Farmlands launches click-and-collect service during COVID-19 lockdown

Farmlands is a farmer-owned rural-based co-operative in New Zealand that prides itself on in-person relationships with its 70,000 shareholder customers.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Farmlands went from business as usual to an online-only, essential business. This meant having to launch an effective e-commerce platform in order to meet ongoing product and service demands of everyone from large ranch owners, cattle stations, and sheep farmers to landowners with smaller garden plots.

About five years ago, Farmlands set out on a journey to go from not just knowing the supplies that farmers need today but also what they will need tomorrow. The company’s digital transformation focused on both system and cultural change, with a focus on becoming more outward facing while capitalizing on its vast knowledge of everything that goes on the land. By November 2019, the company had a new Microsoft technology backbone that included Azure for managing cloud-based applications and Dynamics 365 as its ERP system.

As a next step, Farmlands shut down its low-volume e-commerce site with a plan to launch a new site based on Adobe Experience Manager. The company was preparing for a relaxed rollout in the fall of 2020 but found itself in a rush to get a new system in place in response to the COVID-19 lockdown.

As an essential business, Farmlands could remain open so long as it didn’t have face-to-face interactions with customers. With only 36 hours to prepare for the lockdown, the company looked to Adobe and Datacom, its implementation partner, to pull together a way that Farmlands could offer customers the high-quality products and personal services they had grown to love.

“The Datacom and Adobe teams were life savers for us,” says Peter Reidie, CEO of Farmlands. “There were only 3.5 weeks between signing contracts and unveiling our new system. They worked weekends and through the Easter holiday to make sure this was a success.”

One of the challenges Farmlands faced was re-creating quality in-person experiences for customers who now had to do all purchases online. Up until COVID-19, the average in-person customer interaction was about 30 minutes long. People were drawn to Farmlands not only for its quality products, but also its excellent customer service supported by highly knowledgeable employees. The Farmlands team was concerned that given the COVID-19 restrictions, staff couldn’t interact meaningfully with customers.

In under one month, the Farmlands, Datacom, and Adobe teams launched a click and collect service on the existing website. The service features the 2,000 most popular products, with all of the product information coming from Microsoft Dynamics 365.

“Customers select the products they want to purchase and then one of our employees calls them to confirm that they have what they need, answer any questions, collect payment, and arrange pickup,” Reidie says. “Click and collect will be with us for as long as needed to keep everyone safe. The reception has been wonderful both from our employees and shareholders.”

The success of click and collect was immediate, with Farmlands stores fulfilling hundreds of orders daily. Reidie, along with Farmlands’ chief digital officer, Richard Wilkinson, decided to build the future e-commerce system off the back of click and collect. “We developed click and collect as an immediate fix during COVID-19,” said Wilkinson. “Looking ahead, we’re excited about what we can accomplish through the Adobe and Microsoft partnership. We are working on building a full e-commerce offering with a rich feature set, all of which was out of our reach prior to launching click and collect.”

The e-commerce site that Farmlands closed in November had very few transactions. Customers primarily visited to view product information before going in-store to make a purchase. But with the changes that came about due to COVID-19, customers have learned to embrace technology. People are not only going to the site because it’s friendlier, better, and more capable, but some are also using it for transactions. The new landscape acted as a catalyst for launching a fully configured and successful e-commerce platform.

Farmlands plans to continue integrating new capabilities into click and collect and eventually molding it into a more personalized e-commerce experience, where it will present relevant content to each website visitor. Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target will help make this happen.

“While circumstances are outside of our control, we made the most out it and are excited about the future of Farmlands e-commerce,” said Reidie. “We have a system that works while under COVID-19 restrictions and can support us easily in the future. We’re excited about how the Adobe, Microsoft, and Datacom partnerships enable us to best serve our shareholder customers.”

Topics: APAC, Customer Stories, Retail, Commerce, Digital Foundation, Experience Cloud, COVID-19, Enterprise Customers

Products: Target, Analytics, Experience Manager, Experience Cloud