Project: Fresh Finder

FreshFinder: The Farmers Market App

“(Farmers) markets add value to the community on so many levels. They’re such a great way to support local farmers, a place to go see your neighbors. To slow down a little bit.” — Chris Curtis, Director, Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance

Welcome to FreshFinder, the mobile application that connects you with information maps and tips for exploring Seattle’s awesome farmers market community. A unique app with minimal competition, FreshFinder is the go-to source for everything related to farmers markets in Seattle. Our region values local produce, freshness and supporting farmers in nearby communities.

So where do Seattleites go to locate markets, share vendor information and find great produce? Currently, there is nowhere to go on the iPhone for this information. FreshFinder plans on changing that.

Scope

FreshFinder benefits shoppers who need information “here and now,” as well as those who plan ahead. On a couch or at the bus stop, whenever a user needs to plan their next trip to a farmers market or research what’s in season, they can always access FreshFinder.

It’s a mobile guide to farmers markets in Seattle and plays the role of tool, media and social actor. FreshFinder answers such questions as: What are the vendors selling and at what times during the year? When are the markets open? Where are they located? How do I get there?

Features

FreshFinder is a versatile application with many features and capabilities. Its first version will launch with minimal features, but the app will grow with each additional update and version. Here is a quick look at the features available with FreshFinder:

  • GPS & Map
    FreshFinder uses GPS capabilities to help users locate the closest and most accessible farmers markets in Seattle. It features multi-touch map integration via Google Maps, and there are search capabilities for the closest farmers markets by item. For example, a user can find the market nearest them where fresh cucumbers are available.
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  • Web-Based
    FreshFinder’s downloadable interface communicates with a web-based database over the iPhone’s network connection. This allows the application to update information about farmers market schedules and locations, as well as provide user-generated feedback such as comments and reviews.
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  • Calendar
    A built-in monthly calendar displays the days and hours of operation for each farmers market in Seattle. This important feature allows users to manage their time efficiently, as many markets are only open during certain months or have shorter hours during the winter season.
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  • Market Details
    Users can view the details of a particular farmers market by tapping on a market in the calendar, map or search feature. Contact information, address, hours and parking information are available.
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  • Produce Tips
    A unique function of FreshFinder is the tips feature that educates users on which produce is in season and how they’ll know if it is ripe and delicious.
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  • User Reviews
    FreshFinder allows users to leave comments and reviews about markets, items and vendors. For example, say you meet a nice couple selling homemade soap at the Columbia City Farmers Market. The soap is amazing and you want to spread the word. With FreshFinder, you can leave feedback on the soap, the vendor or the market from within the application. Comments can be shared via Facebook and Twitter.

Versions

FreshFinder’s first iteration will be simple and straightforward. As updated versions are released, more features will be added. This allows for a quality application with fewer bugs and stronger usability. Plus, updates make users happy.

By keeping things fresh (get it?) we give users more incentive to continue using the app. Here is a quick overview of the app’s three planned versions:

Phase 1

  • Basic GPS capabilities
  • Google Maps integration
  • Farmers market details (includes only hours, address and contact information)
  • Calendar

Phase 2

  • Search for a market based on items sold (produce, wine, artwork)
  • Expanded market profiles including which items are available and parking information
  • Reviews and feedback
  • Produce tips

Phase 3

  • Share via Facebook and Twitter
  • Upload photos
  • What’s in season interactive map

Scenarios

FreshFinder makes it easy to find the nearest farmers market and explore Seattle’s thriving community of farmers markets.

The built-in GPS feature allows users to see all of the closest farmers markets on a Google map and drill down for directions and detailed information. Users may also search by market, item and vendor to discover available produce, goods and crafts.

FreshFinder’s target audience is familiar with the farmers market experience, so the application is designed to provide users with up-to-date information in a timely and enjoyable manner. The following scenarios reflect this.

Scenario #1
Getting Directions

Tia is hosting a dinner party Sunday night. She knows the West Seattle Farmers Market takes place every Sunday, but she doesn’t know when or where and has never been despite its close proximity. Before venturing up the hill and braving midday traffic, she uses FreshFinder to find directions.

1) Tia taps “ Markets Near Me” on the home screen and the built-in GPS feature pinpoints the West Seattle Farmers Market as the closest market to her home in the Delridge neighborhood.

2) She taps the blue arrow next to the market’s name in the Google Maps feature to learn more about the West Seattle Farmers Market.

3) Tia learns the market is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, which means she can go right after lunch. She taps “Directions” to find out exactly where the market is located.

4) Turns out, the market is closer than she thought, and the Google Maps feature informs her it will take less than 10 minutes to get there.

Scenario #2
Searching by Item

Daylen needs to find a farmers market that sells raspberries because he has a big date this weekend and wants to make a very special dessert. He opens FreshFinder and in just a few taps knows exactly where to go to find what he is looking for.

1) Daylen taps “Search” on the home screen.

2) He wants to eat raspberries, and he’s looking for the best ones around. So he taps “By Item” on the search screen.

3) Daylen uses the touch screen to search for raspberries and taps “Broadway” because it has the highest user reviews.

4) He scrolls through the reviews for raspberries at the Broadway Farmers Market, pleased that nearly all of them are 4 stars. He reads a few with a simple tap.

Task Flow

FreshFinder’s user interface is welcoming and intuitive. It takes advantage of the Apple Human Interface Guidelines and provides users a clear path to the information they seek. It is a simple application but a deep one with many features and capabilities.

Here is an example of the FreshFinder flow chart, starting with the home screen:

Rationale

The number of farmers markets in King County alone jumped from nine in 1999 to 39 in 2009, according to the 2010 Farmers Market Report issued by the King County Agriculture Program. Surveys also show that 85% of King County residents buy locally produced food more than once each year, and sales at farmers markets have grown dramatically in the last decade—from approximately $3.5 million in 1999 to $20-30 million in 2009. In fact, Washington is among the top 10 states in the U.S. when determining at the fastest growing rate of farmers markets (USDA, 2010).

The growing business of farmers markets and the desire for locally grown produce is the rational behind FreshFinder. Patrons of farmers markets need a mobile app that serves the way they shop. Mary Embleton, director of the Cascade Harvest Coalition, says: “According to recent public opinion research commissioned by King County, most consumers indicated a willingness to choose local produce if they were aware of where to find it and how to distinguish it from non-local items.” FreshFinder offers an easy way to find markets and provides tips for identifying high-quality produce, as well as the opportunity to engage with others via user reviews and comments.

Additionally, FreshFinder is a resource that tourists can use to locate farmers markets in Seattle. A growing trend called “agritourism” is emerging and refers to those who visit our beautiful city and perceive food to be part of the travel experience. They are attracted to events like Sunday farmers markets that offer items such as wine, cheese and meat. In Seattle, Pike Place Market gets all the attention and deservedly so—it is one of the longest running farmers market in the country. But there are nearly 40 other fresh markets operating within King County. Tourists may not know about these markets, and FreshFinder puts this information at their fingertips.

There is a place for FreshFinder in this community. Creating an application that taps in to the cultural phenomenon of farmers markets is a smart and profitable business move for organizers and local vendors alike. The top reasons cited for not attending a farmers market is not having access to enough information and not knowing where the closest ones are located (Govindasamy, Zurbriggen, Italia, Adelaja, Nitzsche & VanVranken, 1998). FreshFinder benefits users by informing them about Seattle’s established farmers market community. It benefits the markets by expanding their customer base.

Audience

They call Seattle the Emerald City, and that was before the metropolis of 617,000 went “green” with environmental civic pride. Ours is a community united in sustainable practices—from compostable coffee cups to the nation’s most expansive recycling program. It’s not just the people, either. It’s the politics. Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment works to make the area a healthier place to live, and pro-green Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to accept the city’s $20 million grant for energy efficiency and conservation programs.

Our passion for local food and fresh produce is evident in Seattle’s farmers market community. It’s important to understand the diversity of farmers markets in our area so that we can identify the kinds of shoppers who will use the FreshFinder app. A 2010 survey conducted by the University of Illinois recognized five particular categories of people who regularly attend farmers markets: enthusiasts, recreational shoppers, serious shoppers, low-involved shoppers and basic shoppers. The study also identified that freshness is the largest advantage farmers markets have over large grocery stores. FreshFinder’s audience in Seattle gravitates towards local vendors because their foods tend to be fresher due to reduced shipping time.

Research shows the largest percentage of farmers market attendees to be over 51 years of age, so FreshFinder must focus on them. Unfortunately, only 17% of iPhone users are over 55, so this is clearly one of the application’s biggest challenges. However, the local trend skews younger as farmers markets in Seattle are more visible than their national counterparts. Many have become established parts of the communities they serve. By targeting a younger audience, focusing on those who have already have smartphones, FreshFinder can expand its user base and tap into the community power of farmers markets in Seattle.

Competitive Analysis

There are a number of existing iPhone applications that service the farmers market community nationwide. None offer the feature list included in FreshFinder, and most do not service the greater Seattle area. Here is a look at some of the apps that are similar to FreshFinder:

  • Locavore (Buster McCleod)
    This application caters to the Seattle market but is a national app at heart. It features an outstanding map of the U.S. that shows exactly which states an item is available in. The “I Ate Local” section shows status updates from around the world via Facebook Connect. The GPS feature lists only a few farmers markets in Seattle even though there are dozens more. This application is available for $2.99.
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  • California Farmers’ Market Finder (Darwin 3D, LLC)
    This app is restricted to California, which makes it an indirect competitor of FreshFinder. The biggest complaint discussed in its app reviews are the limited number of cities the app is available in, while some positives are the large database of more than 500 markets that lists locations, and directions to each market. The ability to filter by county and enter market updates on the go are also touted in as positive reviews. This application is free.
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  • Farmers’ Markets (Apptika, Inc)
    It is difficult to gain a solid understanding of the positives and negatives of this application as there are no reviews. However, the app’s description lists the top features as a market locator and the ability to see which products are available at each market. This is the most expensive farmers market application in the iTunes App Store, selling for $4.99.
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  • Farmers Markets (Phlogistic Apps)
    This application offers a market locater but little else in the way of features. It provides the addresses of local markets and maps to find them. This app would suffice for “market enthusiasts” but provides very little information a “serious shopper” would find useful. This application is available for $0.99.
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  • Farmers Market Companion (J2 App Dev)
    This application offers many features that would compliment FreshFinder including a vegetable identifier, tips on how to select good produce and information on how to store different fruits and vegetables. It also has recipes and tips on how to prepare market finds. This application is available for $0.99.

Data Source

Considering FreshFinder is a hybrid mobile application that requests much of its information from a web-based database, the data it delivers to users is deeper and far more detailed than would be available if it were a native application. This gives FreshFinder a wide range of possibilities and a roster of features that is unmatched in the mobile marketplace.

Most of the data comes from outside sources, including nonprofits and government reports. FreshFinder scrapes these websites for market information, but relies heavily on additional input from markets and vendors. Of course, it always takes a few “early adopters” to show the other markets and vendors that updating their information through FreshFinder is a benefit to their bottom line.

Here are brief explanations of where FreshFinder’s data will come from:

  • Locate a farmers market nearby
    Use existing GPS features to localize search and provide directions through the built-in Google Maps feature.
  • Hours of operation and contact information
    Available individually on organization and market websites, though a complete list is provided in the King County Agriculture Program’s annual Farmers Market Report.
  • Discover what’s in season
    Washington state’s seasonal crops are widely known and can be input into the web-based database. Epicurious built an interactive U.S. map with just this information, and a localized version of it would be a nice addition to the FreshFinder roster.
  • Leave feedback and share via the Social Web
    All of this data is user-generated and can be implemented through Facebook Connect and other standard iPhone integrations. Feedback and reviews must be stored on the web-based database.
  • Learn more about each market
    Available in full through the Farmers Market Report and by working with market organizers and vendors. Possible information to include is market history and the number of visitors each year.

A great deal of FreshFinder’s information is readily available online. The rest of it, including which items are available at each market, must be submitted from the vendors and organizers themselves. Because many small farms and farmers struggle to reach a wide audience, creating a simple submission process via the FreshFinder website can work wonders for their marketing and communications efforts. This will take some time to implement, but it’s what will separate FreshFinder from the pack. It also benefits the vendors, markets and, most importantly, the consumers.

Sponsoring Organization

FreshFinder seeks one sponsoring organization to take the lead, and we recommend the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance (NFMA). With seven markets operating under its umbrella, the NFMA is the largest of the big three associations that oversee 13 of the area’s farmers markets.

As a 501(c)3, the NFMA is governed by an 11-member board of directors, four of whom are farmers who sell at the markets. It employs eight full-time staff, including Director Chris Curtis, a 1973 graduate of the University of Washington known as the mother of Seattle’s farmers market scene. The NFMA has offices in the University District.

FreshFinder and the NFMA are natural partners due to the organization’s reach and influence. In 2009, the NFMA collectively donated more than 47,000 pounds of fresh food to local food banks and in 2004 received the Mayor’s End Hunger Award in recognition of the work it does on behalf of the hungry in our communities. Clearly, this is an organization that cares about the greater good. Farmers markets play an important and valued role in our community, and their missions are simple: support local farmers, bring fresh, healthy food to the community, provide an opportunity for small business to sell their goods, and create a lively, family-friendly activity.

By partnering with FreshFinder, the NFMA can deliver the local produce and crafts that make up this thriving community to an even greater audience. The application enhances the experience for existing customers and gives new shoppers the chance to interact with the farmers markets before they go.

Promotion

Fresh Finder is perfectly positioned to tap into Seattle’s already successful farmers market community. Whether it’s the NFMA or King County’s PugetSoundFresh.org, there are plenty of organizations, websites and publications willing to help FreshFinder build a following.

First, we must communicate with the farmers markets directly as well as the governing organizations to discuss the reasons why FreshFinder can support their businesses. We also will include in the promotional strategy tourist organizations such as Seattle-King Count Visitors Bureau, Visiting Seattle, Washington State Trade Center, Getting Around Seattle, Seattle tourist info, and others.

Here are a few specifics that detail FreshFinder’s promotional strategy:

iTunes App Store

FreshFinder will debut as a free application. It is a utility app that promotes many nonprofits in our area, and it should be made available to the widest possible audience. It will be easier to promote if it’s free, and considering FreshFinder’s partners are the local farmers whom the markets are trying to keep afloat, the more eyeballs (and fingertips) we can get on application the better. Our best bet for making that happen is to offer the application free of charge in the iTunes App Store.

Website

We will build an interactive website that features the FreshFinder icon, logo and color scheme along with screen shots and links to share via Facebook, Twitter and email. All of the features will be listed along with a brief description of what the app can do. The site will take advantage of SEO tactics by using meta tags such as “farmers market,” “fresh fruit” and “local produce.” It also will house a Tumblr blog that updates users about forthcoming versions as well as farmers market news from around the region. GoDaddy.com shows the URL FreshFinderApp.com to be available, so we’ll purchase that (and others) to help with our marketing and branding efforts.

Mass Media

In reaching out to local organizations and publications that support farmers markets in Seattle, we’ll craft a media press release that links to the website and includes details about the FreshFinder app. In addition to targeting organizations such as the Washington State Farmers Market Association, we’ll contact The Seattle Times, Seattlepi.com, Seattle Weekly and Seattle Magazine, just to name a few. We will also submit FreshFinder to the leading app review sites: AppCravr, 148apps, AppVee, iPhoneAppReviews.net, iUseThis, Apple iPhone School, AppStoreApps.com, iPhoneApplicationList, and Apps Safari.

Social Media

FreshFinder will be set up on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter to engage potential users in discussion. We’ll submit the app article to Digg and make an instructional video to post on YouTube, while the presentation walk-through will be posted on Slideshare. We’ll also take part in discussions and promote the app on local forums, discussion boards and Facebook pages such as The Farmers’ Market, I Support Farmers Markets, Slow Food USA, and many others.

Advertising

We will participate in the AdMob Download Exchange to promote FreshFinder from inside dozens of other relevant apps. We’ll also develop posters and postcards that can be placed in local businesses and tourist destinations such as hotels. It’s also worth taking advantage of free classified advertising on the Seattle section of Craigslist.

Vendors’ word-of-mouth

Vendors will be one of the main promotional channels for FreshFinder. We’ll promote it as a marketing tool for them to reach new customers and ask them to promote it wherever possible—at their stands, on their websites, etc.

Promo Schedule

Promotion of FreshFinder will be made in three stages to generate buzz with the target audience:

  • Pre-launch—create expectations and demand for app
  • Launch— Create awareness and attract early adopters
  • Post-launch—Expand to new audiences, generate positive feedback
Pre-launch Launch Post-launch
Website & Blog Highlight features, launch date, markets News release, reviews, instructional video Case studies, reviews, vendors, press clippings
iTunes App Store Launch in App Store Release new versions
Mass Media Develop and design press release and instructional video News release, interviews Highlight positive feedback, awards and recognition
Social Media Discuss on Facebook, Twitter, forums Follow up on Facebook and Twitter, highlight features and video Gather feedback, post reviews, conduct polls, engage users
Advertising Print posters and postcards Place ads in other apps, distribute posters and postcards, Craigslist Place ads in other apps, distribute posters and postcards, Craigslist
Partnering Organizations Establish contacts, promote submission process Place links and banners on partner websites Update banners and icons, highlight positive feedback and reviews
Vendors Establish contacts, promote FreshFinder submission process Place info on partner websites and stands, promote submissions Place info on partner websites and stands, promote submissions

References

Feagan, R. B. & Morris, D. (2009). Consumer quest for embeddedness: a case study of the Brantford Farmers’ Market. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 33, 235-243. doi:10.1111/j.1470-6431.2009.00745.x.

Govindasamy, R., Zurbriggen, M., Italia, J., Adelaja, A., Nitzsche, P. & VanVranken, R. (1998). Farmers Markets: Consumer Trends, Preferences, and Characteristics. #36722, P Series. Rutgers University: Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics. Retrieved from http://econpapers.repec.org/RePEc:ags:rutdps:36722.

Hinrichs C.C., Gillespie G.W., & Feenstra G.W. (2004). Social Learning and Innovation at Retail Farmers Markets. Rural Sociology, 69, 31-58. doi:10.1526/003601104322919892.

Jarosz, L. (2008). The city in the country: Growing alternative food networks in Metropolitan areas. Journal of Rural Studies, 24(3), 231-244. doi: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2007.10.002.

King County Agriculture Program. (2010). Farmers Market Report. Retrieved from http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/waterandland/agriculture/documents/farmers-market-report.aspx.

Logozar, B. & Schmit, T.M. (2009). Assessing the Success of Farmers’ Markets in Northern New York: A Survey of Vendors, Customers, and Market Managers. #55941, EB Series. Cornell University: Department of Applied Economics and Management, http://econpapers.repec.org/RePEc:ags:cudaeb:55941.

Smithers, J., Lamarche, J., & Joseph, A. E. (2008). Unpacking the terms of engagement with local food at the Farmers’ Market: Insights from Ontario. Journal of Rural Studies, 24(3), 337-350. doi: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2007.12.009.

USDA (Aug. 4, 2010). USDA Announces that National Farmers Market Directory Totals 6,132 Farmers Markets In 2010. Retrieved from USDA website.

Wakeman, I., Light, A., Robinson, J., Chalmers, D., & Basu, A. (2010). Bringing the Virtual to the Farmers’ Market: Designing for Trust in Pervasive Computing Systems. In Trust management. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-13446-3_17.

Wooldridge, D. (2010). The business of iPhone app development: making and marketing apps that succeed. New York: Apress.

Zepeda, L. (2009). Which little piggy goes to market? Characteristics of US farmers’ market shoppers. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 33(3), 250-257. doi:10.1111/j.1470-6431.2009.00771.x.

FreshFinder Team

The mobile application FreshFinder was created by three students as part of a graduate-level course at the University of Washington in Seattle. Led by Senior Lecturer Kathy Gill, students in the Master of Communications in Digital Media (MDCM) program were tasked with creating an application idea and seeing it through the promotional phase as the cornerstone of their Building Mobile Applications course.

FreshFinder was created by:

Derek Belt

A former newspaper reporter, Derek Belt joined the MCDM in 2009. He works in marketing and communications and feels digital media is the natural next step for a writer who won’t do print anymore. Derek grew up in Fall City, Wash., and attended the University of Washington. He graduated with a degree in journalism and spent three years writing for the Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register.

Nicole Maroutsos

This was the last MCDM course for Nicole Maroutsos, a music director at Dial Global in Seattle. She also has worked as a client service specialist for Fisher Broadcasting and holds a BA in political science from the University of Washington.

Sam Aitymbetov

A graduate student in the UW’s MCDM program, Sam was awarded a Fulbright Fellow to study new media and evolving Internet technologies. Originally from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, he worked previously for AKIpress, the largest news agency in the country. Among his many interests are news production, internet marketing, social media and techno-business.

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  1. Course Wrap | MCDM Smartphone Class - 23 August 2010

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