Agri retailers told to improve websites as farmers go online

As attitudes shift in response to the pandemic, agricultural companies have an opportunity to boost their online presence
As attitudes shift in response to the pandemic, agricultural companies have an opportunity to boost their online presence

Online agricultural retailers must improve their online experience to capture more custom from farmers who are now minimising physical interactions, a report says.

The Covid-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on farmers’ purchasing practices, according to new research by consultancy firm McKinsey & Company.

Its survey of farms across Europe reveals that 95% are considering adjusting purchasing behaviour to minimise physical interactions due to the pandemic.

Digital purchasing may provide the answer, with McKinsey uncovering a 36% increase in farmers' desire to use digital channels to make product-purchase decisions.

Across Europe, that adds up to almost four million more farmers who say they are ready to use online channels as their main sources of ordering.

But for online companies to make the most of this opportunity, McKinsey says websites should improve their online experience.

One-third of survey respondents complain that it is difficult or impossible to compare products on equipment websites, and 31% say pricing is confusing.

The complaints continue even among those who continue on to purchase, with frustrations such as not being able to reach someone 24/7 (64%), difficulty connecting with the right representatives (32%), lack of real-time product availability (35%), and unclear pricing (21%).

According to McKinsey, companies need to focus on solving the biggest pain points as a matter of priority.

Nicolas Denis, partner at McKinsey said: "The agricultural sector has a long track record of innovation in many areas, such as yield improvement, sustainability and animal welfare.

"However, the sector has quite low online retail adoption, with only 22% of farmers having made an online purchase over the past 12 months as of May."

McKinsey adds that websites should also target consumers based on their stated propensity to use digital.

Farmers who use agri-tech are almost five times more likely than those who don’t to purchase online, the firm explains.

Similarly, those who reorder online are twice as likely as those who don’t to complete first-time purchases online.

Companies should prioritise these cohorts and offer them specific digital services, such as bulk discounts, services and security.

Julien Revellat, associate partner at McKinsey, admitted that building a successful online strategy was complicated.

"It calls for new practices, the development of more sophisticated data analysis, and the implementation of seamless and cost-effective operations from the warehouse to the buyer," he added.

"But such complexity is no excuse for delay. The Covid-19 crisis has already led to considerable changes in European farmers’ behaviour – making the case for acceleration stronger than ever.”