FrankenFruit is a fruit farm in the south-west of the Netherlands. People can come and pick their own fruit and vegetables. In peak season, there are hundreds of customers per day, with many of those coming for the first time. This used to require a tremendous amount of explanation, because each new customer needed information on price, location, and availability of products. Several systems are now in place to help new and returning customers.
PROJECT PURPOSE AND CONTEXT
As the fruit-picking-farm became more popular, the staff was spending more time explaining how everything works than actually working. Also, people were leaving without buying anything, or buying less than they potentially would, because they simply were afraid to ask. What was needed were systems to teach new customers, and help returning customers.
The problem was relatively straightforward: New customers felt overwhelmed by the size of the farm, they didn’t know what products were available or ripe, or even what a certain vegetable looks like when it’s not wrapped in plastic in the supermarket. New customers should feel more at ease, and less overwhelmed by the task of picking fruit and vegetables.
Existing customers were familiar with the products, but had a lot of questions on when things were available, where they were, and what they cost. We wanted the staff to spend less time answering questions, and customers to feel more confident about picking their fruit and veg. Ultimately, the objective was greater efficiency.
The first step was to define and research the audience, then define their needs, so we could ultimately think of a solution. The audience was broadly defined into two categories: new and existing customers. Information was gathered through user interviews, surveys and observation. From this information, we created four main personas.
The data on their needs was supported by asking the staff to write down the types of questions they were asked most, as well as through observations and from overheard conversations.
Communicating all of this information could take up to several minutes for each customer. However, more problematic were the people that did not ask anything. They would pick unripe products, could not find what they were looking for, or picked products they were not allowed to pick.
The first thing we wanted to address was “where” (giving directions was extremely time-consuming). For this, we decided to create a map of the farm. “Surely this map will solve all problems”, we thought. “After all, everyone can read maps.”
“People aren’t going to read a map until they feel lost.”
We quickly realised the map didn’t have the desired effect. In the end, it was simple: people won’t read a map until they feel lost. They were being shown a solution before they had a problem. Only a small number of customers studied the map beforehand. We were going to need a much more holistic approach:
It needed to be more portable, and needed to address their problems as they appeared. We needed to look not just at what information they needed, but when. We needed to build in redundancy, and show the most important information in multiple places.
A NEW PLAN
After learning these valuable lessons, we decided to expand the system. Not only would we have a map, we would also create road signs, tree markers, labels, an overview on the website, and much more. We designed social media posts to spread information on how to pick fruit, help people understand how to use the products through recipes, and much more. It also needed to be moveable and flexible, because crops need to be rotated so they’re healthier. A product will not be in the same place the next year.
The rollout of this information strategy has coincided with a greatly increased amount of customers. While this cannot be attributed purely to an improved information architecture, these changes have helped make the business much more customer-friendly and welcoming to beginners. Time spent on onboarding new customers was reduced from 4 minutes to under a minute, which saves money per customer because fewer staff needs to be hired.
Of course, there are still some improvements to be made. There are plans to make everything more visual, by for example including images of every product, to help people with lesser Dutch skills. Reminders of the rules, including new rules against smoking on the fields and reminders to please not litter, are also in the works.
The FrankenFruit farm was to most people a confusing place until the information architecture was improved. Information is now delivered at multiple points, with built-in redundancy, saving valuable time and winning over new customers.
Text and design: Paul Franken
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