Updated: Aug 25, 2020
Right now, we are in the early innings of a transformative moment in ag retail. This period will lay the groundwork for how business, and more importantly, the grower experience, will be fundamentally changed due to technology. The initial foray into ag eCommerce by industry newcomers assumed that growers wanted an “eCommerce-only” experience. It is clear now that this strategy appealed only to a minority segment of customers and traditional ag retailers are evolving their approach to embrace digital as a way to engage their core customers. These methods are being integrated into retailers’ go-to-market strategies in order to create an omnichannel experience for their customers.
As an ag retailer, you essentially have three options:
Build a digital solution internally (read more about that here)
Partner with a third-party technology provider to develop your online strategy
Ignore the evolution in the industry and the changing needs of your customers
We have seen many new players in the ag technology space offering different variations of platforms. There are SaaS companies, like AgVend or Bushel, who are built from the ground up to deliver specialized technology to their customers, which are primarily ag retailers and grain elevators. Other companies like Winfield, whose core competency lies outside of developing technology, are now offering digital tools to their retailers. Then there are companies like Proagrica who are attempting to retrofit a professional service model to a modern SaaS strategy to provide a hybrid solution for their customers. Each approach has different pros and cons, below we outline the key considerations to help you navigate the process of choosing which partner is best for your organization.
“Best-in-class technology” is now table stakes, essential to entering the game. But what does that even mean?
It means that your customers have high expectations when it comes to the user experience. Modern growers are adopting digital consumer-focused technology (Amazon, QuickBooks, etc) at a high rate, and expect their ag retail partners to offer similar tools to help them run their operations. To be successful, your solution must be optimized for mobile, effortless to log into, seamlessly integrated into your ERP, supportive of APIs, adaptable to your customers’ needs, and on a disciplined timeline.
That’s a lot, we know. Let’s break it down:
Our statistics show that more than 65% of users access our AgVend-powered Grower Portals from a mobile device. We expect this number to rise as mobile apps become the standard, not the exception. As you start implementing your strategy, you must have a branded app that can be downloaded from the Apple app and the Google Play store right from the beginning. If you don’t have an app, at the very least your site must be optimized for use on mobile browsers. Because a comprehensive digital strategy should not only provide a positive customer experience but also create efficiencies for your organization, we suggest that your app includes internal functionality for your team.
Effortless to access
The days of passwords on sticky notes are over. Don’t make your customers dig through their desks or have to remember any more login credentials. If your portal is difficult to get into, your customers won’t use it. Leverage some of the native features of today’s smartphones. For example, Nutrien’s app uses face ID for login, and at AgVend we use a standard text message login flow to reduce friction.
Seamless ERP integration
A solution’s integration into your back-office ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system is essential to ensuring a seamless experience for your team and your customers. This is especially important if you are aiming to achieve a true omnichannel experience. Given the ways that systems can talk to each other now through APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), don’t be discouraged if your ERP is not currently supported - just make sure that your partner understands your system and can provide a timeline for this integration. Choosing a partner with enterprise-level integration expertise is key here. These extra integrations should not be seen as an opportunity to nickel and dime your business.