What is the Multi-Producer Pre-Orders model?

Multi-producer pre-orders is a particular model of selling food direct from farmer to consumer. This model involves a collective of producers who are working together to run an online shop which they take pre-orders through. By working together customers can access a greater variety of food in the one place, making it convenient. The producers will also work together to bring the food to customers at the same time, making pick-up convenient to the customer as well.

What does it do?

A single shop, with food from many producers You can stock food from lots of producers in the one place, giving customers convenience and variety.

Minimal central administration Producers who are participating in the shop can take on some of the admin tasks of the shop, including updating their product availability and prices. This reduces the tasks for the central administrator. Alternatively, suppliers can be hands off, and a coordinator can take on these tasks.

Easily communicate with producres Use our reports to let each producer know what's been ordered from them, and to calculate their sales total.

An example of this model in action

The Prom Coast Food Collective, in Victoria Australia is a group of farmers who are using a this model to collectively market their produce. So how does their model work?

Each month the Collective opens their online shop on the OFN which stocks produce from over 20 producers, encompassing an impressive range of produce, from dairy, to household cleaning products, meat and vegetables. Customers have 2 weeks to browse the shop and place their order, which they won’t collect until the collection date. The collective takes payment via bank transfer. They could also have used an automated tool like Paypal, however these carry fees.

At the close of the ordering period, the shop closes and the group’s coordinator begins the task of administering the orders and payments. This involves downloading a report from OFN listing all orders placed. The coordinator will check that bank transfers have been received from customers for each order placed. Once this has been confirmed, they will send each producer a list of the items that have been ordered from them, as well as transfer them the total value of sales they made. In the Prom Coast’s case, they have a $5 fee attached to each order, which covers some collective costs, such as this administration time.

Once producers receive their order totals list from the coordinator, they start to prepare the produce for each customer. This may involve processing meat, harvesting vegetables, or bagging and labelling preserves. On a Sunday morning, one week after the shop closed and stopped accepting orders, all of the producers and customers converge at one of the farms. Customers will walk from producer to producer and collect the items they had pre-ordered. Producers will have the goods ready for each customer. Because orders are pre-paid, no money needs to changes hands on the day. Note, that alcohol sales cannot be pre-paid due to liquor licensing, so must be purchased on the day.

After the collection day, the cycle repeats again. The first step for producers is to login to their OFN profiles and to update the availability and pricing of their products for the next month’s orders. Once they’ve had time to do this, the coordinator can open the shop and start receiving orders again.

Steps for setting up a Multi-Producer Pre-Orders

Setting up this model requires firstly setting up a Hub Shop for the collective shopfront. Secondly, profiles need to be created for all participating producers. These steps, as well as configuration options are described below.

Setup of the collective shop is the same as setting up a hub shop.

1) Register a profile for your collective shop on Open Food Network (e.g. Green Valley Farmers Shop). This setup tool will ask for basic information about your enterprise to create your profile. You'll be prompted to confirm the email address.

2) Select the 'hub shop' package type.

3) If you want to edit your profile, or add further detail you can modify your Enterprise Settings. Here you can also chose whether your shop is open to the public or private, and write a shopfront message.

4) Define and setup your shipping methods.

5) Define and setup your payment methods.

6) Define any enterprise fees you want to apply in your shop. For example if you have a central coordinator, you may wish to take a small fee to cover their time.

7) Producer profiles and products. Before you can add in the shop's products, each participating producer needs to have a profile which the products can be tied to. There are different ways to setup the producer profiles, depending on how much control the central coordinator wants to maintain, and how much time they have to setup the profiles.

a) High coordinator involvement option If you have a central coordinator taking the role of setting up the shop, they can create profiles on behalf of the producers. This is more time consuming for the coordinator, but it gives them control in making sure the profiles are setup correctly and in a visually appealing way. Before doing this the coordinator should let producers know, and get their profile information from them. This option may also be necessary for producers who are not tech savvy and would struggle to be involved otherwise.

If your producers already have profiles, you need to connect with them. The producer can grant different levels of permission to the shop, you should let them know if you want access to stock their products in your shop, or if you also want to be able to edit their profile, and their products, or add their products to inventory.

When the central coordinator creates profiles for producers they can also add in their product range on their behalf. They will first need to get product lists from each producer, with the required fields (name, price, category, properties etc). See instructions for setting up products. If you've connected to an existing profile, you should also have permission to edit their products.

b) Low coordinator involvement option If you want your producers to take responsibility for creating their profiles, you can instruct them to create their own profile and add in their products. They can follow the Producer (Profile Only) manual, completing all 5 steps.

If you're connected with existing producer profiles. Remind these producers to update their products.

Once the producers have setup their profiles, you'll need to connect with them.

9) Open your shop by opening an order cycle. Once your supplying producer profiles are setup, with their product ranges and once the shipping and payment methods are setup you can open your shopfront by creating an order cycle.

10) View and edit orders.

11) View reports. This page offers a broad description of OFN's reports.

Which reports are useful to multifarm shops? Generally, at the close of an order cycle the central coordinator will need to be responsible for letting each producer know how much stock has been ordered by them, and by which customer. Then each producer can pack the stock ready for delivery.

The order cycle customer total report lists each customer's order, with each item they ordered. The report should be filtered by producer and downloaded as a CSV. This will tell the producer which items were ordered by which customer.

This report can also be used to calculate the total value of goods ordered from that supplier. If your shop takes payment at checkout (with Paypal or Stripe), then the central coordinator can use this report to calculate how much money needs to be paid to each supplier.

What are the ongoing processes to run this kind of model?

Updating products each cycle

Before each order cycle, the product availability and prices for each producer need to be updated. If the coordinator owns the producer profiles, they’ll need to contact each producer, get a list of any changes to product prices and availability, and update this in the OFN. If the coordinator has taken the ‘low involvement’ route, producers will need to take responsibility for updating their product information themselves.

Below are instructions for how producers can update products before an order cycle:

Each cycle there are 3 things to update before the shop opens:

1) Mark any products that are unavailable with a zero in the ‘on hand’ field.

2) For products that will be available in the coming week, do one of the following:

i) Either enter the amount that you have available in the ‘on hand’ field next to the product.

ii) or, if you have an inexhaustible amount of a product available, select the ‘on demand’ tick box that corresponds with that product.

3) Update the prices

See here for details about updating products.

Once all producer have done this, the coordinator creates an OC and selects all products for all producers. This will put all available products into the shop at the correct prices, with the correct stock levels.

Creating an Order Cycle

It’s the coordinator’s role to make sure the order cycle is setup correctly. This involves setting the opening and closing dates, and selecting which producers are involved for that order cycle.

A way to streamline this process is to duplicate the previous Order Cycle and then just make smaller amendments.

Refunds

The collective should define the refund policy. To reduce administration time, the hub may chose not to allow refunds. Or if they do allow refunds, you need to clarify which party is responsible for this. E.g. before the collective has paid producer’s for their orders, it would be the collective’s responsibility to administer refunds. Refunds requested after funds have been transferred to producers, or after the collection date, should go through producers for example.

Advanced Features

Once you have completed your basic setup, check out the advanced features below which are particularly relevant to Multi-Farm shops:

  • Enterprise Fees - Multi-Farm Shops may wish to use this tool to allocate fees and charges to parties who provide a service (such as packing or delivery) that the other parties benefit from.

  • Multiple managers – A Multi-farm shop might wish to have multiple managers who are able to login and edit the shop. This can be done by adding managers to the central producer’s profile. See 'users' in the Enterprise Settings.

  • Pricing irregular, indivisible meat items- This page offers some strategies for pricing items like chickens or pumpkins, which are charged by the kg but which have an irregular weight.

  • Apply tags to your customers and customise their shopping experience with tag rules. This can make it possible to restrict certain products and certain shipping or payment methods to particular customers, which becomes especially helpful if you have retail and wholesale customers.

  • Make your shopfront private- If you prefer to check the suitability of customers (e.g. within delivery boundaries, or signed up members) before they can order through your shop, you can make your shopfront limited to approved customers only.

  • Charge different prices to different customers - There are a number of ways to configure a shop so that you charge different prices to different customers, such as your rural customers and your metropolitan customers.

  • Place orders manually - for customers who prefer to submit orders by text or over the phone.