5 Mobile Use Trends Shaping Ag Retailers

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There is no doubt mobile technology for ag retailers is no longer a trend, but a necessary way of doing business. The question of whether or not they will adopt this technology is becoming less relevant. The more important question is: “How are ag retailers capitalizing on the use of smartphones and tablets in their profession?” Mobile technology is changing the way ag retailers communicate and do business. Retailers’ smartphones and tablets are always with them — and always on, connecting them with co-workers, growers, suppliers and information, regardless of location or time of day. Getting at the heart of how retailers are using this technology was the goal of the CropLife Media Group’s recent Ag Retailer Mobile Usage survey. Not surprisingly, the adoption rate for mobile devices has climbed significantly from just a few years ago. In a 2010 survey, 47% of retailers said they use mobile technology for business purposes. That figure has reached the 75% mark in 2012. Here are five key trends that are shaping the industry:

  1. Mobile device of choice varies greatly. With so many smartphones and tablets on the market today, it’s difficult to choose between them all. This was not the case as recent as 2010, when BlackBerry was the clear-cut No. 1 choice among the mobile business crowd. More options in mobile may be why BlackBerry has lost its lead, and why ag retailers are now fairly evenly spread across the board in their selections. The top four most-used mobile devices among ag retailers are Droid (29%), iPhone (26%), BlackBerry (23%) and iPad (18%), according to our survey.
  2. Computers are still critical to business — for now. It would be hard to imagine a world completely devoid of PCs. But as smartphones and tablets continue to skyrocket in popularity, some people have already abandoned their computers in favor of their do-it-all handsets. Ag retailers, however, still heavily rely on their computers. Only 15% said they use their mobile device more than their desktop/laptop computer, while 65% said they use them less. Looking long-term, however, 29% of ag retailers could “absolutely” foresee a day when their mobile device replaces their desktop/laptop computer.
  3. Messaging taking on a greater communication role. While the phone call is, and will continue to be, an important communication tool for ag retailers, many are using other options with their mobile devices. When asked what has changed most about how they use their mobile device for business over the past five years, 51% said “checking e-mail,” while another 30% said they “text more often.” In addition, 55% of respondents said they make business phone calls “several times a day,” which is significantly less when compared to e-mail (74%) and text messaging (65%). Nearly 90% of respondents said they message co-workers for business purposes, followed by customers (84%) and suppliers (64%).
  4. Weather app use remains strong. One of the most viewed articles on CropLife.com is “20 Best Mobile Apps For Agriculture.” When I compiled this list through research, it was virtually impossible to be as inclusive as I wanted. The list could have easily been the Top 25, or 50, or more. But the type of application that retailers are using most is clear: weather. Having instant access to weather information while working in the field is a must for the mobile retailer. And the numbers back this up, with 80% of our respondents indicating they use a weather app. Other types of ag-related apps being used most by ag retailers are agronomic (55%), commodity pricing (53%) and precision agriculture (18%).
  5. More companies are accommodating needs of a mobile workforce. Many ag retail companies are ensuring their mobile workforce have the right tools to do their job efficiently and effectively. Mobile technology is certainly one of those tools. An incredible 71% of survey respondents said the mobile device they use most for business is company issued, as opposed to personally owned. And for many retailers, one device is not enough. Of those who said they use a mobile device for business, 26% had both a smartphone AND a tablet.

I want to know how you are using mobile technology in your profession. E-mail me at matt@croplife.com.

Hopkins is Senior Online Editor for the CropLife Media Group at Meister Media Worldwide.
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One comment on “5 Mobile Use Trends Shaping Ag Retailers

  1. Allan Fetters

    Mobile connectivity is a cornerstone of the Crop Advisors success in this ever changing competitive market place. They need to have all of their resources at their fingertips, as their quick responsiveness to their customer’s needs are becoming expected as the grower community itself becomes more technologically savvy. Mobile devices are allowing Crop Advisors to possess all of the reams of information that for years filled filing cabinets, milk crates on their pickup seats , and more recently their laptop computers. Now all of this information fits in the palm of their hand, and in some cases two hands if they are using a tablet. These tools are still primarily used for much of a Crop Advisors daily communication needs: email, contact management, phone, text and now, Facebook and Twitter. The need for instant contact appears to be the standard in today’s work environment. Gone are the days when you could get back to your customer in a few days to a week, now if he can’t reach you in the next five minutes he is calling, texting, or tweeting someone else.The ability to make contact with your customers is obviously key, but to be able to answer any and all of his inquiries is also expected. The information that is available to a Crop Advisor through his mobile device is limitless. There is the direct link to the World-wide Web, and it vast information for example, University resources and data, extensive diagnostic photo libraries, and access to every agricultural inputs manufacturer’s product information. This is great and necessary information. Now with the advent of mobile application tools, that you can downloaded right on to your mobile device, the Crop Advisors have access to a new and expanding set of tools which will allow them to do their job more efficiently away from the office. Our Crop Advisors have been using these devices to assist them in writing their pesticide recommendations and product inquires, field mapping and scouting, and writing and communicating the delivery of customer orders. The amount of time that was wasted in the past, as Crop Advisors had to return to the office after a morning of field scouting to research product information, write up orders for delivery, price out invoices, all before needing to head back to the field for more scouting is staggering. Now, through the use of mobile devices we are able to keep our Crop Advisors out in the field, and in contact with our customers.