Ag Retailer Launches Service-Centered E-Commerce

“E-commerce isn’t giving up what ag retailer stands for and the services we provide; it’s giving farmers another avenue to purchase,” says Amy Asmus with Asmus Farm Supply (AFS). This week the 2017 Ag Retailer of the Year launches e-commerce on its website.

Since this past fall, the company piloted e-commerce by participating in the AgVend network.

“We set a goal for our online sales, and we saw online sales grow and become larger than some of our commission sites,” Asmus says. “What was interesting is that 10% of our early online sales were from current customers—the rest were new or people who weren’t currently buying from us.”

AFS is using AgVend’s storefront to launch its own e-commerce offering linking all five of its locations’ inventory of crop protection, plant nutrition and seed treatment.

“Our prices are the same online as they are if the customer walked in the door,” Asmus says. “E-commerce is more than only offering generics with low service and no returns. As a responsible ag retailer, we have to get into this and define the space.”

Asmus says often the analogy of Amazon is applied to ag retailers entering e-commerce, but that’s not congruent with how their company is approaching its entry into e-commerce.

“This is not like selling a blender,” she says. “We believe anyone who chooses to purchase crop inputs over the internet doesn’t have to do so at the cost of agronomic best practices. There are labels with the products we sell, and it’s our responsibility to make sure the grower reads and follows any regulations.”

Holden Asmus, an agronomist at AFS, will manage all of the company’s e-commerce sales and follow up service. Then products will be fulfilled at the closest AFS location to the sale.

Amy Asmus shares one example from over the winter when a customer bought a product that required a minimum storage temperature but during the follow up call he said he did not have heated storage.

“With our business model, we are an outlet of knowledge,” Asmus says. “We want to be careful to not erode our brick and mortar business, but we are offering online purchasing because we have seen a demand for it. And to be successful we have to make sure it’s not just one or the other.”

As for how the ag retail industry is weighing e-commerce, Asmus encourages her peers to consider how today’s opportunities can fit into their business model.

“Every management team needs to decide for themselves if this is in their business model, but I’d encourage them to not turn a blind eye and think it’s going away,” Asmus. “I feel that if we don’t help define this early, we can’t do so later. And this is going to be a defining moment in ag retail.”