En Root

Community supported agriculture allows people to invest in local farms for a cut of the profit, generally in the form of food and produce. These CSAs provide fresh, local food to people at a discounted price, and provide much needed support for small farms. With websites popping up like AmazonFresh and Instacart left and right it seems that it is getting easier and easier to order food. However, most CSAs are have yet to make any of these changed, leaving customers who are accustomed to variety and convenience feeling disappointed.

My teammate Emily and I were challenged to alleviate customer frustrations and modernize the traditional CSA business model. Our solution is a network of farms working together to create En Root. En Root is a website that allows customers to purchase individual items or boxes, subscribe to Value Boxes, or subscribe to a weekly Build-a-Box.

Overview

The challenge

Community supported agriculture (CSA) allows for people to buy fresh, local produce at a discounted price. This helps both the farm and the buyer. However, these are commonly difficult to order from, receive, and provide a small variety of options.This can leave the buyer feeling as though they have wasted their money or their time. We were challenged to re-think the traditional CSA to create a better experience for users, while continuing to benefiting local farmers.

The background

Is CSA is a great of people who pledge money to a farm or a network of farms prior to the start of the season. This puts them at some risk, but they can also benefit greatly. One of these benefits is that they typically receive a box of produce at set times (often weekly or bi-weekly). These boxes are then delivered to the customer, or picked up at the farm or a farmers market. Traditional CSAs are incredibly common and can be found almost anywhere food is grown, with many in and around Seattle.

The solution

We decided to merge traditional CSAs with the best parts of online food shopping (AmazonFresh, Instacart, etc.) to create a flexible CSA that helps farms and allows people to buy goods according to their needs. We did this creating an a la carte online store in addition to a flexible subscription service. This allows customers to try out the service or subscribe with both methods helping local farms.

The orders that are purchased a-la-carte and sent to the farmers who harvest the crops according to the demand. For the subscription model, farmers are given their share up front. Then each week the farmers provide a share of crops of the weekly boxes.

There are two types of subscriptions that users can choose, the Build-a-Box and the Value Box. The Value Box is similar to a traditional CSA box, with the extra convenience of flexible shipping or pickup. These boxes are the best value and allow customers to try a variety of different produce for the best price possible. Finally, there is a build-a-box. The build a box allows customers to receive fresh produce every week, but without the fear of getting a box filled with produce that they don’t want. Each week, the customers will find out what is available to add to their box. The customers can then mix and match what they want in their weekly box depending on their needs.

The Process

Competitive Analysis

This was a huge part of our process since we were trying to bridge the gap between online grocery shopping and a traditional CSA. We looked at about 3 different CSAs and reviewed about 6 different online food shopping options.

A look around

  • High minimum orders were common for free shipping, but also for ordering at all

  • Even among large retailers the selection of goods was often small

  • For many of the specialty retailers delivery days and times were set, if they delivered at all

  • For many large and mid-sized retailers it can be difficult to know where their food came from

  • For many modern and traditional CSAs there is no or limited substitutions for orders

  • It was common among traditional CSAs to only subscribe to boxes for two seasons out of the year

Interviews

We spoke with someone who founded a not for profit that works with local farms and farmers. They sell the produce directly to customers as well as wholesale to retailers. She validated our idea saying that this is the direction that most farms are trying to go. The largest problem with business strategy that we developed is having the manpower to make it happen.

We also had the chance to meet with someone who worked at Farmstr, and now works at Barn2Door. We learned that the biggest customers for modern CSAs are large families. They are more likely to purchase frequently and in larger amounts. In addition to confirming our ideas about the market, Holly informed us that the largest hurdle that Farmstr experienced was education their customers on the farming industry. Their customers commonly wanted a large variety that was local, even though the foods they desired don’t grow locally. They greatly shaped our design direction. We decided to focus heavily on not just showcasing the food but on educating our customers.

User personas

We created three user personas based on our research. These greatly shaped our goals for the project. We wanted to make sure that we met all of their needs. One our big takeaways from this was that we needed to take a different direction with our branding. Many of the brands that offer local food have a refined, high end look. After creating our personas we realized that our market doesnn’t necessarily want to feel like they are spending the money on their food. We decided to shift our branding to be more approachable and down-to-earth.

Customer journey

Next we worked through the customer journey. We wanted to know how our customers would find us, where they would struggle in the process, and how we could make it a better experience. This helped us decide that there should be levels of delivery, a way to sample the value box, as well as a wide variety of resources for the customer to know how to cook the food. At no point did we want the user to feel frustrated or like they had a box full of “gross” food.

Sitemap

We created a site map to visualize the layout and the most important aspects. We created a list of all everything that we felt was important to include and laid out on what page it would reside.

Wireframes

Before creating our wireframes we went back through the customer needs that we had included in the user personas. In addition, we looked through our competitive research for other online shopping and CSAs and jotted down some of those features that we thought stood out. After compiling our list I got to work on the wireframes.

Since the homepage is both a store homepage as well as a landing page introducing new users to the subscription service it was important to find a balance between showing featured products and articles that would be appealing to returning customers, as well as explaining the subscription service and benefits to new users. I did this by using the hero image to showcase our subscription based products. Higher up on the page is dedicated to returning customers, with the sections rotating between showcasing products and informational articles. Lower on the page there is more details explaining exactly how the service works, more articles, and another call to action to sign up.

Branding and Design

En Root

While I was working on the wireframes, Emily was collecting assets and creating a moodboard. We decided the brand should be: fun, fresh, bright but earthy, clean, and not pretentious. We wanted a handmade look that was crafty and reminiscent of farmers markets and DIY. Colors that were fresh, and modern, while still being earthy.

The En Root website

Due to the short timeline we decided build out one main task flow, with several additional screens to help provide a better understanding on the app. The prototype was created using Marvel to allow us to conduct user testing. After receiving feedback we made several changes to our prototype which can be seen and tested.