What is BoxBot?
BoxBot is an optional CSAware feature that allows subscribers to customize their shares according to their preferences, while giving you a final say over the composition of a box. The feature can prioritize customer preference, balancing it against cost and availability of products.
BoxBot's adaptive algorithm factors in harvest counts, sales goals, and member preferences to build boxes individually customized each week for your subscribers.
Getting started with BoxBot
- Once logged into your admin account, turn on the "Set Items / Product Preferences" on the Options page, navigable from Home / Settings / Options / Options Settings.
- You have a choice here between tracking preferences by CSA Item or by product. If you grow, for example, 10 different kinds of potatoes, and track each one separately as its own CSA Item, it might be better to track items "by product". Subscribers will then rank "potatoes" together as one whole.
- Once preferences are enabled, it might be useful to broadcast an email to your subscribers inviting them to log in and indicate their preferences. In any event, they will be invited to do so next time they log in, and set their preferences for each of the products you grow.
- Next, create a new "Custom by Price" share or modify an existing one. Check the "Auto-Customize by Preference" box in the Share Type block; only "Custom by Price" shares can be used with BoxBot.
- Save changes to your Share settings.
Planning BoxBot contents for a week
- Navigate to Harvest / What's in the Box.
- If you offer more than one share, choose the share you want to work with. If you only offer a single share, your browser will automatically load that share.
- Verify that the calendar is showing the week you'd like to work with. If it's not, click on the calendar to select the week you want to set product availability for.
- The first time you load this page, there won't be any items configured for the week. Click on "Add Items", which will take you to the "Items" tab in the BoxBot page:
- If you already had items configured for this week, you can navigate to your BoxBot control panel by clicking on the "Customize Boxes" button:
- If there was a BoxBot setup from the previous week, click on "copy from previous week". Otherwise, click on the [+] icon to add items to your availability for the week. This will pop up a browser dialog.
- From the "add item" dialog, you can choose an item from your list of CSA Items, set available days, maximum counts per box, price per item, a target count, and number in stock. The "target count" indicates the count of this item you'd like for BoxBot to allocate between all of the week's boxes. "Stock" can be left blank if unlimited. A price override is available for a "This Week Only" change on the CSA item page.
- Once you've entered all of your items for the week, your Items tab will look something like the image below. Note that the item names' backgrounds are color-coded to average subscriber preferences.
- "Purchased value" indicates the sum of all of the week's deliveries at their default box prices. "Target value" is the sum of your item targets multiplied by their prices, and tells you the item counts that BoxBot will try to allocate for the week. Make sure to set your targets slightly above the purchased value.
- Make sure to click on "Save Items" once you're done setting up the week's product availability.
Making choices within BoxBot
At the top of the BoxBot control panel, You will see three slider bars in the Customization Parameters box.
The Indulgence slider bar
Using this slider bar, you can decide on how much to honor subscriber preferences when building the week's boxes. From as much as possible, to ignoring subscribers' preferences — or choose a position somewhere in between. The setting of 0, all the way to the left, means that subscriber preference will be ignored; the other pole of the slider bar, with a value of 1, means that BoxBot will place great weight on subscriber preferences when building box contents.
For example, if there were three cabbages available for three subscribers (two of whom were neutral about cabbage and one of whom adored cabbage — if the Indulgence bar was set to the maximum of 1, the cabbage-lover might get all three cabbages. Set in the middle, the cabbage-lover might get two cabbages and of the two other subscribers, both cabbage-neutral, one might receive a cabbage and one might receive none. Finally, if Indulgence were set to the minimum, each subscriber would receive one cabbage, regardless of their expressed feelings (or lack thereof) for cabbage.
Note: items set with a preference of "yuck" by a subscriber will never be included in their boxes.
The Variety slider bar
Using this slider bar, you can choose how many different items will end up in a subscriber's box. Variety here refers to the degree of variety within a box. The setting of 0.1, all the way to the left, means the box will minimize variety; the setting all the way to the right, 1, means that product variety will be optimized.
The Variety slider bar also can factor in challenges warehouse packers can face. A box with maximum Variety might be taxing for warehouse packers if it were to create a box containing 20 different items. Somewhat analogously, a box containing 20 different items might pose a challenge for a subscriber in terms of thinking how to use the items over the course of a week.
The Single Item Max slider bar
Using this slider bar, you can set a limit on how much of any particular item can end up in a subscriber's box. If set all the way to the right, BoxBot might create a box consisting of 50 percent of a single item. In an extreme example, if a subscriber loved one item but disliked everything else, BoxBot will try to allocate as much as possible of that item to that subscriber's box. With this slider you can control an upper limit to this.
The Maximum Overprice field
BoxBot tries to build boxes whose composition is as close as possible to their default purchase prices. Depending on your subscribers' preferences, item availability, and item prices, it might not be able to hit the exact targets for all boxes. This field allows you to set a maximum allowable overprice. It indicates how much you are willing to allow a subscriber box to be built at more than the established price for that box. For example, setting this field to $2 means that a box which has been priced at $16 actually might end up having $18 worth of items.
If BoxBot is not able build all boxes at under the maximum values stipulated with this setting, the BoxBot run will fail and the results will not be available for publishing to subscribers. The potential scenario might play out if there are not enough lower-value items available in a particular week.
Toggling between Items and Boxes
Below the Customization Parameters box, there are two tabs, one for Items and one for Boxes. The Items panel allows you to modify the matrix of items for sale; the Boxes panel shows subscriber boxes and their contents as created automagically by BoxBot.
On the Items panel and after a successful run, BoxBot displays, in addition to the fields already mentioned when adding items for the week, the counts allocated for each item in total, the count of boxes containing the item, and a total allocated value.
At the bottom of the items panel, in addition to the already described target and purchase values, BoxBot will show a total value, representing the actual value of all allocated items placed in boxes. BoxBot attempts to perform allocation dependent on a Target count, but will sometimes go over, depending on preferences, item availability, and prices.
Once the Items matrix has been filled in, click "Save Items" to make sure your latest settings are saved.
Your Boxes panel will now show all your scheduled boxes for the week, represented by blank squares.
Click on the 1-Autofill Boxes button on the upper right corner of the page. BoxBot will then automagically fill in subscriber boxes.
Once boxBot is done computing box contents, your box icons will be colored according to how close they are to value targets.
Green boxes are very close to target and good to go.
Yellow boxes are more than halfway between default value and below the Maximum Overprice. For example, a $10 box with a $2 Maximum Overprice will show up as yellow if the BoxBot-built box costs out at $11.50. Yellow boxes are informational for you; they depict how product mixes come close to overages, and can be used as input to re-run BoxBot with different item availability or customization parameters.
Red boxes indicate that BoxBot was not able to build them under the max overprice, and that run parameters or product mixes need to be adjusted. Red boxes are likely to appear when stock is low on lower-value items; most item prices are higher than the Max Oveprice; or the Max Overprice is too low.
You can click on each box square to view box contents as built by BoxBot.
Editing individual Boxes
If a mostly successful run has a few red boxes, as in the screen shot shown below, you can either run boxBot again with different parameters, or choose to correct these individually.
Correcting boxes individually:
- Click on a red box square
- You will see the box contents on the right panel.
- Click on the "edit" link next to the Box number.
- Modify box contents by adding or removing items as you see fit.
- When satisfied with your changes, click on Save Changes.
After each run, BoxBot computes a "Satisfaction Index", indicating how well were we able to match box contents to subscriber preferences. A value of 100 indicates that everybody got in their boxes only items they love. The satisfaction index can help you decide on where to set your customization parameters to satisfy your customers best without affecting your bottom line.
Once you are satisfied with boxes as configured for the week, Clicking on 2-Save Results causes BoxBot to save both Item details and box contents.
You can save a failed run for further refinement on a future session, but you won't be able to publish boxes unless all boxes are within parameters.
When ready to publish, clicking on 3-Publish kick starts the week publication process. Publishing boxes makes their contents visible to subscribers, and gives you the option of sending a broadcast email announcing that boxes are available for further subscriber customization, if desired. BoxBot also makes it possible to publish without sending a broadcast email in case you use other service for email broadcasts.
As we know, item availability might change after the week's deliveries have been published. BoxBot allows you to do refinement runs on previously published weeks. Boxes that have been previously viewed or customized by their owners after publication will become 'locked' and unaffected by future BoxBot runs. In these cases the box will be shown with a thick border , indicating that it is no longer modifiable by BoxBot. Boxes that have been customized by their owners to above the BoxBot allocated values will now show a deeper green color, indicating that you will be billing these subscribers extra for their deliveries.
Once all of a week's deliveries reach their final deadlines, Boxes become finalized, and the BoxBot control panel for the week will no longer be visible. You will still be able to navigate between previous weeks' BoxBot results. You can then view box history and compare Satisfaction Indices between weeks, and also between BoxBot results and the final boxes as further configured by your subscribers.