Agricultural Marketing

Ag Retail Suppliers Need a Better E-Commerce Strategy to Digitally Engage with Farmers

Kaitlin Vrsek

The ag buying channels are shifting. With the emergence of e-commerce platforms like FBNAgVendCommoditAgIndigo AgNutrien’s Digital Hub – in tandem with the “new normal” of small groups and limited building capacities due to the pandemic – this transition is quickly becoming the new norm, and not just a market disruptor.   

McKinsey & Company recently released the follow-up to their 2018 study of e-commerce implementation in the ag space and ag retail should take heed of its findings.  

Agricultural E-Commerce Strategies 

Implementing an e-commerce strategy? Don’t just think putting up a retail site with a shopping cart is going to pull farmers in and make them lifelong customers. In 2018, 28% of the farmers McKinsey and Company interviewed were open to buying inputs online. In 2020, that number had fallen to 12%. How are you going to buck the trend and not have your e-commerce platform fall flat on its face? 

First and foremost, agribusinesses, you will not be able to lean solely on your e-commerce platform. We all know ag is heavily relationship-driven, fields will need walked, product will need to be delivered, so you’ll need to make your online process seamless.  

Meristem Ag, an e-commerce and direct-to-farm inputs supplier, uses this collaborative approach.  

According to Quinton Keeran, Director of Marketing for Meristem Ag, “Transparency is at the core of what Meristem does for America’s farmers. We keep our website updated for pricing 24/7/365 so farmers can always check our prices against the competition, or purchase, without having to search extensively or call a Meristem rep or dealer.” 

“However, we don’t rely just on our website. We provide support at the farmgate with a team of agronomists and distributors to serve our farmer customers. Meristem recognizes technologies are there to help farmers serve themselves, but we also recognize that face-to-face interaction is a vital component of the agriculture world.” 

Growing Digital Engagement Among Farmers 

The McKinsey & Company report validates this approach, “The opportunity to grow digital engagement among farmers is significant—with five times more growers open to using digital channels to make agricultural purchases than today’s levels. But success in driving online adoption will require more creative approaches and greater effort than before. As it stands now, only one out of ten farmers finds digital sources of agriculture information sufficient for their needs.” 

How do you create the customized resource for your farmer customers and effectively integrate the human component?  

Short answer: there’s a lot of ways, let’s talk about a few and their benefits.

An Integrated Online Ag Experience

CRMs, like HubSpot, have integrations with a variety of e-commerce platforms, like WooCommerce, to facilitate this creative, omnichannel approach. As you are familiar with your customers’ journey and the buying seasons for each product, these tools can help you with: 

  • Timely communications. Marestail resistance in your area? Let’s send out a properly timed email or text notification that you have the product to knock it down. These communications can be tied back to the individual salesperson, including their contact information, urging the farmer to reach out for more information. The salesperson then receives a report as to who opened the email and what links they clicked on. This information can provide the salesperson with an approach for a follow-up call, farm visit or email.
  • Abandoned cart tracking. Did Farmer Joe put bifenthrin, metribuzin, and tiafenacil in his cart but not check out or reach out to you for more information? Get notified of the abandoned cart and make a timely phone call to Joe to connect – maybe he’ll get that order placed over the phone or in-person instead. He’s obviously interested in those products, so let’s help close the sale.
  • Purchased frequently together. Farmer Joe is back at it again. He’s been clicking around on an herbicide that would greatly benefit from a surfactant added to the tank, but he hasn’t clicked on surfactants yet. Include on the product page, “Frequently Purchased Together” and the surfactant information. Follow it up with a communication about the surfactant, its benefits and an article linking to a 3rd party university research about the efficacy of surfactants and herbicides in the tank.
  • Submit an offer. That wily Farmer Joe, he wants to see if he can barter with you on pricing for your products and just submitted an offer for an herbicide. Better stop by his shop and close the deal.
  • Request a quote. Various inputs, like fertilizer, are priced based off the market. With that level of volatility, allow your customers to request a quote when they need product. Your sales team won’t be interrupted by the phone call, and you can provide an accurate quote and have it tracked for future communications and follow-up. 

Ag retail can’t just slap up an e-commerce platform to check a box because “everyone has one”.  

This tool needs to be put forth with your customer in mind, an effective strategy with a CRM for your sales team to see the best results, and a collaborative approach between the digital world and physical sales we live in. 

Let’s talk about your strategy.

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