eSurvey: Technology And The Dealership

Since the Internet boom of the late 1990s, retail dealerships have invested substantially in electronic technology to improve efficiency, communications, and customer service. The E-Survey, now in its fifth year, has been closely tracking this trend since the first survey was undertaken in 2001.

The E-Survey, conducted and compiled with the assistance and oversight of Purdue University‘s Dr. Jay Ak­ridge, director for Purdue’s Center for Agribusiness, and independent consultant Dr. Linda Whipker, has provided slightly different perspectives on technology and e-business adoption each year it has been conducted. In this fifth edition, the respondents were more heavily weighted toward the small- to medium-sized independent retailers. And there was a higher percentage of respondents from the West Coast than in previous years.

These factors make it statistically sticky to draw too many year-to-year comparisons, but they do provide some interesting insight into a sample that features a higher proportion of independent retailers.

CropLife® magazine would like to acknowledge the generous financial support of precision technology manufacturer Trimble, which makes the E-Survey possible.

Headline News: Net Speed, Use
The improved availability and functionality of high speed Internet services has continued to impact rural American businesses, and the retail dealership has been no exception. Retailer adoption of higher speed Internet service seemed to continue its steady climb upward, as use of dial-up service dropped by more than 25% as users switched to upgraded options (see chart, “Down With Dial-Up”). Most frequently mentioned among the high speed options were direct service line (DSL) and cable modem, while the other high speed services such as satellite, T1, and tower-generated wireless held steady. 

Respondents in this E-Survey sample reflected nearly identical equipment technology adoption numbers to the 2005 sample, with desktop computer adoption at more than 95% of the retail outlets and use of laptop computers at nearly 60% of the outlets. Wireless networking at the retail outlet appears to be gaining some steam, with slightly more than one-third of the respondents indicating that their businesses have gone wireless. This stood at just over one in four in the 2005 E-Survey.

This year’s survey reflected continued high use of the Internet for business purposes, led by use of e-mail at nearly 95% of respondents. Interestingly, e-mail consistently falls to the very bottom of importance of various tools used to manage relationships with key customers — well below even faxing and traditional mail. While it’s an important business tool, using e-mail to manage key customer relationships is clearly not where most retailers are today.

Where the Internet shines is in information gathering. General news, agriculture news, and manufacturer Web sites topped the list of Internet uses for this sample, while business oriented online purchases such as seed, fertilizer, and crop protection products seemed to remain steady or decline slightly compared to previous years. One noteworthy increase in Internet use was banking online, which nearly one in four respondents said they currently use.

On the communication side, cell phones have become ubiquitous at the retail outlet. Some 94% indicated that at least one cell phone is being used by their outlet, and the sample averaged about 5.5 cell phones per outlet. Use of the combination e-mail/cell phone device made popular by the manufacturer Blackberry appears to have held steady from last year to this year at nearly 16% of retail outlets.

Tracking Data

Year over year, there has not been a significant change in the collection or use of customer data by retail dealerships. When asked about data tracking of key customers (customers accounting for 80% of the business that retailers do), about 73% of respondents indicated that they keep basic “name, address, phone” information stored electronically for more than three-fourths of their key customers. Almost two-thirds of the respondents said they keep the majority of their key customers’ sales records electronically, but fewer than half said they electronically tracked application acres (43%) and only one-third electronically tracked soil test results (30%).

Use of this electronic data for improving sales and customer communication continues to be led by the “fundamentals,” including direct mail (55% of the respondents), data product service planning (49%), supporting the sales force (48%), and customer service follow-up (48%).

Web Woes
Web development at the retail level has hit a virtual standstill in terms of functionality. The results of the E-Survey suggest that the number of retail organizations and outlets maintaining a Web presence has remained virtually the same for the last few years, as has the sorts of information made available. Static information such as company background, technical information, links, and pricing information continue to lead the list of content types featured on retail Web sites, while dynamic features such as online ordering, communities, and bill paying have remained at the bottom of the list, largely unchanged in occurrence. 

For retailers without a Web presence, the most limiting factors in Web development have continued to be management not seeing the value of having a Web site, a lack of expertise, cost, and no customer demand for a Web presence.

Bottom line: Retail dealerships are adopting technology that makes sense for their businesses as demanded by the customer, and will continue to look for ways to harness technology to improve efficiency and customer service.

The E-Survey is a cooperative research project conducted by CropLife magazine and Purdue University with financial support from Trimble. Some 2,000 retail managers were selected using an nth pull of CropLife magazine readers and sent a survey via mail between Aug. 25 and Sept. 15, 2006. The results reflected the answers of 240 usable surveys, a response rate of 12%.

Leave a Reply

Equipment Stories
EquipmentMeeting Changing Liquid Storage Needs
October 10, 2014
Tank and containment choices are expanding with shifts in farming practices and the economy. Read More
Precision AgGoogle Glass: New Tool For Ag
October 8, 2014
New wearable smart technologies such as Google Glass show potential to greatly impact how we accomplish the business of feeding the world. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
The deadline to vote for the 2014 CropLife IRON Product of the Year is October 31. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
Precision AgPrecision Agriculture: Finding The Payback
September 6, 2014
Profitability in precision ag is not about any one technology, but the result of employing technology in a total system approach that is agronomically sound. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires South Dakota Retailer
April 2, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co.’s Agribusiness Division, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed Read More
CropLife 100The McGregor Co. Closes Smith-Kem Acquisition
April 2, 2015
The McGregor Co. — ranked No. 16 on the CropLife 100 list of largest U.S. ag retailers — has completed Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Latest News
ManagementMissouri Experts: Spring Planting Slow Start Won’…
April 20, 2015
In the first of the agronomy teleconferences with Extension specialists, University of Missouri Extension climatologist Pat Guinan said the slow Read More
Carl Casale of CHS
Industry NewsCooperative CHS Reports Net Income Of $471.5 Million Fo…
April 20, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, has announced company net income Read More
Industry NewsCHS Insurance Names New Director Of Sales
April 17, 2015
Bryan Lewis has been named director of sales for CHS Insurance, the nation’s largest agribusiness insurance broker and full-service insurance Read More
Mature Waterhemp in Corn
HerbicidesGenetic Literacy Project: There’s No Such Thing A…
April 17, 2015
Read the latest “analysis” on GMOs from Consumer Reports and you’ll “learn” that glyphosate, the chemical developed by Monsanto (its Read More
HerbicidesNew Resistance To 2,4-D Discovered In Australia
April 17, 2015
In a world-first case of herbicide resistance, researchers have confirmed that sowthistle weed in the south east of South Australia Read More
ManagementNews From RTP Company Visits and Growers Buying Older S…
April 16, 2015
Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss recent trips to the Research Triangle Park area and market seed sales trends. Read More
soybean field
StewardshipNew ASABE Standard Establishes Framework For Sustainabl…
April 16, 2015
The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) has initiated a project to develop a new standard to establish Read More
MicronutrientsSouthern States: An Inside Look At Our Tissue Sampling …
April 15, 2015
Remember learning about the food pyramid in school? The nutritional diagram recommends the proper amount of nutrients you need on Read More
Industry NewsArysta Adds New U.S. Fungicides Marketing Manager
April 15, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently hired Deneen Sebastian as its Marketing Manager for U.S. Row Crops, Fungicides. Most recently, Sebastian Read More
FungicidesVerdesian Launches Phosphite-Based Cereal Fungicide
April 14, 2015
A new, phosphite-based fungicide designed for improved suppression of deoxynivalenol (DON) in wheat and barley infected by Fusarium head blight Read More
Mature Waterhemp in Corn
HerbicidesSURVEY: Close To 90% Of Growers Battle Weed Resistance
April 14, 2015
Herbicide resistance management continues to be a priority for corn and soybean growers, and they’re working together more effectively to Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
StewardshipFMC Corp. Joins Sustainable Agriculture Alliance
April 14, 2015
FMC Corp. has joined Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a multi-stakeholder initiative working to define, measure and Read More
Industry NewsArysta Adds Two To Goëmar Sales Team
April 14, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced two new additions to the Goëmar sales team: Steve Kelly, Technical Service Manager – Read More
Valley Variable Rate Irrigation
Precision AgVariable Rate Irrigation Gains Followers
April 14, 2015
Irrigation systems have had the ability to apply different amounts of water throughout a field for decades, using timers that Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Gr…
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
Soybean field
Industry NewsThree Ag Co-ops Poised For Possible Merger
April 13, 2015
Following months of study and preparations, the Board of Directors for United Farmers Coop (UFC), Farmers Elevator Cooperative (FEC) and Read More
Eric SfiligojAgriculture Braces For More Belt-Tightening
April 13, 2015
Spring is in full bloom across the U.S. and ag retailers and their grower-customers are busily getting into high gear. Read More