Digitising the customer experience

We’ve seen a big focus on ecommerce channels within ag retail over recent years, and for good reason.

Agribusiness is a high-tech industry, with investments in modern technology ballooning from $500 million in 2012 to $2.6 billion in only five years. While farmers still don’t purchase much online, they’re early adopters of new technologies, suggesting that current digital options are not optimal.

The pandemic has accelerated the long-term trend towards digital channels by farmers. Recent research by McKinsey found the opportunity to grow engagement is significant - with five times more growers open to using digital channels to make agricultural purchases.

However, today’s online interactions won’t get them there. Right now, digital interactions aren’t delivering the convenience that farmers want, with only 12% open to buying inputs online, compared to 29% back in 2018. 

Farmers want a mix of human and digital interactions throughout the buyer relationship.

An ag retailer builds relationships with farmers through advice, service, support and sales across numerous touchpoints and engagements, often involving multiple individuals from within the business.

That means ecommerce should not be the prime focus of your customer experience.

The store is more important than ever for creating seamless and connected omnichannel experiences across all physical and digital touchpoints.

And ag retailers will gain most from an omnichannel – not digital-first – mindset.

Here’s how to make your store play a bigger role in your omnichannel strategy. 

1.    Enhance the in-store experience

Ag retail stores have always played an important role as a hub for the local community. But compared with the retail experiences that farmers enjoy elsewhere, many ag stores come up short. They’ve relied on convenient physical locations and a range of essential supplies rather than inspiring farmers to visit them.

Re-imagine the customer experience to become the place that farmers want, rather than need, to go to.

·      Create a frictionless experience for farmers across their end-to-end planning, ordering and purchase journey, with fast, digital, contact-free point of sale transactions inside and outside stores, with the flexibility to handle complex split orders, sales and returns

·      Dynamic pricing will let your team offer up-to-date, competitive pricing, especially with commodity goods like seeds, fertiliser and chemicals, and empower them to make better, on-the-spot decisions

·      By operating POS from tablets, customers can buy wherever they are: in the store, out in the yard, at trade shows and with their visiting sales rep. And you can provide quotes and take cash sales or charge-to-account orders anywhere.

2. Blend in-store and digital for consistent experiences

Farmers want omnichannel experiences tailored to each stage of their purchasing journey. They want your reps to provide product information, expertise and value. And they want your e-com store to provide sharp prices, easy ordering and fulfilment.

Make purchasing online and in-stores more seamless and convenient through endless aisle, digital payments and ‘buy anywhere, fulfil anywhere’ services that increase sales and create new profit streams. Your staff and customers will have consistent product visibility and can expect fluid and accurate interactions, whether in-store, on mobile or online.

·      Give your customers a variety of delivery models, such as click-and-collect, store-to-farm, drop ship and returns anywhere

·      Endless aisle capabilities enable you to sell products not stocked in your current location and have them delivered to, or collected by the customer

·      Farmers want individualised pricing when engaging digitally. Provide consistent pricing and promotions across all your channels, with the flexibility to develop wholesale or trade strategies.

3. Personalise customer offers and experiences

Most ag retail loyalty programmes are simple points-based rewards that provide discounts for future spend. These programs are under threat from manufacturer loyalty programs that disrupt your traditional role of trusted adviser.

·      Combine customer, inventory and sales data from all channels and touchpoints and analyse your customer preferences. Use these insights to develop personalised communications, experiences and offers that drive customer satisfaction and loyalty

·      Make this data available to your reps when starting an interaction – McKinsey found that 50 percent of farmers mention representatives not having access to the histories of their conversations as a reason not to buy online

Use AI tools to include personalised recommendations in e-receipts, shipping notifications and click-and-collect pick-ups.

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