Jan. 25, 2021 | Ian Cook
Of all the innovations and trends that 2020 witnessed, one of the most remarkable was the development and widespread expansion of ecommerce. Impacting thousands of operators in retail, restaurants and grocery, it has reshaped the way businesses are run at least for now, and quite possibly far into the future. But some of the companies operating in this sphere were thriving even before the ecommerce wave. Take Local Line, for example.
Local Line was founded by Cole Jones in 2015 as a platform to connect small farms throughout North America with local chefs. Now, they are working with over 7,600 farms in North America alone to help those farms establish themselves using their e-commerce and order fulfilment platform.
Many farms, Cole explains, don’t have proper tools to raise revenue and expand their customer base: “The reality is that most small farms run their businesses on sticky notes and spreadsheets, which prevents them from accessing new customers and growing their businesses.” Local Line developed the platform to enable farmers to optimize their operations: “We believe that a technology platform that helps them move online and access new customers can help them make more money, and as a result, generally improve society’s access to local food, create rural jobs, and improve the environment.”
Local Line also serves as a link between grocery stores and local farms. Roughly 90% of the products in grocery stores are required to come from distribution centers; but the remaining 10% is available for locally aggregated produce. A number of grocery stores throughout Canada and the United States currently work with Local Line to find the best farms to provide the freshest produce.
Optimizing delivery operations for farmers is a crucial dimension of establishing their ecommerce capabilities: “For delivery, we enable the farmer to upload their existing distribution schedule and share it with their customers.” They also provide a number of resources to farmers to keep them informed on topics such as offering home delivery, managing shipping and delivery costs, and even how to operate a contactless order pickup zone.
Cole predicts that within the next five years, delivery will be a staple of every grocery store in North America, providing expansion opportunities for small, independent grocers who would not otherwise have those opportunities: “There are lots of small Asian, middle eastern, African, etc. grocers in various communities around North America. I’d love to see an e-grocery environment where all of those businesses can participate, not just big retailers like Walmart for example.” Working in tandem with third party delivery services would make those grocers more accessible, enabling them to enter into new markets.
Looking forward, Cole optimistically suggested that 2021 offers everyone reasons to be hopeful: “When people are motivated to do something they usually act on it. Nearly everyone on the planet wants 2021 to be better than 2020 and simply because of that, I believe we’ll all find ways to make it better.”