Small farmers: here’s how to quickly set up online ordering/curbside pick-up to sell safely during the pandemic

Posted in Uncategorized
April 2, 2020

Hey farmers: we want to buy your food. But we also want to be safe from coronavirus, and keep you safe, too. Here’s a win-win web solution that can help your business through the crisis.

A. Get your store online and keep your inventory up to date
B. Allow customers to book curbside, no-contact pickup times using a free online scheduling service
C. Tell your customers and spread the word to others who live close to your farm

A. Get your store online

If you don’t already have an online store, I recommend setting one up. There are many options which can be added to or linked from your site pretty easily. If you don’t want to build the store or integrate it with your website yourself, a professional web designer/developer, like myself, can help you.

Ideally you’ll provide photos of your products (though these can also be added over time). More importantly, you’ll want to keep an updated inventory on your site so you know you’re selling only what you actually have.


B. Allow customers to book no-contact pickup times

Offering discrete time slots for pickup keeps us all safe—customers won’t be arriving at your farm at the same time, and when you set out pre-purchased orders on a schedule, you eliminate the need for personal contact. Plus, scheduling customer pickup times will help you organize packaging the orders.

You can keep track of pickup appointments on your phone with the Square app. And you can also sync with your Google calendar. If you already have a Square for selling at farmers’ markets, you’ve already got an account, but you can use Square’s appointment-booking tool even if you don’t yet use their payment system. It’s free. 

Start here: https://squareup.com/us/en/appointments
I can help you set this up, or you can use these directions to do it yourself:

1. First set up your business details

If Square doesn’t direct you to business details right off, go to Appointments > Online Booking > Booking Site > Edit Business Details. Customers will be driving to your farm, so be sure to provide a street address. And they may need to call or text you, so be sure to provide a phone number.

2. Next, set up your pickup service

Go to Appointments > Services and set up your service, which you might call “Order Pickup.” Be sure to delete the other sample services (unless you also offer hairdressing services!) In this example, I have indicated the Order Pickup service takes 15 minutes, and I have blocked 15 minutes after each pickup time. You can choose the service time and blocked time that work best for your farm. You might also uncheck the “Assigned Team Members” so there’s less unnecessary stuff on the booking page.

3. Then set up availability

These are the pickup time slots you want to make available for customers to choose. Go to Appointments > Calendar > Edit Availability. You can choose the same times every week, or go in and change availability independently.

4. Connect this to your store

Now here’s the important part—how to connect the appointment-booking option to your customer’s order in your store.

  • In Square, choose Appointments > Online Booking > Booking Site >  View Your Site > Book an appointment. Copy the URL of this page, so you can direct customers. Here’s my fictional example, you’ll need to copy your own: https://squareup.com/appointments/book/18lssdakcm82n9/85E4CDYBVB81S/services
  • Then, with your URL copied, go to your store in your own site. You’ll want to link to this URL in (a) the template of the final page of your checkout process, or (b) the template for your order confirmation email, or both. If this is too tricky, your web designer/developer can help.
  • Provide direction to your customers. For example:

Thanks for your order. Now, book your no-contact pickup time

Now that you’ve made your purchase, copy your order number and provide it in the Additional Notes when you book your pickup time here: [paste your own URL—not mine—the one you found from the directions in the first bullet, above]. You will choose your pickup time first, then provide your contact info and don’t forget to include your order number in Additional Notes so we can package it and have it ready for you!

When your customer has successfully booked a pickup time, here’s what it looks like to them:

Success web page when customer books a pickup

Customer’s email confirmation

Customer’s text confirmation. They’ll get a reminder text, too.

If your customers would rather call you to arrange a pickup time, you can enter the appointment in your calendar yourself. And if you enter their email and mobile number (with their permission), they will still get the notifications you see here.

C. Tell your customers

The fastest way to get the word out, of course, is to tell your social-media audience. Maybe let them know, “We now offer online ordering with no-contact pickup scheduling” and ask them to share your post with neighbors. On Facebook, you can easily boost your post to a targeted geographic audience, say, 20 miles from your town—seen by Facebook and Instagram users. Even just $10 can help your post be seen by many local people who don’t yet follow you. And if you send email newsletters, that’s also a good way to spread the word.

Is this scheduling system ideal? No, it might be a little tricky for some customers, but you’ll have their contact information in case you need to work things out. Most importantly, it’s free, fast, convenient, and will help customers safely shop for food while helping support you—our local farmers.