W While agriculture has seen a significant insurgence of new e-commerce solutions coming to market over the past two years, the industry overall is still in the early stages of the e-commerce adoption curve. This means that direct learnings and best practices are still quite limited. Thankfully, for those looking to gain guidance and insights for navigating the e-commerce reality unfolding before us, you need look no further than the many non-ag industries who have been serving farmer and ag-retail customers with e-commerce solutions for years. These industries, including but not limited to banking, insurance, recreation and CPG, have all progressed into more mature stages of e-commerce adoption and can provide a wealth of insights related to e-commerce best practices, including dos and don’ts, and the proper setting of expectations.
As such, included here are 5 of the most significant insights ag companies can learn from non-ag e-commerce:
1. Beware of the “Field of Dreams” Fallacy
While it may seem obvious to many that e-commerce solutions are rarely, if ever, an instant success, history still shows that far too many companies put all their effort into building their solution and little, if any, effort into attracting users to the solution. This “build it and they will come” mindset has caused the demise of many fully capable solutions that simply didn’t attract or retain the user base they needed to survive their critical first few months or years of existence. As such, if you are looking at entering the e-commerce fray, ensure you are planning to spend as much, if not more, on user generation as you did on building your solution itself.
2. Don’t Wait for Perfect
This too may seem like an obvious insight, but again history would dictate that far too many e-commerce initiatives failed due to prioritization of launch requirements. More specifically, while features and benefits are key to e-commerce differentiation and success, it is critical to limit your scope of effort during the early stages to:
a) provide initial users with an attractive yet manageable user experience (i.e. avoiding feature overload) and
b) limit your investment of time and effort required for ongoing maintenance, performance measurement and optimization.
If you are having difficulty determining what should and shouldn’t be included in your initial/early e-commerce offering, we’d suggest downloading our Feature Creep tool for help.
3. Plan for Poor (and Limited) Performance
As instant-hit e-commerce solutions are few and far between, you are best to plan for worst-case performance scenarios, especially at such an early stage in ag’s e-commerce evolution. The reality is that with such a small current user-base, you are likely to see decent “top of funnel” success (e.g. site traffic, time on site, etc.) but significantly poor “bottom of funnel” success (e.g. initial transactions, repeat transactions, etc.). As such, it is best to make sure that your time, effort and investment are focused on tracking and improving “mid-funnel” success (e.g. repeat visitation, requests for information, sign-ups, cart-fills etc.) where you may realize the greatest performance gains.
4. Use Free/Discounted Trials Strategically
While trialing is a great way to get new and initial users more deeply engaged with your e-commerce solution, free or discounted trials should be used strategically so as not to muddy your performance data (i.e. tracking trial customer behavior with paid customer behavior) and set precedent for unrealistic expectations (e.g. constant/rolling discount offers). While many don’t think of them as traditional e-commerce, over-the-top (OTT) content providers (e.g. Netflix, Disney+, etc.) provide great insights into the dos and don’ts of trialing. Same goes for the Amazon’s Prime membership, which was initially used to drive e-commerce purchase trials and expanded into OTT thereafter. Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that the main benefit of a “trial” is the elimination of customer risk (e.g. full refunds, free returns etc.) so don’t overload your trial offers with unnecessary and potentially costly add-ons.
5. Don’t Overlook the Need for User Reviews
As most e-commerce solutions live in both the consideration and decision stages of the buyer’s journey, it’s important that you embrace the features and content required to aid your user’s research needs. Key amongst these are user reviews of the products and services you are selling. This is an interesting hurdle for most ag e-commerce companies as these user reviews do not exist in an easily acquirable state (e.g. most non-ag e-commerce solutions will purchase a subscription to product/service user reviews curated and managed by a third party).
As these are just a few of the many insights non-ag e-commerce solutions can provide, we encourage you to continually look beyond our industry for learnings and best practices that can drive your e-commerce success.
About the Writer:
David Lazarenko, Partner and Chief Growth Officer
David has spent more than 20 years leading strategy and marketing efforts in agribusiness. As Chief Growth Officer at Think Shift, he has led successful brand and product launches, re-branding and brand alignment initiatives, sales campaigns, and corporate responsibility campaigns for some of agriculture’s most successful corporations, including Adama, Bayer, Cargill, Monsanto, Trimble Agriculture and Westeel.