How do I calculate order minimums?

One question we get asked a lot is how to create the proper order minimums for your customers. Here’s an example below of how we’ve seen it done most frequently:

Step 1: Calculate your per hour cost on the road

Take into account your driver’s wage, gas, and other maintenance costs. Generally, we see this cost come out to between $60 – $90 per hour. Let’s assume it’s $80/hour.

Step 2: Calculate your Margins and Break Even

You need to calculate your gross margins on our products. For every $100 that you sell, how much comes to you after expenses?
Let’s assume your margins are 25%.

Knowing your margins, the calculation to determine your break even sales amount per hour spent on the road is $80 / 25% = $320. This means you have to deliver $320 in product per hour to be breaking even on your deliveries.

Step 3: What’s your target profit?

Let’s assume your goal is to at least double your breakeven point. Here, you would double your hourly delivery total to $640, which would mean your business would net $80 per hour. ($640 x 25% margins = $160. $160 – $80/hour = $80 profit).

Step 4: Deliveries per hour

Okay, so you now know that you need to be delivering approximately $640 per hour to net $80 per hour. Now we can start to assess our various delivery cities and think about how many deliveries we can make per hour. There are a few variables that go into this calculation.

For starters, you should be assessing the travel distance required to each city. Is the city we’re delivering to 30 minutes away or three hours away?

Once you know this, you want to think about the urban density of that city. How close are our customers together? Does it take 10 minutes or 30 minutes to drive to each one (approximately)?

Let’s assume you take all of these variables into account and determine that you can do 4 deliveries per hour.

Step 5: Calculating your minimum order

To calculate your minimum order, divide your order volume per hour by the number of deliveries you can make per hour. The calculation becomes:

$640 / 4 = $160.

This means your minimum order per customer should be about $160 in order to net $80/hour. You will want to build in some extra margin just in case, so you might consider rounding your minimum order up to $200 per customer.

Step 6: Load capacity

To take this one step further, you can start to calculate roughly how much inventory you need to load into the truck to be profitable. For example, if you’re projecting to be on the road for 8 hours, and you know you need to sell $640/hour to net $80/hour, you would multiply $640 per hour x 8 hours on the road= $5,120. So, you need to deliver at least $5,120 in your 8 hour day. If you make $80/hour and you’re on the road for 8 hours, you can make $640/day.

Local Line and Flanagan Foodservice partner to increase access to Ontario local food

 

Kitchener, ON – May 29, 2017 – Flanagan Foodservice and local food e-commerce platform Local Line have partnered to create a local food program that revolutionizes access to Ontario products for foodservice operators.

Proudly Canadian and family-owned, Flanagan’s is the largest Canadian owned, independent foodservice distributor in the country. Though Flanagan’s has grown to provide full service to more than 6,000 restaurants and foodservice operations across the province of Ontario, it has become more challenging to serve the niche, local segment of the market, according to Peter Bozzer, Director of Procurement at Flanagan Foodservice.

“We kept hearing from customers that local food is a priority for them, so we set out to build a comprehensive local food program that we’ll be able to build on year after year,” says Bozzer.

Our Ontario, Flanagan’s new local food program, lists over 400 Ontario products available in our warehouses, as well as provides access to the thousands of other niche, local products across Ontario through its partnership with Local Line.

“When we spoke with our customers, it became clear that, although many of them wanted local food, identifying the right suppliers and products was very complex. There were unknowns about suppliers, their products, prices, safety certifications and delivery options. Aggregating all of this information from hundreds of local food suppliers is no easy task, so we were pleased to partner with Local Line to make this information available to all our customers,” says Jackie Oakes, Marketing Manager for Flanagan Foodservice.

Local Line, headquartered in Kitchener, is an online market platform for food suppliers, providing e-commerce, CRM and inventory solutions for farmers, brewers, vineyards, butchers, bakers and other food industry suppliers. As a food purchaser, you can sign up with Local Line to access a list of suppliers and their products.

“What we’ve effectively done is created a catalog expansion platform for Flanagan Foodservice. They now offer their own local food e-commerce store with their local supplier partners throughout Ontario. As a customer of Flanagan’s, you get to browse those suppliers and order from them directly, enabling you to access the variety of products you’re looking for with just the click of a button,” says Cole Jones, CEO of Local Line.

“The goal is to dramatically increase access to Ontario local food products for our customers. This is an exciting program that will only help everyone involved in the local food supply chain, with each passing day,” says Barry Reid, VP of Sales & Marketing for Flanagan Foodservice.

If you’d like to become a customer of the Flanagan Foodservice local market you can sign up here.

If you’d like to become a customer of Flanagan Foodservice and access their main catalog, you can do so here.

If you’d like to become a local supply partner in the local food program, sign up to Local Line here and send them an email at info@localline.ca.

About Flanagan Foodservice Inc.

Flanagan Foodservice is the largest Canadian family-owned foodservice distributor in Canada. The company was founded in 1977 with an emphasis on customer service and has maintained this focus by always putting the customer first, enjoying over 35 years of consistent growth and expansion. Flanagan Foodservice is constantly improving by refining its services, systems, product mix and offering the flexibility to meet its customer’s challenges and changing needs. For more information on Flanagan Foodservice please visit www.flanagan.ca.

About Local Line

Local Line is an online market platform for food suppliers, providing e-commerce, CRM and inventory solutions for farmers, brewers, vineyards, butchers, bakers and other food industry suppliers. Local food purchasers sign up with Local Line to access the network of suppliers and their products. Now in its third year of operations, Local Line has customers continent-wide and continues to focus on delivering industry leading sales solutions to local food suppliers.

Local Line’s e-commerce stands out from the crowd.

E-commerce for the food industry is unique to every other type of e-commerce. That’s because aside from normal e-commerce steps like inventory, packaging, shipping, and payment, food has additional steps that add complexity. Food is perishable, seasonal, price variable, and requires unique distribution. As a food business selling online, in order for you to be successful, you’ll need an online store that’s built to handle the complexity of your sales process. This makes it even more important to look at every food-focused e-commerce option available to you.

Let’s start by understanding the basics of Local Line’s e-commerce. Just like most other e-commerce programs, you get:

  • Your own online store to show products, pictures, and prices so that your customers can order online.

  • Your own store link and the ability to integrate your store right onto your existing website.
  • The ability to set up any kind of payment option, including payment on check out or assigning payment terms such as “30 days.”

  • The ability to track product inventory levels.

Above and beyond your basic e-commerce features, here’s what else Local Line offers that will help you succeed:

Multiple Pricing Categories:

For most businesses selling online, you’ll have one product list and one price list. As a food business, your product list is more complex. Your products are in a constant state of flux and your pricing differs by customer type. That’s why we enable you to set up different product catalogs for different customers.

Creating your catalogs is simple. Once your products are uploaded into your store, you can create a new catalog and customize product availability and price. Add products, remove products, whatever enables you to create an accurate catalog for your customers!

When you have different catalogs, you’ll likely want some protected with passwords so that only the correct customers can access them. In other cases, you’ll want to create a public catalog so that any customer can view product availability and place an order. Your Local Line account can easily accommodate both!

Delivery & Pickup Schedules:

There are three ways a customer can get your product: (1) You deliver it, (2) A distributor delivers it, or (3) The customer picks it up. Our platform enables you to set up all three.
– When you set up your Local Line account you’re able to upload your existing delivery schedule. This includes the cities you deliver to, minimum orders, delivery fees, and order cut off times.

If you’re opening your online store to markets you don’t currently deliver to, you can connect with one of Local Line’s preferred distribution partners and create a distribution agreement. You can even add them to your account so that they are notified when you receive orders that need shipping!

Lastly, set a pickup location to either your business location or aggregated pickup sites along your delivery routes. This enables customers outside of your delivery areas to engage with your products and makes deliveries more economical in those hard to justify locations.

Seasonality:

You may experience seasonality in your business. Thankfully your Local Line store has you covered. When entering a product you can turn on a start and end date. Once you’ve set your availability dates your store will automatically make the product visible when it’s available and automatically remove it once it’s out of season. You officially have one less thing to worry about! Now get back out there and get harvesting!

Inventory Controls:

Most e-commerce programs let you upload your inventory. That’s cool, but we know once you upload your inventory you have about 967 other things on your to-do list for the day. As customers submit their orders online, your inventory levels are going down and will eventually hit zero. It’s unpleasant for a customer to have to view a product with only 1 unit in inventory. That’s why when you’re inputting your inventory you can set inventory guards. Inventory guards let you set an amount for which you want to be notified that you’re starting to get low. For example, let’s say I have 100 bags of carrots as my inventory, if you enter in 20 as your inventory guard, you’ll receive an email as soon as that product inventory hit’s 20 or less. Time to restock!

Email Schedules:

If you get dizzy just thinking about how frequently your product list changes, then you need to be taking advantage of our automated catalog emails. One of the benefits to a great online store is that it makes your entire product catalog available to view, and as a result, customers are less likely to get stuck in the “same as last week” pattern. As your inventory levels and products change throughout the week, you can set up an automated schedule to be sending your updated catalogs to your customers.

For example, if most of our customers order on Tuesday for Wednesday delivery, we could send out the weekly updated catalog at 7:00 AM every Monday morning. Customers would get your product list at the top of their inbox, making it easier see what you have to offer and submit their orders.

Customer Analytics:

Happy customers are what make’s a business tick. It’s the most important part of what you do, so you should have a way to track the health of each relationship you value so dearly. Your Local Line Customers tab tracks last order dates, average orders, product views, and can even help you identify strong upsell opportunities. All of this data is available 24/7, 365 on your mobile device so that you always have it while out on the road visiting customers.

One of our customers once told us, “I love Local Line because the tool works for me, I don’t work for the tool”. We couldn’t agree more, and we’ve modeled every feature after this philosophy and we know that once you get your account set up and running, it’ll feel like your manual work has been put on auto-pilot while you spend more time focused on the important things.

Have we missed anything? We always want to hear from customers on what we can be doing to improve their businesses. If you have a suggestion for us, reach out.

If you’d like a free trial to set up your store and enable online sales for your business you can sign up here.

To read more content from our blog, go here.

Happy Selling!

Owning Your Brand: Woolleys Lamb

Starting a new business isn’t easy.

One of the biggest challenges for food suppliers today is getting your product in your customer’s hands. Many new food businesses understand that traditional marketing tactics like flyers just won’t cut it anymore. Customer behaviours are changing, and businesses need to change alongside them.

With a more connected world through the internet – customers spend more time online. Therefore, the need to beef up online marketing efforts by investing in social media and website properties is starting to become a high priority for suppliers.

But, this begs the question: does an investment in an online solution increase sales or productivity?

To help answer this question, meet Brett Schuyler, the co-owner of Woolleys Lamb.

Woolleys’ Lambs are born in Norfolk County Ontario on beautiful lush, spring pastures in May. Following the harvest of sour cherries and apples, the Lambs are turned out in orchards to graze freely. Occasionally, grazing occurs on cover crop fields of turnips, oats, and peas. These natural and nutrient rich grazing practices are similar to those found in rural United Kingdom, and are definitely a contributing factor to the unique tasty leanness of Woolleys’ Lamb!

While the team at Woolleys Lamb had an authentic story, a fantastic-looking website and the best-looking lambs on Instagramthey wanted to see all this effort turn into real sales, not just Likes on Instagram.

That’s when the light-bulb went off.

Brett realized that while he was investing time, money and effort into getting the Woolley’s Lamb brand out there, there was one big problem.

If a customer wanted to order his product, it would go something like this:

Frankly, it was a long, drawn-out and overly complicated process for both parties. Customers are accustomed to one-click online ordering that they didn’t want to go through all the back-and-forth to place an order.

Brett knew that if he wanted to give his customers the best service, he needed to find a better way. He wanted to create an elegant ordering tool for his customers, but he didn’t want to rely on an outside IT person to make changes for him. He wanted an easy-to-use tool that gave him full control of his products, customers and information.

That’s when he came to Local Line with one goal:

“Get an online platform for sales that is user-friendly that can also work for invoicing”

Unlike other food suppliers, he realized that he could provide an amazing and simple-to-use ordering experience for his customers with an online platform.

So, Local Line worked with Brett to turn his website, invoicing tool and Excel documents into one, easy to use, simple online platform.

Simple, Straight-Forward Ordering

First, Local Line worked with Brett to build an online store where new customers can find Woolleys Lamb and order products.

Previously, Brett just had a website with some information about his business, but no simple way for his customers to view his products to order.

He added a ‘BUY NOW’ button at the top of his website which directs his visitors to his Local Line Online Store.

Now instead of the ordering process taking days and weeks, customers can order within 2 minutes.

One Store, All Customers

Second, Brett had two different types of customers: retail and wholesale. Unlike most online stores where there is only one product and pricing list, Local Line’s catalog feature gave Brett the ability to give his all his customers custom product pricing.

This meant that he could service all of his customers with Local Line, not just retail or wholesale.

One-Click Invoicing

Lastly, he needed a simple and fast way to invoice his customers. Since he was already taking orders through his Local Line store, it had all of the information pre-loaded to send an accurate invoice.

Now instead of creating invoices from scratch, Brett uses Local Line to create, download and send the invoice to his customers saving him precious time every single day.

The Best Part

While Brett and his customers may benefit from having a shiny new online sales platform, he admits that his favourite part of Local Line is the team behind it.

“Honestly, I just wanted to work with Local Line because I had a high level of confidence with the people behind it helping my business succeed.

The team at Local Line listens to my feedback and makes changes to the software as needed. I am still shocked at how responsive the team is to making improvements to the software.”

Learn more about Brett and the team at Woolleys Lamb, you can find them on InstagramTwittertheir website or their Local Line Store.

Farm-to-Table: The Over-Utilized Phrase of an Under-Applied Philosophy

This post was written by Local Line user and popular Waterloo Region chef, Aaron Clyne of B-Hospitality.

The phrase “farm-to-table” gets thrown around so much these days it almost seems to fade into the commonality that is the infamous trip to the grocery store. What is farm-to-table? What does that mean? Isn’t everything technically farm-to-table? To answer that last question in one word: Yes. Everything is produced on some farm, some way or another, and ends up on your dinner table. But how you may ask? What is the process in which it gets there? Those are the questions that really characterize a phrase that appears to have defined a generation of foodies, bloggers, and critics.

When defining what the overused phrase “farm-to-table” means to me, I interpret it as what I have tried to do over the years of my chosen career of being a culinary professional. I go to a farmer – who has a name, an address, a family, and piece of land which they use to produce a product. Whether that product is hogs, chickens, grains, produce, or cheese – I talk to them, arrange terms, and procure that item to use in our restaurants. I take that phrase to mean the relationship a chef or restaurateur personally forges with a producer who has made it their life goal to raise, farm, produce, and sell their product to the best of their ability. Without compromise. Period.

Understandably, we all want tomatoes in December, we all want bananas or pineapples in Canada, and we all want cheese on sale for two dollars a pound. In essence, that is what has spawned the over-use of the term “farm-to-table”. We need mass produced products and vastly imported products to maintain our everyday lifestyle. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t a good thing for those who actually represent the farm-to-table movement – the farmers, producers, cheesemakers, butchers, millers, bakers, and yes, the candlestick makers. Most of these people have never seen a farm in Mexico or California, and don’t represent large-scale industrial farming companies. For these producers, the only goal is making something to be like it was in the ‘good old days’ – the only way they know how.

We often hear phrases from some of our elders that “things ain’t what they used to be” or “I remember when a tomato tasted like a tomato”. For these reasons alone we should be supporting our local farmers and producers and be purchasing good quality, in season and sustainable products. That’s why I do it, and that’s why we do it here at B-Hospitality. It’s not just a catch phrase or a slogan to us. It’s not a watered down, over-used, empty word. It’s what we live and breathe. Supporting our local farmers, our local farm to table movement and our community, in essence, supports us all. It is vital to the conservation of good food. So next time you are out for dinner, I encourage you to ask: “where is this from?” and if the chef has done their job correctly, the answer should unarguably be, “from our farmer, to your table.”

Ag-Food Bytes Profile: Local Line

Released on: Thursday, December 1, 2016
The original article can be found by clicking here.

This month we are profiling Local Line- www.localline.ca. They are working on a suite of e-commerce enabled products to help farmers, food hubs, and buyers. Read on to learn more!

Give us a brief introduction of Local Line and what your platform does.

Local Line is an online marketplace for wholesale local food businesses. That means we build e-commerce tools for farmers, wholesalers, restaurants, grocery stores, and distributors to transact and do business online. We came up with the idea three years ago as a university project. Over time it grew into a company, and we’ve worked full time since graduation. Today Local Line has over 400 customers throughout Canada and the United States.

Why did you decide to build a tech based tool for the ag-food sector?

Local Line started in response to a simple question: Why is the food that’s grown closest to us the most difficult to access? We tried finding an answer to this problem by talking to local chefs and farmers, and what we learned was that the existing friction and difficulty in doing business locally was mostly a communication problem. In a food system you have a lot of different kinds of businesses and a lot of moving parts, which makes it difficult to know what’s available, how much, the price, the delivery, certifications, etc. It took buyers a lot of time to find the right suppliers and a long time for suppliers to find the right buyers, and effectively communicate with them.

When we thought about solving a communication problem, technology was clearly the winning strategy. That’s why we built a tech platform that simplifies the communication and commerce processes for food businesses. We make ordering easy for buyers and selling easy for sellers! Our full suite of tools enable simplicity in sales and procurement processes, and that can only really be accomplished through technology.

Can you give an example of a problem the sector is facing, and how your tool helps to solve this?

A good example of a problem on the supply side of our marketplace is the problem of real time ordering. Most suppliers do not have an easy way for customers to order from them. They accept orders via email, text, phone call, voicemail, fax, or others. None of these methods actually provide real time availability, pricing, and inventory. Providing that much real time information can only be accomplished through an online program. There are two major benefits to adopting a program like this: (a) you’re removing barriers and ambiguity from your customers when they order from you. Your products, prices, and inventory are only ever one click away. This makes it easier for them to see your full catalog and increase their order sizes instead of just reordering last weeks’ order. (b) By enabling your customers to order independently you’re leaving more time to focus on your business operations and quality of customer relationships. You may still accept the occasional order through text or phone, but in aggregate this will enable greater efficiencies in your business, all while providing better service to your customers. In short, you’re providing increased customer service as a lesser cost.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing the agri-food sector?

I think distribution is an interesting challenge that will become more important in the coming years. There are tools like ours that enable great communication and ease of transaction, and this is an important step in creating strong local food systems. After that, however, the efficient distribution of products becomes an important second step. The difficult part about the future of food distribution is that it’s going to have to work in a more decentralized system. Shifting consumer demand and changing production means we will see less monoculture, factory-style farms and see more regions investing in growing a greater diversity of products. Today, the challenge is being able to move those products with enough margin for everyone to win. On the bright side, this is a highly solvable problem. Companies like Amazon and Uber are already building unique models to address this changing landscape, and we have our own solutions we’ll be introducing in the near future.

How is the industry reacting to your tool? Can you provide an example of a client’s success?

We’re fortunate to have received very positive reactions from the businesses using Local Line. This is mainly because our onboarding process is focused on education. First, it’s critical that we be educated on the customer’s business and their needs. After that, we spend time educating the customer on how our solution fills those needs. When both parties understand each other and work together, you put yourself in a good position to accomplish your goals.

A recent example of customer success is with a grass-fed lamb farmer in Simcoe, ON. When we connected with them they had three main pain-points that Local Line was able to address and fix:

(1) Providing an amazing ordering experience

They were currently taking orders from their customers through texting, phone calls, and paper notes. They found the constant texting and phone calls from customers asking about inventory and deliveries was interrupting parts of their day on the farm. Of course, you always try to put your customers first, but it’s difficult to always be available when you’re out in the field. When they started with Local Line they were able to provide a more “self-serve” style model for their customers, meaning they could build dedicated product lists, prices, and inventory for different customer types. That way, their customers were only ever one click away from seeing all the info they needed, and placing their order. This gave them the confidence that their customers were getting what they needed while they focused on running the farm.

(2) Reducing time and errors in order fulfillment

After the order from the customer was submitted there was no established process for tracking inventory, invoicing the customer, or managing payments. This meant on top of being available for incoming texts and calls for orders, they had to be aware of which customers were approaching their payment due dates. With Local Line they could define their payment terms and issue an order receipt for the customer’s records. Both parties were reminded automatically about upcoming due dates, and they were able to set up online payment for customers that wanted that option. This meant that inventory could be automatically tracked, and both the farmer and the customer felt that the order fulfillment process was organized and easy.

(3) Finding new customers

This year, the farm was almost doubling the number of lambs from last year and as a result needed to ensure they could connect with new customers and market their new product. Through Local Line they’ve gained a new audience and connected with a couple wholesale buyers as well as new consumers searching for local lamb products.

Moving forward we are really excited to watch this farms success. They’ve taken incredible products and added an incredible ordering experience for their customers. That’s a winning combination!

What does the future of local food look like to your company?

For us the future of local food is an equation that starts with stronger relationships between food businesses. Stronger relationships will drive growth, and growth can be used to create efficient local food systems. When it comes to strengthening relationships, there’s the strengthening of existing relationships, and then there’s the ability to build new relationships. Both are important, and we’ve designed our platform to support both options. As relationships strengthen, local food systems will grow. In Ontario, our local food system has the capacity to double in size, which is incredible. It’s our job to do our part to make this growth a reality. Once you have the growth, you can pair demand with supply to create a truly resilient local food system. This comes back to simple economics- when demand and supply properly match you produce an efficient market and everyone wins.

How can our members reach you to learn more?

If you want to learn more about our services you can visit our website at www.localline.ca. We’re always eager to talk to food businesses and can be reached at 416-402-1126, or info@localline.ca.

What’s your websites ROI?

Your website is your connection to the online world.

It is very likely the first interaction your future customers have with your company. Your website is supposed to be a tool that lets people understand your business, and most importantly, make it easy to do business with you. But is your website really making your business better?

When it comes to local food suppliers and their websites, at Local Line, we’ve seen it all: sites with incorrect information, or broken links to directions; sites that don’t offer up to date inventory, or reliable ways of ordering products; even sites that are no more than a contact page, often listing a fax number as the best way to place orders.

The reality is that most food businesses have out of date websites.

This is a problem because research shows that well over half of your future customers will find you online before purchasing from you, and if your website isn’t as great as your business, you’re automatically putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Over the past several months we’ve been approached by many of our customers inquiring about whether or not we provide website services. Up until today, we hadn’t. But starting today, Local Line is adding a website makeover service that you’ll actually be able to justify the spend on.

How do you know if you need to update your website?

Simple. If we asked you, “When was the last time your website brought you a sale?” and you have trouble remembering, you need an update. If your website isn’t increasing your sales, whatever you’re paying for it will always be an expense. We believe, however, that when done right it can be a revenue generator.

To be clear, we’re talking about more than just modern designs, trendy fonts, and a contact page. A big part of your updated site is understanding how easy we can make it for your customers to order. You need e-commerce built specifically for food businesses. In today’s world, convenience is king. As a result, whoever has the most convenient ordering experience will be the supplier that stands out. The benefit to Local Line providing an update on your site is that we can integrate your Local Line store, effectively enabling your existing and future customers to sign up with your online ordering program, and reducing the number of steps required to making a real sale.

Over the next couple of months we’ll be redesigning some of our customers sites and helping them put their best foot forward for their future customers. If you’d like to know how we can do the same for you, and more importantly why now is the best time to update your site, contact us here!

How To Tell Your Story To Your Customers

Trends come and go, and businesses rise and fall with them. 40 years ago the trend was set by Earl Butz. It was his dream to see fencerow after fencerow planted in corn and grain. He coined a phrase and named a trend : Get big or Get out. 40 years ago, the farmers and producers that followed suit are the ones today we think of as giants in the food industry. But still, these giants rose on the back of a trend: a trend that today is in reverse, and long overdue for a makeover.

The trend reversal is already happening: managing production and inventory with a farm management IT program is becoming the norm; watering schedules and areas can be automated; even the smallest sustenance farms are adopting e-commerce to improve their sales process. But make no mistake, even as much as the new IT trend in farming can be a tool to level the playing field, the biggest players aren’t going to miss any opportunity to stay on top. How they choose to adapt to the new IT and localized food trends will determine the face of the food industry going forward. They will either resist and die, or adapt and survive. Either way, you have an opportunity right now to get ahead of the curve of the technical trend and position yourself to reap the benefits of being a technically savvy food producer with a great product and story to sell, in a market craving convenience and exclusivity in the same package.

Because food production has always been an industry of tradition, it takes longer for change to occur. Sweeping change of farming practices take at least a generation to fully take hold. Thanks in part to Butz, methods of mass-scale, industrialized, chemical food are the traditions that are being passed to future generations of farmers. This means that although the biggest players in todays food system will eventually implement a digitalization strategy, unless they change what they grow, they will not have success because demand for their products and techniques are fading. In reality, the small to medium sized food producer who has autonomy over product and farming method decisions can benefit from the advances in farming IT, as well as the growing market trend towards food with a story.

Big food companies realize this, so more so than the technical revolution, the trend that the biggest food companies in the world are starting to come around to is this: people want the story behind their food.

The time of respecting efficiency over quality is being replaced with a time of respecting the story: where did this come from? Show me the face of the person who grew this. And no matter where you fit into the food production value chain, now is the time to catch this trend and ride it for the coming decades.

As we discussed in an earlier article, the biggest companies in the world (both food and non-food) are adapting to serve both localization trends and the changing tastes of their customers by increasing their own local sourcing. For a small to medium sized food producer, attracting the business of these large companies is about more than your technical edge. Big buyers aren’t buying local products because they’re easy to buy, they’re buying stories to sell. With Local Line, you can share your story and your products with all your buyers, while streamlining your sales and business management processes to take full advantage of the increased need for local products to serve larger markets. In other words, your value is in your story.

How do big businesses make it work?

Let’s say you’re a large size distributor that wants to expand your local offerings, but you can’t purchase and warehouse the items at a volume that makes it worth the cost. You can very easily expand your local repertoire by registering with Local Line as a food hub. You can provide your customers access to any local producers you choose to deal with. You can be the access point for the interesting stories and unique products your customers are looking for, without having associated inventory costs. In the ideal world, the local producers you work with only bring you what sells and is dropped off prior to delivery time, creating 100% throughput and minimal inventory requirements. That’s a powerful competitive advantage.

There is no doubt that the chemical/industrial age of food is coming to an end. Nor is the question, “what will replace it?” for the answer is all around us. Customers are aware of the methods used to produce and transport the majority of food over the last 40 years, and they are rejecting those methods in favour of locally sourced, storied food. The only question that remains is will you get ahead of the trend, or fall behind?

Convenience: What You Need for Tomorrows Customers

Service is about empowering your customers to be successful. As the food system advances, the way we judge service levels is going to change, and convenience will become the most important service factor to keep your customers happy. The most important part about convenience for your customers the “pre-order” stage. This includes things like “What products do you have? How many of them are there? What’s the price? How do I order? When is it coming?” The “post-order” stage includes what time the truck arrives, and if the delivered products match the order. We believe the best way to provide ordering convenience for your customers in the future is through custom e-commerce.

By this point, most people in the food industry take for granted that e-commerce will grow rapidly in the coming years, but in case you’re not yet convinced, here’s some quick facts:

  • By definition, every one of your future customers will be millennials.
  • 40% of millennials say if they could buy EVERYTHING online, they would.
  • 79% of millennials have found new products browsing on their mobile phones.

There is no denying that your customers are building habits online. They’ve likely bought from Amazon, or at the very least been browsing on websites with storefronts. You future customers will all have a Netflix Account, and Facebook, and probably Uber. Heck, maybe even Snapchat. Think that’s not important? It is. They’re building habits through experiences and you’re missing opportunities to get in front of them where their attention already is; online. Eventually, you have to believe they are going to start asking why it’s so easy to order their groceries with Amazon and have them delivered within hours, but such a headache to order their weekly proteins with your excel sheet.

Put yourself in your customers shoes.

  • What is their day like?
  • How many other responsibilities must they manage alongside ordering your products?
  • How many other suppliers do they have? How do they interact with those suppliers?
  • How do they feel when it comes time to place an order with you? Do they roll their eyes and get it over with as quickly as possible? Or do they take time to browse what other products you might offer?
  • If they wanted to order a hand-forged Japanese knife (example) would it be easier to find, price and order that knife at 3 am than it would be to price and place a weekly order with you? Probably yes.

The benefit of an online catalogue is an ability to have information readily accessible: custom product prices, inventories, information, pictures, delivery schedules, minimum orders, delivery fees, and more. All customized for each customer. That creates a convenient, personalized experience. When you don’t provide these services, it leaves your customer waiting and forces them to ask for information and confirmation.

Waiting to be acknowledged is not an empowering feeling for a customer to have.

How do you capitalize?

Unless you have a store that your customers can visit at any time and can find the relevant ordering information, you are not providing an empowered purchasing experience. The only way to accomplish the level of instant service your customers have become used to in other areas of their lives is by moving online.

Getting set up is not difficult.

To some it may still feel like new technology. Others worry more about the cost of hiring a third-party to build and maintain an online store. But regardless of your hesitation, there is no question that to survive moving forward, small and medium-sized B2B and B2C food-businesses will have to adopt e-commerce. When you become a Local Line customer, you get your personal e-commerce solution to empower your customers, on top of industry recognized CRM solutions and reports for your business. It will take you 30 minutes to set up, and you start with a 30 day free trial. You can empower your customers and receive exposure to new customers all while REDUCING the amount of time you currently spend on sales and marketing. For example:

When it’s Thursday and one of your customers forgot to place the produce order for Friday and remembers at midnight, your customer can pop in to your store and submit the order without having to get out of bed. In the morning you won’t have to decipher voice mails left in the middle of the night to properly assemble your P.O’s.

When your CSA clients are eager to start building their baskets, you can direct them to your store where they will be able to build custom baskets without you having to constantly check the remaining inventory. Set seasonal products to appear on the virtual shelves only as they become available.

When a potential new customer asks about where to get your products, or how much they cost, with Local Line you can give that potential customer the keys to your store and say: “Come on in any time, we’re always open for you.”

Watch a demo today to build a better tomorrow for your business.


Source One Source Two Source Three

Managing Growth and Time: A Balancing Act

Can you have too many customers?

A new customer of ours found Local Line while searching for a solution to a problem he had: his business was growing and it was difficult managing increased sales and marketing demands, while also managing the demands of running a successful farm. It was the classic Catch-22 for a small producer: he needed to serve his customers through the entire ordering process, which cut into the time he could spend farming, the very thing his customers pay him to do. Of course the customer relationships couldn’t suffer, but without sufficient time to plant, tend and harvest, there wouldn’t be enough product for projected customer demand.

If more hours cannot be added to the day, creating your products take a set amount of time, and your existing customer relationships require consistent maintenance, then when do you find the time to also focus on growth?
Our customer realized that while he had a defined process for planting, growing, and harvesting his products, there was no defined process for sales and marketing. Customers found it difficult to understand his changing inventory, were always calling or texting orders, and there was no real-time system to track this info for both the grower and the customer. The more customers he got, the more he had to scramble to maintain service levels.

Balancing Time and Growth

Anyone with established customers knows it can be difficult to get your customers to change their habits, but there comes a time when you have to ask yourself: how many customers am I losing just by continuing to do things the same old way? In other words, the best way to make room for new customers on your roster sheet is to better manage your existing ones.

The first feature that our customer used was the online catalogue. A large portion of his office-time was spent updating and sharing his product list with his current customers. With Local Line, our client was able to create just one product list that automatically updated according to seasonal availability and current available inventory and was able to share that list with all his customers to easily order his products.

Make product list management easier on yourself.

With an online catalogue you’re no longer deciphering voice mail orders, or having to call back customers to ensure order accuracy. You will have a consistent way of accepting orders 24/7, 365. Most importantly, you are removing barriers for your customers to order from you. They’re only ever one click away from giving you a sale. The days of “here’s my fax number” are behind us.

A store-front so your customers can always access your products.

For our customer, the icing on the cake was Local Line’s ability to move beyond order acceptance and into order fulfillment. If you have field hands picking for you that work from lists you provide them, it’s important to know how much effort goes in to maintaining that process. When orders come in, how are they aggregated? Who gets what information? And what about those pesky late orders that happen everyday? What’s needed is a monthly outlook that aggregates your orders and displays the proper packing information to your staff. Staff are automatically notified when orders come in, which means effective and accurate communication during the order fulfillment process. This is especially important when dealing with a new customer. You know more or less what to expect from your existing customers, but new customers are not yet part of your routine and need to be managed with extra care early on.

Use your monthly outlook to aggregate your orders and plan deliveries.

The Bottom Line

By setting up an online catalogue, our customer was able to simplify his order taking and product list management process. This gave him more time to focus on harvesting products and gaining new customers. The online catalogue added more value to his customers because they now had an updated product list with appropriate inventory and pricing at their fingertips. Our customer receives increased order accuracy and aggregates all orders in his monthly calendar, cutting down on redundant communications and order errors with his staff. By understanding his need to find a better way of dealing with his customers, this supplier has so far been able to take on 5 more restaurants as customers, while improving the state of his business relationships with existing customers.