders placed via mobile app, driven primarily by chefs and consumers, with some markets now receiving up to 26% of their orders via mobile.  We expect this trend to continue as more people rely on mobile technology for work and personal use.

We’ve been asked a few times in the last few months about how mobile apps are different than responsive websites.  They are different in a couple of key ways:

  • Mobile apps offer the ability to send push notifications (notifications that appear on mobile devices).  Push notifications can be a strong sales driver and call to action.  Sending customers notifications like “Strawberries available – order now!” or “A few flats of cherries just listed” that appear on your customer’s phone or tablet generate instant action.
  • Based on numbers alone, customers prefer the app experience to the mobile browsing experience.  According to Nielsen, nearly 90% of mobile internet time is spent in apps, while only 10% is spent on a mobile browser.  This is likely because mobile apps better customize the user experience.  In LFM’s apps, food hub customers can instantly see which of their favorite products are available, add to their order, see their order history, adjust payment and delivery, and more.

New “Starter” plan

This is the perfect plan for small and emerging food hubs to get started! For a limited time (through end of July), we’re also offering payments plans with this package to spread your initiation fee over 12 months.  For just $50/mo plus our standard monthly subscription fees for the first year (and just the standard monthly subscription fees for your second year and beyond), this is a great way for food hubs with limited budgets to get started and add new features such as a multi-channel sales management, customized website template, branded mobile app, route management, and more as you grow.  Please contact us for more details!

Resources for food hubs and producers

Don’t forget about the quickly approaching deadlines for USDA’s Local Food Promotion Program and Farmers Market Promotion Program grants, both due June 20, 2014.

LFM news recap

LFM’s mobile app was recently featured in Modern Farmer and our company was profiled in 1859 Magazine.

For a thought provoking read, check out Dan Barber’s NY Times opinion on “What Farm to Table Got Wrong” and my reaction to it on our blog.

New customer, Puget Sound Food Hub, was featured in Grow Northwest.  Be sure to take the time to check out their elegant new website.

Another new customer, Capital District Community Gardens of Troy, NY held a ribbon cutting ceremony for their food hub, Virtual Veggie Mobile, with the NY State Ag Commissioner.

Thank you for all that you do for our local food systems!

Cheers!

Amy McCann, CEO
Local Food Marketplace

On turning 5 (and our celebration promotion)

To I’ve been reflecting this spring on LFM’s 5 year anniversary and our journey from operating our own food hub to now serving 70 food hubs around the US and Canada.  We started LFM with several key principles that still hold today – to help local food compete more effectively in our global food system, help small and medium sized producers efficiently reach local markets, and ultimately increase the amount of local food on our plates.  We’re proud that our earliest customers are still on the journey with us including Central Oregon Locavore, Eugene Local Foods, and Red Hills Small Farm Alliance.

We have certainly not gotten to this point alone or without building on the work and efforts of others and as such are offering several giveaways to celebrate our 5 year anniversary.  In the next month, we will be randomly selecting 6 operational food hubs not currently using LFM’s services to win.  The giveaways are described below:

 

GRAND PRIZE

For one operating food hub, we will waive our initiation fee plus waive our monthly minimum subscription fee for 12 months (value up to $2,700). The winner will receive all of our standard setup services, including building your custom website template, publishing your branded mobile app to Google Play and Apple App Store, plus one on one training and implementation services to ensure success.  The drawing will be July 7 at 12PM PT.

 

5 for 5 PRIZES

For five (one for each year we are in business) operating food hubs, we will waive our mobile app setup fee (value up to $500), plus provide marketing templates and support to help you get the word out.  We’ll be holding a random drawing for all entrants every Monday at 12PM PT from June 16 until July 14.

 

To enter, please fill out this short form so we can verify your food hub’s eligibility, contact you with followup questions, and provide other details on the promotions!  If you have questions, please feel free to contact us.

Please help spread the word by sharing this post!

And current customers, we aren’t leaving you out of the fun!  We will hold a separate anniversary promotion for current LFM customers in the late summer or fall.

 

Other details:

You may enter up until our last drawing, July 14, 2014.  Only one entrant per food hub.  There is no need to enter each week of the promotion – one entry will keep you in the game for all prizes.

We will use an online random number generator to select our winners (the entrants number will be based on order of valid entry into the promotion).  If you win a mobile app prize in the first couple of weeks and end up winning the grand prize, we’ll select another mobile app winner.

To accept the prize, winners must sign LFM’s standard 2 year license agreement within 30 days of receiving notification of prize and pay for other services not covered by the promotion.

 

 

 

Embracing a few more middlemen

cinco estrellasIf you’ve made your way to our website, chances are you’ve also read Dan Barber’s op-ed “What Farm-to-Table Got Wrong” published in the New York Times this past weekend.  I read a lot of opinion pieces on local food systems, but few resonate as this one did for me.  Certainly a big reason is that just a few years ago our family began subscribing to a local bean and grain CSA and experienced a similar awakening that Barber describes when visiting Lakeview Organic Grain Farm.  Truth be told, we joined the CSA because I had become a bean fanatic and the CSA had about 6-8 heirloom varieties of beans and the grains were just a part of the deal.  I was determined to use the grains and invested in a couple of cookbooks and got creative with adding barley to many dishes that call for meat, replacing whole wheat flour with rye or spelt flour, and more.  Kasey and Jeff, our CSA farmers, insisted that CSA members get both the beans and the grains because both were required for a true investment in their farm and its ongoing success.  Our family is grateful for their insistence as we now have a pantry full of whole grains and legumes.

Barber paints a pretty depressing picture of the local food movement’s results in making fundamental changes to our food system and while I can certainly drum up success stories and statistics that are a bit rosier, its hard to argue with his conclusion that we’ve barely moved the needle.  The most refreshing part of the article is that his suggestions for driving fundamental change are based on the bigger picture of our food system instead of looking at it from his perspective as a chef and owner of a high end restaurant.  He concludes that the movement needs a “few more middlemen”, such as canneries, mills, processors, and distributors.  I think he’s suggesting that we borrow a few ideas from the big-ag playbook to begin leveling the playing field – namely creating more efficient supply chains.

We at LFM spent a good chunk of last summer looking deeply at how our customers, food hubs, can compete more effectively and ultimately drive change in our food system.  We studied best practices of successful food hubs, interviewed dozens in the supply chain including producers, buyers, and food hub managers and similarly concluded that food hubs needed to move beyond selling whatever they can get their hands on (typically whatever producers can’t sell through other channels) and begin planning with producers and customers.  A forecast helps solve a couple of key problems – it reduces producer’s risk because they have more information on what and how much to plant, raise, or produce and it helps provide buyers with a steady, consistent supply.  Please note that I wrote “helps solve” instead of “solve”.  As we all know, plans must evolve with weather, pests, and other unpredictable events.  Having a plan, though, does provide a framework for dealing with those events as they arise.

We’ve continued to study the nuances of planning for different sales channels throughout this winter and spring and are looking forward to seeing how the beta test of our planning module unfolds over the harvest season.  We’re betting that integrating supply and demand forecast into food hub operations is one key step in helping the local food movement gain some ground.  Stay tuned as we approach the commercial release of our planning module later this year.

Google is Changing the Gmail Game

Recently, we’ve been alarmed to see 2 changes in Google’s Gmail that can impact your small business:

–        Gmail’s “tabs” mean that your newsletters are not coming into your customers’ main inbox

–        Anyone on Google+ can now email you – even if they don’t have your email

Tabs –  are you missing important messages?

If you have Gmail, you may have noticed that your inbox now has multiple “Tabs”, i.e. Primary, Social and Promotions. The idea of the new Gmail format is to sort incoming mails into piles: apples to apples, etc. The question is: does Google really know which mail you need to see?

At LFM, we noticed that our Newsletter automatically lands in the “Promotions” tab. This means you don’t see it when you open your inbox and you don’t get notified on your phone – unless you click on the Promotions tab. In the same tab, you’d find mingled together messages from Priceline.com, credit card statements and  listservs like the National Good Food Network.  As a small business, we don’t think that our relationship with you is similar to large corporations.

We know you by name, and we hope our emails provide you with more value than a generic “Earn Airline Miles” promotion.  You probably feel the same way about your own customers.

So here’s how it works and what you can do. The choice is yours – we just wish Google would tell you that.

With the new system, your messages are automatically categorized:

       Primary Messages from friends and family, as well as any other messages that don’t appear in other tabs.
    inbox1 Promotions Your deals, offers, and other promotional emails.
    inbox2 Social Messages from social networks, media-sharing sites, online dating services, gaming platforms, and other social websites.
    inbox3 Updates Notifications such as confirmations, receipts, bills, and statements.
    inbox4 Forums Messages from online groups, discussion boards, and mailing lists.

You can decide for yourself if you want any of these tabs removed. In that case, the emails in that tab would go back to the Primary category. Here’s how you move it:

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Click the + icon to the right of your tabs.
  3. Use the checkboxes to show or hide each tab.
  4. Click Save.

inboxstep2

Google Plus – how to email strangers

While Google distances you from your customers, it opens your door to strangers. Anyone with a Google Plus account can now email you, no matter if you gave them your email address or not. Who has Google Plus you ask? Anyone with Gmail or Youtube is getting signed up since Google forced the integration.

Now, of course, Google does protect your privacy:

“Your email address isn’t visible to your Google+ connections until you send them an email, and their email addresses are not visible to you until they respond.”

That means you can look up someone’s Google+ Profile, send them an email message, and wait for their response.

If A) they do respond, your email addresses become visible to each other.

If B) they do not respond, you cannot send that person another message.

But! And this is option C), the Catch, you can still hit reply on your own first message and follow up that way.

Our problem with this new feature is that it relies on good intentions. Yes, if you just haven’t exchanged email addresses yet, or if you want to reach out to a potential new business partner, it can have great potential. But think about your email inbox as the online version of your mailbox. Would you feel comfortable letting anyone address a letter to your name and have it delivered by the USPS? Personally, I wouldn’t.

Again, the choice is yours, but we wish Google would ask you to opt in – instead of assuming your consent until further notice. Here’s how you can change your settings:

  1.  Open Gmail. Then, click the gear in the top right and select Settings.gear
  2. Scroll down to the Email via Google+ section (stay in the “General” tab).
  3. Click the drop-down menu and choose one of the options:
    • Anyone on Google+: If you have a Google+ account, anyone who has you in their circles can send you an email.
    • Extended circles: People who are part of your circles’ circles can email you, such as a friend of one of your friends.
    • Circles: Only people you’ve added to your circles can email you.
    • No one: Only people who have your email address can email you.
  4. Click Save Changes at the bottom of the page.

 

 

March 2014 Newsletter

We are very excited for spring and the seemingly endless possibilities of the upcoming growing season. Spring fever arrived in full force this weekend when I discovered some asparagus spears peaking through our garden soil. I can’t wait for fresh strawberries, rhubarb, peas, and asparagus.

We’ve had our heads down this winter, developing new features and enhancing some existing ones. We’re happy to report our latest release, Version 2.3, will be live on all customer sites within the next week.

Laura at MOSESWhile our development team has been working on both the web and mobile app, we’ve connected with many of you at conferences (at right is Laura, our Customer Support Analyst at MOSES with Cathy from Prairie Roots Co-op and Jason from Iowa Valley Co-op).  We also presented on how mobile technology is impacting local food at the NOFA – Mass Winter Conference and on opportunities for food hubs at the WI Local Food Network conference. If you’ll be at the NGFN conference in Raleigh next week, be sure to say hello and attend our workshop on Challenges and Opportunities for Multichannel Food Hub Sales.

Read on to hear more about our latest release, preliminary mobile app results, what we’re up to next, and Purple Porch Co-op’s recent retail store opening. Lastly, you’ll find a resources section where we’ve pulled together some new information for food hubs.

New release – Route Manager, custom price lists, and more!
Our latest release contains a bunch of new features for streamlining food hub sales to grocers and retailers, restaurants, and institutions. It includes
custom product lists for providing filtered product lists (e.g. just produce to the producer buyer or just certified organic products to a restaurant that only buys certified organic), delivery route management, and VIN/UPC integration. Early feedback from customers has been really positive!

Preliminary mobile app results
We’ve published more than a dozen mobile apps with about 10 more coming soon. Anne, our Sales and Marketing Coordinator, analyzed how the mobile app is impacting sales for a handful of our markets that have been using the app for about 6 months. Here are the highlights of what we’ve learned so far.

  •   Orders placed via mobile for consumers are, on average, 28% higher than orders placed via web. All markets evaluated have higher average consumer order size for mobile orders. We will continue to monitor this statistic as other markets implement the mobile app. We suspect that order reminders sent via push messages are prompting customers to add more items to their order.
  • Once a customer begins ordering via mobile app, 70% continue to order via mobile app almost exclusively, suggesting they prefer the mobile app experience.
  • Overall monthly sales have become more stable (less fluctuation month to month) since implementing the mobile app. This is consistent for all markets that have implemented the mobile app.

We’ll continue to review trends and analyze the impacts the mobile app is having on markets. Look for an upcoming blog post (yes, we’re launching a blog!) for more details on our analysis to date.

What We’re Up to Next
We are just about ready to launch a new website with new content and information. It will include a blog, where we will have posts on new features, marketing ideas, important issues our industry faces, customer highlights, and LFM company information. Please tell us what you want to hear about!

Next steps
If you subscribe to the NGFN food hub listserv (instructions below on how to subscribe) you may have read that we are beta testing a new feature for supply and demand forecasting. We will be focusing this spring and summer on making this applicable to our diverse customer base. Thank you to everyone that participated in online and phone surveys about your current supply and demand forecasting practices and needs. While we sensed there was a need for more formal systems, we were blown away by the response from the food hub community.

Purple Porch Co-op launches a retail store
PPC logo We have been excitedly following Purple Porch Co-op since they began using LFM in 2010, just a year after they launched their campaign to open a retail co-op store in South Bend, IN. They opened our eyes to the synergies of retail co-ops and online markets and we now work with nearly a dozen markets with retail operations or retail co-ops in the formation stage.

PPC

Photo credit: Purple Porch Co-op, 2014

About a month ago, they opened their store to the public and we’ve been drooling (via Facebook) over the amazing prepared foods coming out of their cafe. Pictured above is their Wednesday night local food night where customers pickup their weekly local food orders from producers. They currently have about 400 member owners and have used many creative strategies to generate capital to open their store. We’ll be featuring a blog post on Purple Porch shortly, so stay tuned!

Resources for food hubs and producers

NGFN food hub conference & listserv
Next week is the NGFN food hub conference in Raleigh, NC. NGFN offers a listserve for food hubs to ask questions and share ideas. You can subscribe here.

Funding opportunities
In addition to providing a community of practice for food hubs, NGFN is also offering Food Hub Development Grants, due March 30, 2014. Read more about the program here and listen to a recorded webinar to learn more.

Thank you for all that you do for our local food systems!

Cheers!

Amy McCann, CEO
Local Food Marketplace

We believe…

Last week, I attended a Leading Through Change seminar hosted by University of Oregon Law Non-Profit Clinic as a board member of a local non-profit, Willamette Farm & Food Coalition (WFFC).  The seminar, led by Shawn DeCarlo of Oregon Food Bank ,  follows a process that helps non-profits and mission-oriented organizations get clear on their mission, goals, strategy, and ultimately their daily work.  As a first step, we wrote down a series of statements about our respective organizations “In all things, we believe … “  While that evening, I was thinking about the work that WFFC does, the words kept coming back to me in context of Local Food Marketplace and the work we do.  Coincidentally, a customer brought our mission statement to my attention a couple of days later and I realized it was time to refine our mission statement because “getting more food on local plates” just isn’t specific enough anymore.

The local food landscape has changed in many ways since 2009 when we started Local Food Marketplace.  Now, local food is being approached in many different ways – running the gamut of traditional grass roots fashion through venture capitalist backed endeavors.  The USDA has paid staff working on local food systems and a website dedicated to food hubs, and the Wallace Center is hosting its third national gathering of food hubs in just a couple of months.

Through all of these changes, we have made choices about our approach to the market, the customers we aim to serve, and our identity as a company.  We’ve grown beyond our early days of Doug and me doing everything to now having an incredible team to help us fulfill our mission.  We’ve updated and expanded our mission to capture the nuances of our company, our chosen path, and what we strive for every day.  We think our belief statements reflect who we are and where we’re headed and invite you to learn what we’re all about.