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 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT, Verdesian Ink Distribution Agreement
December 9, 2014
The agreement grants BRANDT the exclusive right to sell and market Verdesian’s patented Steric chemistry in the Turf and Ornamental and eastern U.S. ag markets under the BRANDT Reaction product line name. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Colors Of Custom Application
December 5, 2014
Although many color spray rigs are in the yards of the nation’s top ag retailers, the majority of them still come in only a few shades. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Invests In Meridian Agriculture Distribution
December 4, 2014
Meridian will provide retailers with supplier-branded products and numerous opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: Entering A New Seed Era
December 4, 2014
The seed category has been re-vitalized during the past few years, and more good news (and varieties) are headed the industry’s way in 2015. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Depressed State Of Fertilizer
December 3, 2014
Following downright giddy growth earlier this decade, fertilizer sales have fallen back down to earth the past two years. Read More

Latest News

Seed/BiotechKaren Arthur Joins AgriThority As Seed Treatment Produc…
December 19, 2014
Prior to joining AgriThority, Arthur directed research and development programs, overseeing laboratory and field research, to build the Valent U.S.A. seed treatment portfolio. Read More
EquipmentJohn Deere To Sell Crop Insurance Business
December 19, 2014
Deere & Co. has reached a definitive agreement to sell its crop insurance business, subject to regulatory approval, to Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. of Iowa. Read More
Crop InputsNufarm Fills Regulatory VP Position
December 18, 2014
Nufarm announced today that Rob Schwehr has been promoted to the position of Vice President of Innovation & Regulatory Affairs for Nufarm Americas. Read More
Seed/BiotechReport: China Approves Viptera Corn, U.S. Officials Awa…
December 17, 2014
Chinese authorities have informed some agriculture industry officials the government has approved U.S. imports of a type of genetically modified corn developed by Syngenta. Read More
FertilizerMonty’s Plant Food Brings In New Sales Rep
December 16, 2014
Monty's Plant Food Company has hired Warren Kearns as its newest Sales Representative for the South Carolina area. Read More
EquipmentHagie Wins 2014 CropLife IRON Product Of The Year Award
December 15, 2014
The self-propelled sprayer maker has a hit on its hands with the new STS Series model. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Sees China Approving Contentious GMO Corn Soon
December 15, 2014
Syngenta will make an announcement when it receives official documentation from China that Agrisure Viptera corn, known as MIR 162, has been cleared for import. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Life Sciences Names Vice President Of Communi…
December 15, 2014
Amy Bugg will oversee the execution of all promotional strategies for the corporate brand and the complete product portfolio. Read More
StewardshipFarmers, Retailers Attend 4R Certification 4U Workshop
December 15, 2014
More than 160 farmers and ag retailer attended the “4R Certification 4U” workshop December 12 to learn more about the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship, water quality research in the area and cost-sharing opportunities. Read More
Matt Hopkins10 Best New Agriculture Apps For 2015
December 15, 2014
These new agriculture apps are certain to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2015 and beyond. Read More
ManagementARA Learnings, Retail Buying Intentions: Welcome To Cro…
December 12, 2014
This informal video program puts news and events effecting retailers into context, and features Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Herbicide-Tolerant Technology Closer To Commer…
December 12, 2014
The final EIS moves Monsanto one step closer to the introduction of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, paving the way to provide access to dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement On Her…
December 12, 2014
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a final environmental impact statement on varieties of cotton and soybeans that have been genetically engineered for resistance to several herbicides, including the one known as dicamba. Read More
CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
LegislationARA Applauds CFATS Passage Prior To Holiday Adjournment
December 11, 2014
The streamlined bill provides a four-year authorization of the CFATS program and guidance to DHS on key issues of chemical facility security Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer CropScience’s ILeVO Approved By EPA
December 11, 2014
EPA has approved ILeVO, the only seed treatment that protects the root system against infections caused by the Sudden Death Syndrome fungus and has activity against dangerous nematodes. Read More
Biologicals in Emerging Markets Map.
Crop InputsBiocontrols Could Quadruple By 2025; Will Regulators Pl…
December 11, 2014
The European experience with GMOs offers caution — and a promise — for biologicals. Read More
Crop InputsBASF Donates $75,000 To Feeding America
December 10, 2014
The donation will support Feeding America’s National Produce Program, an initiative that helps with planning, transportation and logistics to ensure fresh produce deliveries to the 200 member food banks around the country. Read More