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

Adams Decline Weigh Blender
BlendersFertilizer Blenders Take On Latest Additives, Heavy Workloads
February 2, 2016
As agronomy and precision ag sciences continue to advance, blender manufacturers have certainly had their part to play. “We are Read More
The Tule ET sensor in wine grapes.
Precision AgTule Technologies: Monitoring Water Stress Can Unlock Potential
February 2, 2016
Although we mostly stick to the things we know around these parts (corn and beans), we’ve strayed from the traditional Read More
Wacker Neuson WL34
EquipmentWacker Neuson: A Big Reputation With A Small Stature
February 2, 2016
Many observers to the agricultural marketplace might not know the name Wacker Neuson, Menomonee Falls, WI. While the company is Read More
MixMate from Praxidyn
BlendersPraxidyn Introduces Portable Ag Chemical Blending System
January 28, 2016
Praxidyn has introduced Mixmate – the portable agricultural chemical blending system. Mixmate streamlines or completely automates the mixing process with Read More
Top 100 Articles
Elburn Cooperative
CropLife 100Elburn Cooperative Members Vote To Join CHS
December 28, 2015
With 81% of eligible producers voting, 94% cast an affirmative ballot for Elburn Cooperative, a diversified agricultural retailer based out Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Farmers Cooperative-West Central Merger Approved
December 21, 2015
The members of Farmers Cooperative Co. (FC), Ames, IA, and West Central Cooperative, Ralston, IA, have both approved the merger Read More
Wheat Growers Innovation Center, Bath, SD
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Opens Innovation Center
December 21, 2015
Wheat Growers’ commitment in providing its farmer-owners with the latest in technological advancements now has a one-of-a-kind focal point, as Read More
CropLife 100ARA Selects The Andersons As 2015 Retailer Of The Year
December 9, 2015
The Agricultural Retailers Association today named Maumee, OH-based The Andersons as its Retailer of the Year for 2015. The award Read More
CPS Washington Court House John Deere Sprayer
CropLife 100Application Equipment Report: It Is Easy Being Green For Top 100 Ag Retailers
December 5, 2015
On The Muppets television show, Kermit the Frog is famous for singing a song about the troubles he encounters in Read More
Fertilizer Bin
CropLife 100Fertilizer Sales: Another Down Year For Top 100 Ag Retailers
December 4, 2015
In pure number terms, the fertilizer category still dominates all crop inputs/services among CropLife 100 ag retailers. In 2015, for Read More
Latest News
Soybean field
FungicidesFour Arysta Fungicide Formulations Given FIFRA Approval…
February 8, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the issuance of Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 2(ee) Recommendations for Read More
FungicidesAgri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus Receives EPA Registrat…
February 8, 2016
Vivid Life Sciences has announced the EPA registration of Agri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus, a highly concentrated active ingredient phosphite fungicide, Read More
Crop InputsBayer Contests EPA’s Decision On Valuable Insecticide F…
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, has announced it has refused a request by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Wins Seed Fraud Suit Against South Dakota Grow…
February 5, 2016
Syngenta has obtained a $25,000 settlement from Paul and John Mayclin, Mayclin Farms, Plankinton, SD, in response to their Plant Read More
ManagementOABA Annual Conference Wraps Up In Columbus
February 5, 2016
More than 300 Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) members and industry professionals were on hand to engage in collaborative learning and Read More
Crop InputsBayer To Contest EPA Flubendiamide Decision
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, announced today it has refused a request by EPA to voluntarily cancel the uses Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechNot So Fast: ChemChina Syngenta Takeover Could Draw Nat…
February 5, 2016
State-owned China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina), which plans to buy Swiss seeds and pesticide maker Syngenta, will promptly start preparations Read More
Rendering of Syngenta Seedcare Institute expansion
Seed/BiotechExpansion Of Syngenta’s North America Seedcare In…
February 4, 2016
As demand for seed treatment knowledge and products grows among farmers, retailers and others in the seed industry, Syngenta is Read More
Soybean Field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Strengthens Sales Team
February 4, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced three new personnel additions: Jake Cook and Peter White are Territory Sales Managers for Read More
Davor Pisk Syngenta COO
Crop InputsSyngenta COO: Why ChemChina Offer Beat Monsanto’s
February 4, 2016
Syngenta Chief Operating Officer Davor Pisk says he is confident the proposed acquisition by ChemChina will ultimately help preserve choice Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsKoch Biological Solutions Invests In Pathway Biologic
February 4, 2016
An affiliate of Koch Biological Solutions, LLC has acquired a minority equity position in, and entered into collaboration with, Pathway Read More
Crop InputsABG: China Signs Off On Monsanto’s Roundup Ready …
February 3, 2016
Monsanto Co. on Wednesday announced it plans to launch its Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans in time for the 2016 Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop Inputs6 Things To Know About The ChemChina-Syngenta Deal
February 3, 2016
After months of rumors and speculation, Syngenta has announced that ChemChina has offered to acquire the Swiss-based company. “In making Read More
FertilizerPhosphorus: Is Band Or Broadcast Application The Better…
February 3, 2016
Is band or broadcast application the better method when it comes to phosphorus? The answer to this question depends mostly Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsChemChina Nearing Deal To Buy Syngenta For Record $43 B…
February 3, 2016
China National Chemical Corp. is nearing an agreement to buy Swiss pesticide-and-seeds-maker Syngenta AG for about 43.7 billion francs ($42.8 Read More
Herbicides2015 ASA Trials Demonstrate Valent Fierce XLT Herbicide…
February 2, 2016
Valent U.S.A. today announced that new Fierce XLT Soybean Herbicide ranks in the top tier among growers for length of Read More
Crop Protection Products in storage
Paul SchrimpfCrop Input Selling: Return Of The Price List
February 2, 2016
It was a good 15 years ago, shortly after I first started writing for this esteemed publication, that it all Read More
Potash storage at Growmark
FertilizerThe Phosphate And Potash Outlook For 2016
February 2, 2016
Like other commodities, prices of the leading plant nutrient products dropped sharply in 2015. At this writing, the price of Read More