In today’s digital age, where 87 percent of consumers turn to Google to discover and assess local businesses (Paget, 2023), it’s evident that such an online presence as a website plays a pivotal role in shaping consumer purchase decisions. The process mirrors this trend when seeking information about a local farmers’ market: potential visitors will likely “Google it” and then carefully assess the market’s website. The website experience becomes a decisive factor, influencing consumers’ choices on whether to make the trip or explore alternatives. Like businesses, farmers’ markets need to recognize the profound impact of their online representation, understanding that consumers’ evaluations of farmer’s markets often begin with a visit to their digital storefronts.
Having evaluated small business, agribusiness, non-profit, and personal brand websites for more than a decade through the Bricks-to-Clicks Marketing Program, it is apparent that specific elements are crucial in persuading consumers to engage. For farmers’ markets, where 8,720 establishments in the U.S. connect growers directly with consumers, the importance of a well-designed website becomes even more pronounced.
According to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the total annual sales at farmers’ markets are estimated at $1 billion. This raises a critical question: could growers increase sales if farmers’ market websites were more effective at attracting consumers? A compelling online presence could be the key to unlocking more significant sales potential for growers and farmers’ market organizers. Here are seven elements a farmers’ market website should include to attract customers.
An effective website should include an easy-to-understand tagline. Look at this example from Elgin, Texas: https://www.elginfarmersmarket.com/. The tagline is “Buy Local, Eat Fresh.” The purpose of the tagline is to communicate the value of buying at the market quickly. With this tagline, it’s easy to understand that buying local, fresh food is the main message.
Visually display the success customers will experience when they visit your market. What are the benefits of visiting your farmers’ market? If access to fresh food is essential, use high-quality images showing people interacting with growers to entice customers to visit. Look at this example from Wichita Falls, Texas: https://farmersmarketwichitafalls.com/. It’s easy to see many consumers enjoying their experience. The same applies to this example from San Francisco, California: https://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/farmers-market/. The ideal visual display also includes images of happy, smiling people enjoying the market.
Provide bite-sized categories to explain the products sold at your farmers’ market. Retake a look at the San Francisco, California site: https://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/farmers-market/. Scroll down, and you’ll see bite-sized examples of what’s available at their market, including Tuesdays and Saturdays. For a farmers’ market, it’s more straightforward to communicate what happens each day of the week when the market is open. But the main thing is to be clear about the products sold at the market in easy-to-understand terms. Otherwise, consumers get confused, and they won’t visit the market.
Showcase when your farmers’ market is open. Every farmers’ market is different regarding the days and hours it is open, which means clearly communicating available days and hours is critical to success. This information should appear in the header section of your farmers’ market website. The header is the first section of website content. Look at this example from Starkville, Mississippi: https://starkville.org/things-to-do/starkville-community-market/. The website header displays when the farmers’ market is open clearly and concisely.
Use call-to-action buttons to engage consumers and vendors. When consumers visit a farmers’ market website, it is critical to call them to action to show the experience they can have. For example, a clear call to action button in the header section of the website might be “Plan Your Visit” or “Virtual Tour.” The virtual tour button could provide a short, high-quality video showing consumers enjoying their visit at a farmers’ market. The Plan Your Visit button could list vendors, upcoming events, lodging, restaurants, and more. The idea is to invite consumers to take a step toward planning a visit to their local farmers’ market.
A call-to-action button should also be present so vendors can easily apply to sell at the market. A simple button could be labeled “Become A Vendor.” This button could lead growers to an online application to sell at the market. A website programmer could easily build a website to feature both buttons side-by-side in the header of a farmers’ market website. Here is an example of a local food business in Tennessee that uses a two-button design in its website header: https://brownbagnow.com.
Build an email list. An effective farmers’ market website should also help build an email list that a farmers’ market manager could use throughout the year to promote upcoming market activities. Lead generators often appear on websites to capture visitor email addresses. A lead generator is content offered freely on websites to encourage consumers to share their email addresses to download the content. Building an email list requires presenting an effective lead generator to pique consumer curiosity and promote downloading free content. The idea is to offer consumers enough value in the free content that they want to exchange their email addresses for access.
A practical method of offering a lead generator on a website is to activate a site’s pop-up feature. When a consumer visits a farmers’ market website, a pop-up could be made to appear after a specified amount of time (usually 5-10 seconds) and offer access to the lead generator. If the consumer provides an email address, she gains immediate access to the lead generator.
As for creating lead generators, many options exist. A market could offer a coupon for 10% off any item or access to a monthly newsletter update of market vendors and seasonal activities. Also, some farmers’ markets may want to develop a free PDF document with the main benefits or attractions available for immediate download. Here is a list of three potential lead generators for the Starkville Farmers’ Market in Mississippi, but each of these could be adapted for any farmers’ market. These include:
- Win a Bounty Bag of Fresh Delights: Download Now and Enter Our Drawing for a Chance to Taste Starkville’s Farmers’ Market.
- Craving Local Delights? Here Are 5 Things You Need to Know About Starkville’s Farmers’ Market.
- Sip, Shop, and Savor: 3 Reasons Starkville’s Market Is a Culinary Haven.
Keep them in the loop. If a lead generator does its job, a farmers’ market will gain access to new email addresses. The problem is most may do this part and fail to remember to engage with these new email subscribers during the year. Instead, develop a set of automated emails explaining the market’s main attractions, seasonal activities, entertainment, and food options throughout the year. Include some emails featuring testimonials. Here are five automated emails that can keep your farmers’ market customers informed:
- Deliver the lead generator. Send a short email and give consumers the lead generator you promised. Keep it short and sweet.
- Feature why your market is unique. Send a short email about the main reason your market is unique. Your tagline on your website should summarize this, but in this email, explain the details of it. People want to know “why” they should visit one market versus others.
- Explain seasonal activities. Send a short email explaining the seasonal activities you deliver at the market. Include one testimonial in this email as well.
- The behind-the-scenes tour. Send a short email this time that includes a short video of a farmers’ market manager working with vendors at the market, welcoming visitors, and so on. Make this a guided tour featuring the farmers’ market manager as the spokesperson.
- Feature three testimonials. Send a short email to three people who have given you positive testimonials about why they love visiting the market. These can be quotes or videos.
Seven Elements Checklist
Use this list to evaluate if your farmers’ market website is prepared to attract customers.
- Does your website have an easy-to-understand tagline?
- Does your website visually display the success customers will experience when they visit the market?
- Does your website provide bite-sized categories to explain the products sold at the market?
- Does your website showcase when the market is open?
- Does your website feature call-to-action buttons to engage consumers (e.g., Plan Your Visit, Virtual Tour) and producers (e.g., Become A Vendor)?
- Does your website offer a lead generator to build your email list?
- Do you deliver automated emails after consumers download your lead generator to keep them in the loop?
In the era of digital search, farmers’ markets must recognize that the first impression is often a digital one. That’s why it’s imperative for farmer’s markets to understand the pivotal role websites play in shaping perceptions and driving engagement. Remember: A click on a farmers’ market website is the modern-day visit, and a well-crafted farmers’ market website serves as the virtual gateway to the vibrant world of fresh, locally produced foods, connecting growers with a broader consumer audience eager to embrace sustainable living. By effectively integrating these seven elements, your farmers’ market website can showcase the diverse range of locally sourced products available, helping attract more consumers and increase grower and market revenues.
If you are ready to develop a farmers’ market website that attracts customers, enroll in the Bricks-to-Clicks Marketing Program’s Master Your Marketing Online Course at Mississippi State University. Dr. Barnes teaches this live one-day marketing workshop where you will learn how to develop a farmers’ market website, lead generator, and email series to attract consumers to your farmers’ market. The next class starts on February 6, 2024. To be notified when registration opens, complete this form.
Paget, S. (2023). Local consumer review survey. Available at https://shorturl.at/kBFLU.
Barnes, James. “Seven Elements Your Farmers’ Market Website Should Include to Attract Consumers.” Southern Ag Today 4(3.5). January 19, 2024. Permalink