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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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%).
- 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%).
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.