Last month, we explored monetization in the AgTech sector by looking at the subscription options and billing systems for two AgTech subscription businesses: Agrible’s Morning Farm Report and FarmLogs. Of course, running a successful subscription business requires more than offering the right payment methods. Providing an excellent user experience on your website is also essential.
In this post, we revisit these companies to explore their user interfaces, discuss their sign-up processes and assess the supporting communications each company sends to new users. By comparing their two approaches, we hope to show the elements that contribute to, or detract from, a positive user experience and customer experience. For any subscription company, delivering excellent experiences can mean higher customer lifetime value. Poor user and customer experiences, however, can lead to increased churn and depreciation of the brand’s value.
Morning Farm Reports and FarmLogs both offer freemium products. But as we saw regarding their subscription billing schemes, these two companies have vastly different approaches to their account sections.
Morning Farm Report — Account Setup
Setting up this account was pretty straightforward. Clicking on the sign-up link launches a popup where I entered my personal information and created my account.
Morning Farm Report complies with a double opt-in procedure for their accounts, and a user cannot begin using the service until they confirm their account registration by clicking on a link in a confirmation email. This is a mark in Morning Farm Report’s column because double opt-in is the industry standard for email signup. However, the extra step in the process made it feel disjointed, unlike FarmLogs’ seamless experience, which I’ll discuss below.
Morning Farm Reports — Free Features
To get started with this service, I have to tell Morning Farm Report which areas I want data for. I also want to experiment with the different features to see how valuable they are. The user experience during this process affects the decision to pay for the full service or not.
I knew that this was a freemium product, and not all features would be available. However, when I tried to use the features that were available, the experience was not intuitive and and I could not easily find helpful instructions.
For instance, let’s say I wanted to track wind conditions and see if it is safe to use a drone to observe my fields. My first thought was to select the Drone Plan service. The service correctly indicated that I had not given them any information about where my field is.
I went to select my field, but it wasn’t easy to do. After much searching, I found a button under the “field story” tab that allowed me to import existing field information from another system or to add a field by searching for it or drawing it on a map.
Instead of importing field data, I opted to draw one, but found the drawing function to be buggy. I eventually established a field and unlocked functionality from the Drone Plan and Field Forecast services.
The overall impression I got from Morning Farm Report’s user experience is that their service is not very intuitive or easy to use, but clearly includes a lot of horse power that could be unlocked with a paid subscription. As a tactic, this might make sense to encourage users to upgrade. But their approach carries a danger of turning off customers who would otherwise consider purchasing a paid subscription. If the features are as difficult to use in a paid subscription as they are in the free version, Morning Farm Report may be setting themselves up for high churn rates from the customers that do decide to purchase a paid subscription.
How does the FarmLogs user experience compare?
FarmLogs Account Setup and Free Features
My overall impression of FarmLogs’ user experience was positive. From the sign-up flow, supporting communications and direct instructions in their interface, FarmLogs is far ahead of Morning Farm Reports in terms of delivering a great user experience. Let’s examine the differences.
The first difference I encountered between FarmLogs and Morning Farm Report is that FarmLogs does not require a double opt-in process to create a user account. While this might not be best practice, it made the user experience easier.
Once I created an account, the site immediately prompted me to map a field. This is an important step because now the system knows the exact regions to display data for. Unlike Morning Farm Report, every feature displayed relevant information right away, and I did not have to waste time discovering how to map a field. If I had missed the prompt, FarmLogs also sends a welcome email that tells me I need to map my farm before I can start using the service.
The mapping process is very easy and intuitive. I could immediately see my fields on a map and even select the crop being grown there. Then, the field appears clearly on the FarmLogs user dashboard.
FarmLogs supplements their sign-up process with helpful emails and prompts. In addition to the welcome email they send upon signup, they also send emails that are both useful and encouraged me to sign in and continue using the service. For instance, on May 10, 2016, they sent a “rain alert” email to inform me that my fields received rainfall. The CTA suggests I log in to FarmLogs to learn more. I also received a direct communication from an account representative with the company. FarmLogs provides an outstanding customer experience by ensuring customers know how to use their service, whom to contact if they need assistance, as well as a personally engaged support email — all within a few days of signup.
Morning Farm Report
In contrast to the omnichannel, proactively helpful customer experience FarmLogs provides, the Morning Farm Report provided no proactive support in the first week. But in reviewing my work, a colleague noticed that he was receiving a regular email from Morning Farm Report.
Morning Farm Report’s email contains more information than FarmLogs’ rain report email, but with a less engaging design. Additionally, there is no way to unsubscribe within Morning Farm Report’s email. For each of the emails FarmLogs sent, they include an unsubscribe option. This is another reason why Morning Farm Report’s poor user experience also handicaps their overall customer experience. I did, eventually, locate where within Morning Farm Reports I could manage my newsletter preferences.
To be fair, we at the cleverbridge Blog do not farm and cannot judge how useful these subscriptions are in practice. That said, no matter what service a company sells subscriptions for, they put themselves at a disadvantage by not focusing on both the user experience and overall customer experience they’re providing.
In the end, our assessment of FarmLogs’ and Morning Farm Report’s user and customer experience is lopsided to say the least. There are good and bad aspects to both companies’ account signup. While FarmLogs immediately launches into how to set up a user account, omitting the double-opt in process might cause issues for them down the line. Double opt-in aside, FarmLogs was superior at every turn from the perspective of their digital user experience. In overall customer experience, Morning Farm Report receives one check for omnichannel communications. Even this, however, was not intuitive or accessible in the way FarmLogs’ communications are. FarmLogs clearly takes more care to ensure their subscribers know how to use their product and whom to ask if they have questions.
As we noted last week, user experience and customer experience are closely related, but don’t always line up. Regardless of the robustness of a company’s platform, if a subscriber cannot easily use the service, they will churn away. If customers feel welcomed and can easily set up their account, they will become loyal users who renew.
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After we published this piece, Morning Farm Report finally sent me a well designed welcome email. While it would have been more helpful to receive this when I was actually setting up my account, I’m glad to see Morning Farm Report putting more emphasis on customer experience. This email includes an image of the page where one can add a field which would have made it easier to find. The email also promotes another method for mapping a field by selecting a highlighted field, which I did not find on my own. The bottom of the email also includes contact information for a customer service representative.