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The Omnichannel Farmer


It’s a perceived double stereotype in present agriculture. On one side stands a vision of an avocado toast-eating, snap-back hat-wearing, “Hold on, let me finish this Tweet,” phone -dependent young farmer. The other side embodies a skeptical “Don’t need a robot machine to tell me what to do,” saying and living in a paper-ridden home that is one warm breath away from a combustible disaster.

The danger in perceptions are the misconceptions that eventually build out the rules and frameworks those represented by perceptions receive. Specifically, in this case, the way farmers prefer how to do business.

Omnichannel preference

A misconception in agriculture is that the purchasing preference of farmers is either all digital, and representative of the younger farm generation. Or, that farmers prefer business to be done exclusively face to face, sans technology. These misconceptions are dangerous in the way assumptions starve the opportunity of an accurate representation.

A McKinsey & Company report studied the results of a survey taken from more than 700 farmers across the U.S. This survey questioned the customer journey preferences of farmers.

The study revealed that overall, “When it comes to channels, farmers don’t want either–or; they want both,” (McKinsey& Company, “Cultivating the omnichannel farmer).

To sum it up in one word what farmers want in a purchasing process, is called “omnichannel.” The studied reports found a trend in digital preferences from the beginning of the buyer’s journey, to a human interaction preference towards the end of the journey (3). With an early introduction to digital, farmers are potentially able to eliminate time consuming clerical work, and are able to get down to business sooner.

In the initial product research stage of the customer buying journey, 45% farmers have a strong preference for purely digital channels (2). During this stage of the customer buying journey, farmers value “easy product comparison and easy search,” from which digital offerings provide the best solution (2).

Additionally, in the “product reordering stage” of the customer buyer journey, farmers prefer digital methods for the ease of use factor (2).

Yet, this isn’t the only purchasing channel farmers expect from the ag retailers they do business with. Farmers prefer human interaction at two main points in customer buying journey: the first time purchasing stage and for support.  67% of farmers like interaction at the initial purchasing stage, and a large 78% desire human help when there are questions about a product’s use and service (2).

When examining the technological and digital shift in agriculture, there’s a great adoption rate in devices. According to Will Secor, an economist in CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange research division, 90% of Millennials and Gen Xers own a smartphone, with 67% of Baby Boomers owning a smartphone (Secor, “E-Commerce Disruption Pushes Ag Retailers to Focus on Distribution and Service“). Mobile tools and the opportunity they provide is (and must) be a part of the customer buying journey. “In the customer buying journey, 56% of farmers under age 35 use a smartphone as part of the CDJ, while only 6% use a landline,” (McKinsey& Company). These statistics begin to build the future of what ag retailers must do to survive in a growing ecommerce space.

The new shape of ag

From the two studies examined, to satisfy the preferences and needs of farmers, ag retailers will need to not only supply their teams with helpful, responsive staff members, but they must also invest in technologies that “allow multiple avenues for farmers to interact with an ag retailer — including an online platform,” (Secor). By deciding to invest in useful technologies helping farmers with their business needs, retailers need not to fear of being replaced. Rather, retailers (and truly, any business in the modern age), are demonstrating their customer intelligence. Useful technologies in agriculture, like Bushel, present opportunities to enhance the way business is done, for both customer and business, without taking out the human component at all.

At the end of the day, all in agriculture crave clear, simple, and better business. By understanding the practices and preferences of those we do business with, together we can improve business for all.

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2024 State of the Farm Available: U.S. farmers surveyed on ag tech, grain marketing, sustainability, payments, and more.