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

Trending Articles

HerbicidesAdjusting To The New Reality Of Weed Control
November 4, 2014
Even with new cropping systems being readied for market introductions, weed control will remain a challenge for many. Read More
StewardshipResponsibleAg Begins Auditor Training
October 31, 2014
ResponsibleAg auditor training is now underway at the Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture in Owensboro, KY. Read More
InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More

Latest News

soybean field
Crop InputsABM Patents Microbial R&D Technique
November 25, 2014
Focused Microbial Diversity (FMD) is a newly patented technique employed by Advanced Biological Marketing (ABM) to research and develop microbials that will be used in ABM products Read More
Crop InputsStorage Options Help Grain Growers Go To Market
November 24, 2014
While on-farm storage in a traditional upright storage bin is one possibility for storing grain, it may not be for everyone. Read More
Eric SfiligojGiving Thanks For Another Great Year
November 24, 2014
As Thanksgiving Day 2014 arrives, agriculture has plenty to be thankful for. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Cost-Cutting Program To Affect 1,800 Jobs
November 24, 2014
The company's Accelerating Operational Leverage program will result in job reductions and relocations totaling around 1,800 across the company, the majority of which will occur in 2015. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Announces Operator Of The Year Finalists
November 20, 2014
Four custom applicators have been selected by AGCO Application Equipment as finalists for 2014 Operator of the Year, an honor that recognizes them as being among the top professionals in their industry throughout North America. Read More
MicronutrientsH.J. Baker Expands Tiger-Sul Business
November 20, 2014
H.J. Baker has created and filled two strategic positions in business development and sales within its Crop Performance Division. Read More
soybean field
FertilizerGeneral Mills Honors United Suppliers For Nitrogen Opti…
November 19, 2014
United Suppliers winning proposal detailed SUSTAIN, a consulting network that provides customized products and services for farmers using a needs-based system approach. Read More
EmployeesOhio AgriBusiness Association Awards $25,000 In Scholar…
November 19, 2014
Each year, the Ohio AgriBusiness Association Educational Trust scholarship program awards scholarship dollars to students enrolled in an agriculture-related field attending several state colleges. Read More
ManagementServi-Tech Names New CEO
November 17, 2014
Servi-Tech has named Greg Ruehle its new president and CEO. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Ag Acquires Colorado Aerial Application Outlet
November 17, 2014
Ft. Lupton, CO-based Reck Aviation — a full-service chemical application company providing aerial crop applications of fertilizers and crop protection products — will operate as part of Pinnacle's AgOne Application Services brand. Read More
Eric SfiligojMcDonald’s Message: Biotech Crops Scarier Than Cancer
November 17, 2014
Despite their potential health benefits, one of the world’s largest potato users will pass on a new biotech offering. Read More
MicronutrientsWinField Releases 2014 NutriSolutions Results
November 14, 2014
A number of significant regional and national crop deficiency trends emerged from the 2014 WinField NutriSolutions tissue sampling program. Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Opens Chinese Production Lines
November 14, 2014
The occasion was the official launch of the Tiger-Sul sulphur Bentonite production line of two much anticipated fertilizer products in China, T90CR sulphur fertilizer and TZinc micronutrient enhanced sulphur fertilizer. Read More
ManagementOhio Certified Crop Adviser Program Accepting Nominatio…
November 14, 2014
The award recognizes an individual who delivers exceptional customer service for farmer clients in nutrient management, soil and water management, integrated pest management and crop production in Ohio. Read More
HerbicidesSyngenta Announces Acuron Trial Plot Results
November 14, 2014
Acuron was tested at 167 trial locations across 35 states. Trials included 95 Syngenta locations, 54 university locations and 18 distributor locations. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Expands Sales Force
November 13, 2014
The new sales representatives will work with growers, retail partners and distributors to oversee technical training and product education. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Raises $100K For Wounded Warrior Project
November 13, 2014
AGCO Corp. partnered with local AGCO dealers across the U.S. and Canada to raise nearly $100,000 in support of wounded service veterans. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Announces Launch Of Enlist Duo Herbici…
November 12, 2014
It will be launched in conjunction with a stewarded introduction of Enlist corn, and seed production of Enlist soybeans in 2015. Read More