More Farmers Go Online For Crop Inputs

As behavior from the consumer world seeps into business purchases, farmers are seeking out e-commerce options for their farms. Also, there are more options trying to attract farmers to use their e-commerce services. For the second year, Farm Journal gauged farmer use of e-commerce for crop inputs with a dedicated research project. It was an email survey conducted in October. The survey targeted farmers with 500+ acres of corn and received 387 responses from 36 states. 

3 Key Takeaways From 2019 E-commerce Study

1. Reported farmer purchase intentions do not match behavior. 

More farmers said they would purchase online for the coming year’s inputs than reported they had indeed bought inputs online. However, year-over-year, there has been an increase in farmers who choose to buy online, and for that growing group, they have more options than ever. 

In 2018, Farm Journal conducted its first Crop Input Purchase Behavior Study, which found 8% of respondents currently bought some of their crop inputs online, and 13% planned on buying crop inputs online in the coming year. In mid-October 2019, the study was repeated, and results showed 11% of respondents had purchased crop inputs online, with 15% intending to do so in 2020.

2. The experience drives online purchases. 

In both years of research, respondents said price was the most important consideration when going online. And factors driving the overall experience increased the most in terms of their own importance: availability of products, ease of purchasing process, delivery process and adviser or consultant available for specific questions. 

So while price discovery is a core driver of online sales growth, the experience that customers have when they go online to buy can’t be minimized. 

3. E-commerce adoption varies  by category of inputs. 

Of the product categories included in the study, only two had an increase from 2018 to 2019. The share of respondents who bought some of their seed online jumped from 23% in the 2018 survey to 42% in the 2019 survey. The percent of respondents who bought some fertilizer online went from 8% to 19%. 

Pre-emerge herbicide was the category with the highest percentage of online purchasers buying those products online, but year-to-year, the percentage went from 62% to 63%. Postemerge herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, biologicals and micronutrients all decreased in percent who bought online.

For 2020, 75% of online buyers say they intend to buy pre-emerge herbicides online.

Scroll down for the full survey results, or click these headlines for a deeper dive by topic:

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2019 ARA Panel

Here's a look at the full 2019 survey results: