The Importance of Ag Retail Digital Transformation in the 2020’s

You know what they say about growing a tree: The best time to plant it was yesterday. But the next best time is today.

That philosophy is no different when it comes to digital transformation in the ag retail space. Now is not the time for complacency, or sticking with “what’s always worked.”

We hear plenty of reasons from ag retailers why it’s not the “right time” to start their digital conversion. Do any of these resonate or sound familiar?

  • “We’ve already tried digital, but we don’t get adoption.”

  • “My growers want to buy from the sales team … not an app.”

  • “I don’t think we’ll get the full value from it.”

  • “We aren’t big enough to need it.”

  • “We already lived through the .com era.”

  • “Growers aren’t going to abandon their trusted advisors to buy online.”

Another familiar statement from retailers is that they already have a digital option. Though, many times it is followed with ‘it has seen low adoption and usage since due to a poor user experience.’

We hear you, and understand how massive of a task digital transformation can feel like. But there’s also no time to waste.

Embracing digital can:

  • Make your organization more efficient by improving system communication and reducing duplicate efforts

  • Save your company money

  • Provide better service to your growers

  • Expand your customer pool

  • Make life easier for your internal team

  • … and plenty more

 

So… why now?

The ag retail landscape is evolving quickly. And true leaders in the industry will recognize where growers are heading, then prepare their organizations to meet them there.

Customers are calling for an improved digital experience – in ag retail, but also in the world at large. They want easy access to information, notifications to the devices already in their hands, and simple lines of communication. Growers getting those digital tools elsewhere. Their engagement with other brands provide a baseline for what they expect from other companies. There’s no reason why ag retailers can’t meet that baseline too.

Not to mention, we live in an increasingly digital world thanks to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. As more and more organizations were forced to initiate digital transformation (often very quickly), customers’ expectations rose. They got progressively more digital experiences from brands, and their lives with those brands got easier. Companies that couldn’t provide that same level of experience were the ones that customers moved on from. But that doesn’t have to be your organization.

The transition to digital is a journey, and it may never feel like the “right time” to start. But taking small, consistent steps will eventually turn into a much bigger metamorphosis.

Those steps also have to be strategic: It’s not about just throwing an app at customers and hoping for the best. If that app isn’t creating efficiencies for your team or providing an overall better customer experience, it may not be the answer. Thinking about where you could improve internal efficiency, listening to your customers when they voice what they want, and incorporating feedback from your team are all great places to start.

There are massive benefits to gain from embracing digital. But on the other side of that, the consequences of not doing so can be a significant blow, especially in this era.

 

What’s the cost of waiting?

Time, efficiency, money, customers, employees, you name it. Procrastinating your shift to digital can cost you plenty, both in the short and long term.

Here are just a few real-world examples of what can happen when you put off your organization’s digital transformation:

  • Manual mishaps: One organization we heard from still used manual order processing. This led to an order being misplaced for a couple weeks (during a time of market volatility), and eventually a large financial loss. It was a simple mistake — but one that could have been avoided if digital processes had replaced manual ones.

  • Postage and paper costs: It might seem small, but the cash savings can be significant when your company moves contracts and forms to eSignatures. No more printing and mailing!

  • Customer loss: One retailer instituted a digital app, but it made for a poor customer experience. The customer— a large grower—decided to drop that retailer. Meanwhile, a different retailer who took the time to build out a better digital experience using the AgVend-built Grower Portal was able to gain that grower’s business. Customers are not afraid to take their business elsewhere, and the more work you do to build out the digital experience they’re looking for, the more likely you are to win their business when they decide to move.

 

Moral of the story: Start now

The world is changing (rapidly), and our industry needs to evolve to keep pace. Embracing the full value of digital can create efficiencies for your organization and team, plus ensure the strongest possible customer experience.

Those growers sure aren’t waiting around. You might think they will stay loyal, even if their experience isn’t ideal. But in today’s world, it might be time to rethink that philosophy.

One research study showed almost 59% of customers would walk away from a company after several bad experiences. Seventeen percent said they would leave after just one poor experience. And while that study was not ag-specific, we can still apply the same lessons to this industry. Your growers are customers outside of ag too, and are starting to demand better experiences from their ag suppliers. It’s time to give them what they want (and need).

So how to get started?

Start with the experience, not tech. Your growers don’t necessarily care about technological features or the latest trend. They care about what doing business with you feels like. Figure out how to deliver differentiated value to your customers (then, how tech can help support that goal) — not the other way around.

Don’t think of it as an “all or nothing.” Digital conversion is a process — one in which you take first, initial steps, and then build upon those. It’s not about trying to do everything at once (or not doing anything at all). Start small, and iterate on each of those steps. Think of digital transformation as a marathon, where you have to complete each mile before running to the next.

Target where you’re losing efficiency in your business. What are the tasks or processes taking up huge swaths of your employees’ time and energy? Putting preliminary effort toward finding technology that will help you reduce those operational costs can go a long way. When your team isn’t spending the bulk of its time on long, tedious processes, they can spend more energy doing things that will actually scale your business: cultivating relationships with growers, strategizing, and building new customer bases.

Find the right partner. There are a lot of options on how to implement a digital platform. Having the right partner is crucial. Ensure that they are looking beyond the basic blocking and tackling of paying invoices online and bringing new market opportunities to your business. The partner is supporting your organization and leading digital adoption.

Whether you’re a large or small organization, all ag retailers have common challenges. Inventory management, handling customer communication during challenging supply situations, logistical issues like quickly getting signatures on contracts, and high staff turnover can all pop up in this industry.

To meet those challenges, creating better processes, removing tedious tasks, and constantly improving the customer experience are all important. Luckily, a robust, strategic digital game plan can spur all of those solutions. Initiating that change can feel time-consuming, confusing, or stressful. But the costs of not taking steps toward embracing digital are potentially even higher.

The best time to launch a digital transformation is, of course, yesterday. But if you’re looking for the next-best option to start planting those seeds, it’s today.

 

AgVend is the leading digital engagement platform to serve the producer of tomorrow. Our white-labeled information and commerce portals are designed to strengthen the relationship between the ag distribution channel and their grower-customers. The AgVend team is composed of individuals with decades of experience in agriculture, digital marketing, and enterprise software for the Fortune 500. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, AgVend operates a distributed organization model with local coverage in all major US and Canadian ag regions.

The 5 Levels of Digital Adoption for Ag Retailers

How Will Digital Tools and Commerce Impact Ag Retailers?

That discussion has dominated the past few years. And for good reason: the transition to digital is one of the more fundamental shifts happening in agriculture, but also in the world at large.

Much of this conversation has centered around shifting sales to eCommerce. What’s often missed, though, is the broader opportunities digital transformation can provide an Ag Retailer.

For just a general overview, digital can help Ag Retailers with:

  • Improved customer experience 
  • Centralized information (for the customers and sales teams)
  • Better communication
  • Pricing intelligence for more profitable sales
  • Marketing and digital touch points
  • Expansion into new markets 
  • Team efficiency
  • Reduced costs of sales and back-office operations
  • New profit centers (digital products, advertising)

Those are all critical for an Ag Retailer in the 21st century. For example, from an AgVend sponsored survey across our partners, we found that centralized and easy access was the #1 most important thing to growers. Customers are asking for these tools, so why not provide them?

Because, so often, the process feels overwhelming. Many organizations fall into the trap of wanting to tackle everything all at once, then failing to break things down into smaller, easier pieces—then nothing ever gets done.

To keep your team and customers from being overwhelmed, you’ll want your digital transformation to happen one step at a time. Each step should build off the last, and each should increase the value of the platform to everyone involved. Start with the low-hanging fruit, then use your momentum to keep building.

At AgVend, we work with our partners to customize their levels of digital adoption to bring the most value to their organization. Here’s a look at what those levels could look like:

 

Level 1: Get started

It can feel like a mammoth task to transfer everything over to a digital platform, learn new technology, and figure out which tools to use and when. But the most important first step? Just get the ball rolling. You can’t build a house without a foundation.

There are a few quick action steps you can take to get started:

  • Align your team: make sure everyone understands the value the digital solution can bring (both now and in the future)
  • Focus on the basics: make invoices, account balances, and prepay info available first
  • Invite your customers: Not everyone will sign up right away, but you want to give the opportunity to all your customers. More will come as you continue to add value. We often hear retailers say they’re even surprised at which customers are interested! 
  • Centralize customer contact info: Usually contact details live in disparate locations, or in a sales rep’s phone, not available to everyone else. Consolidating all this information early on will make future communications and marketing efforts a breeze.
 

Level 2: Focus on meaningful interactions

Think of your digital platform as being made up of building blocks. You don’t just immediately have all the pieces put together from day one. But in the beginning, you have to get started with the most important, foundational ones that will set you up for future success:

  • Start interacting with your customers digitally. Centralize all the “people” information, so it’s easier to access and build on. For example, if you’re in the agronomy department, at this point you would start moving order submissions online. This will streamline the order process for both your team and growers. 
  • Make eSigning of fertilizer and/or grain contracts available to all customers, simplifying those processes.
  • On the marketing side, start to build up your digital presence with email, text messages, and app notifications. Use these tools to inform your growers about what’s going on with your company. Field days on the schedule, market updates, agronomic info, and seed plots are all great ideas of what to filter to your customers.
 

Level 3: Drive sales

Now that you’ve built out the basics on your digital portal, you can start fleshing out bigger ideas and more complex tools. This can be especially helpful to spark more sales:

  • Start adding pricing and recommendations to the portal. Access to all that information makes things easier on the customers and provides more insight into the sales process. When buying is easier, sales flow faster.
  • You can also begin tracking your sales goals digitally. Not only is this helpful to the company to stay on track with its goals—but it also motivates your sales team when they see their progress in real time.
  • In the marketing department, begin using your digital presence to promote particular products. This builds awareness with your customers and drives more leads to your sales team. 
  • In finance, start providing access to loan balances and other financial programs to growers and sales teams. Everyone rests a little easier when that kind of detail is right at their fingertips, anytime they want it.  
 

Level 4: Expand your business

Digital adoption isn’t just about making your current business operations easier: it’s about finding opportunities to grow.

As you build up your digital expertise and generate more data around your sales, customers, etc, you’re going to unlock new opportunities. Think about this: when you can pull all your customers’ agronomic or grain data, you get a better feel for their total wallet share. From that, you can start to identify new customer segments.

So what does building up that digital expertise look like?

  • For agronomy, centralize all the info you share with customers (soil samples, scouting reports, imagery) into one easily accessible location. For the grain department, you could also condense all your market commentary into one location. 
  • On the marketing end, start building out longer term campaigns over several months, which will more efficiently drive sales across multiple products. 
  • From there, the sales team can use all the data about wallet share, finance, or agronomy you’ve been collecting to identify new customers and drive more business. For example, when our partners have used the Marketing Sales Driver Package to run product-specific campaigns, they’ve seen as much as a 60% increase in sales for that product. 
  • Start adding your finance applications online to simplify your back-office procedures (a win-win for everyone, including the bottom line). 

All these building blocks start to form a more cohesive structure — one where the process of driving more sales is streamlined and easy (for all parties). Watch your organization start to expand from there.

 

Level 5: Customize and scale

Congratulations — after all that front-end work, at this step, you are becoming a fully digitally enabled Ag Retailer. By this point, customers are interacting with you digitally, your team operations are running efficiently, and you’re getting even better at further segmenting your audience. With all the info available, you can provide unique experiences at scale for your customers through tailored products, services, and promotions. Thanks to the engagement on your platform, launching new products or services will be simple.

What are some final steps to complete each segment of your digital experience?

  • Tie in all aspects of your agronomy experience together by linking dispatch and delivery notifications into the experience. 
  • Enable your sales team to quickly add prospects to the portal and create new customer segments. 
  • Build out content calendars for each of your customer segments and adapt your marketing messaging and offerings to each. 
  • Drive growers to submit grain offers digitally, making it easier to reach them when market conditions change.
  • Add new financing offers digitally that give customers more options and less overhead for your internal teams.

Digital transformation is not an overnight process — quite the opposite, often. But both your business and customers will see increasing benefits with these digital offerings each step of the way.

You’ll want to start small: getting your team on board, moving smaller tasks or tools online, inviting your customers. From there, flesh out the smaller building blocks into bigger ideas. Those early text messages you sent customers updating them on the market can start to turn into a more fully developed, long-term marketing campaign. All that work you did migrating customer contact info to a centralized location will become the foundation for more streamlined, efficient work from your sales team.

As the dominos start to fall, you’ll start to see all the opportunities a digital transformation carries. Data will shine a light on new customer segments. Easier sales processes and more strategic marketing campaigns will start to yield more sales. Soon enough, your business operations are humming along like a finely-tuned machine, and you’re experiencing more growth than would have been possible if you’d stayed in the old way of doing things.

No organization can jump straight to that part, however. It takes time, commitment, and resources from your whole team.

But what it takes most of all? The choice to just get started.

 

AgVend is the leading digital engagement platform to serve the producer of tomorrow. Our white-labeled information and commerce portals are designed to strengthen the relationship between the ag distribution channel and their grower-customers. The AgVend team is composed of individuals with decades of experience in agriculture, digital marketing, and enterprise software for the Fortune 500. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, AgVend operates a distributed organization model with local coverage in all major US and Canadian ag regions.

DTN and AgVend Partnership Brings Advanced Offer Management Solution to Agribusinesses

New Integration Centralizes Grain Information for Ag Retailers

DTN, a leading provider of operational intelligence, and AgVend, the leading provider of digital engagement software to serve the producer of tomorrow, announced today a strategic partnership to simplify grain offer management for shared retail customers.

“Empowering agribusinesses and their customers with accessible, real-time data and operational intelligence is one of our top priorities at DTN. This partnership connects grain portal data from DTN to make doing business easier from the grower to the grain originator,” said Grey Montgomery, senior vice president of agriculture operations.

Under the partnership, retailers using an AgVend-built Grower Portal and  the merchandiser management platform from DTN can now enable growers to “make” and “accept” a grain offer easily, from any device. Today, AgVend’s Grower Portals already include contracts with eSignature, real-time scale ticket visibility and up-to-date commodity prices. This announcement builds on the existing DTN weather functionality and is part of a broader strategy to integrate DTN news, market analysis, and alerts as configuration options for a retailer’s Grower Portal.

“By adding DTN to the AgVend Integration Ecosystem, we are able to increase the value of our platform for our Partner Retailers and their customers,” said Alexander Reichert, co-founder and CEO of AgVend. “Our two companies share a commitment to work constructively, seeking efficiencies versus creating redundancies, in our efforts to build the future of the digital grower experience for ag retail.”

The DTN and AgVend partnership removes the need for growers to switch between apps, providing a connected digital experience producers have come to expect. The two companies are taking an important step in enhancing grower engagement and will continue to build upon this foundation. 

 

DTN – Operational Intelligence for Confident Decisions. 

Around the world, organizations with complex supply chains rely on DTN to help them prosper. We deliver operational intelligence that drives confident decision-making and provides a competitive advantage. Our customers leverage our solutions in their daily operations management, long-and short-term operational planning, trading, and weather risk mitigation activities. We ensure they have the industry-leading data, analytics and technology they need to feed, fuel and protect our world.  We pride ourselves on earning our customers’ trust everyday by delivering independent insights that help them to make critical decisions quickly and confidently. 

 

AgVend is the leading digital engagement platform to serve the producer of tomorrow. Our white-labeled information and commerce portals are designed to strengthen the relationship between the ag distribution channel and their grower-customers. The AgVend team is composed of individuals with decades of experience in agriculture, digital marketing, and enterprise software for the Fortune 500. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, AgVend operates a distributed organization model with local coverage in all major US and Canadian ag regions.

How to Build a Digital Strategy in Ag Retail That Prioritizes Both Your Customers and Your Team

There is a lot of noise surrounding the phrase “digital strategy” — how to build one, what to include, what to stay away from, who to partner with, best practices that seem to change by the day, and on and on.

This is the third installment of a four-part series (read eCommerce Alone Won’t Cut It for Ag Retailers and Just Adding an App Isn’t the Answer in Ag Retail’s Digital Transformation) to help ag retail leaders navigate defining and implementing their own digital strategy.

 

Come for the Grower Experience; Stay for Your Internal Team Functionality

At AgVend, when we have conversations with new prospects, they’re often focused on what our technology can deliver for their producers. And for good reason: their customers have made it known that, in addition to an in-person relationship, they want to have the option to do parts of the purchasing process through their retailer’s app.

Improving the grower experience is a significant component of what we offer with our solution. But people are often surprised when they hear that our Partner Retailers see the greatest direct value of the platform with their teams, not necessarily their customers. These are tools for sales reps, agronomists, merchandisers, and admin staff that complement existing ERP systems and help organizations transform the way they go-to-market.

The gains from these features come in many forms. For example, increasing a retailer’s ability to better navigate supply challenges with real-time visibility into inventory and product alternatives. Or helping companies attract, retain, and maximize the efficiencies of their sales teams by cutting out low-value work and replacing it with high-value touch points. Ultimately though, these advances indirectly, and at times directly, lead to improved customer experience.

 

Prioritizing the Tools Your Company Needs

So you see that technology can help your team manage supply challenges, make reps more efficient, improve employee retention, and even lead to more satisfied customers.

But where do you even start?

While every ag retailer is different, there are a few key pieces to consider in your strategy, regardless of where you are on your journey:

 

Digital Planning, Recommendations, and Orders

Better communication and visibility with your customer is paramount in today’s world. When your growers have access to their information, they feel more in control. No more misplaced notepads with how much urea they decided to book or what they sprayed on that field. Instead, they can go directly to your app and view their account(s) in your portal.

This is great news for your internal team too. When growers have access to the details they need, it cuts down on phone calls asking simple (but still time-consuming) questions, and frees your staff up for more of those high-value touch points.

Easy in-app order placement by sales reps can be especially impactful. It removes a redundant back office step, which allows admins to focus their time in other areas. Additionally, it can significantly reduce the chance of errors.

An AgVend Partner Retailer in the CropLife 100 decided to mandate all orders be placed through their digital Sales Hub. This came on the heels of losing over $100k due to a handwritten fertilizer order from July, which got lost on a desk, and entered months later in October. With the big swings in the fertilizer market over the past 3 months, this was a costly error.

 

Digital Messaging

Digital messaging is a simple, effective way for retailers to connect with growers during the busy season.

During busy seasons, emails, flyers, and even phone calls won’t get the job done. Look for means of communication that your team can readily use as a medium to connect with their customers. This could be as simple as an individualized group text message or app push notification to growers.

In a recent example of using digital as a key communication tool during these supply challenges, KC Graner, SVP of Agronomy at CFS, explained, “With rapidly changing markets, instantaneous communication is crucial. To help customers lock in the best opportunities, we sent bulk text messages from our AgVend Sales Portal directly to our growers this fall reminding them to pay any unpaid bookings in order to get their quoted price.”

In addition to sharing information with growers, communicating within the organization should be just as easy for leadership, whether at the head office or at the location level. Setting up and sending these messages to your team should be streamlined and simple.

Graner continued, “We also sent messages to our sales agronomists reminding them to follow up with specific customers who had not yet prepaid their bookings. Agronomists are just as busy as customers and they all appreciate the quick and easy communication features we have with the portal.”

 

Resource Centers and Smart Alternatives

When it comes to making your sales team’s lives easier, a center for information in an accessible tool they are already using regularly is a good step. Staff can look up key product details or learn which options are good substitutes.

And in an era when supply constraints are common, a platform that automatically recommends alternative products and provides positioning terms to your reps when something is out of stock is crucial.

 

CRM

Those three letters can be highly-charged for sales teams, regardless of industry. Too often, employees see a CRM as purely a staff management system that monitors an individual’s every move. When that’s the focus, it’s no wonder CRM has a negative connotation.

But well designed and implemented CRMs can be a sales rep’s favorite tool when it helps them better serve their customers while saving them crucial hours in their day.

So what to look for when implementing a CRM?

  • Centralized customer information: When your team can access all the details about a customer via a mobile app, they can answer questions quickly and more thoroughly; making them better prepared for meetings in less time. Additionally, when the CRM can bridge business units and provide a single view of the customer it unlocks key cross sell opportunities (i.e., identifying top producers on the agronomy side who don’t deliver any grain to your elevators).

  • Has strong admin capabilities: Keeping notes, setting calendar events, and adding reminders are all table stakes for a quality CRM. These features ensure your team stays on top of their customers. But they must be intuitive and fast to access.

  • Recognizes opportunity: A truly differentiated CRM takes on the role of a co-pilot, not simply another system that requires high up-front work to get any value out. This intelligence can come in the form of alerting sales reps their grower has been actively watching fertilizer movements this week, or highlighting that for the past five years their customer sold grain during this time of year. Having a digital system in place that automates those notifications enables reps to easily keep on top of opportunities and best serve their customers.

Business Intelligence

A BI tool shouldn’t require dedicated analysts or hours of study just to be able to build reports. Additionally, it doesn’t need to take an entire day or crash your computer to run an update. Instead, it must conveniently surface insights that help drive better business decisions.

A quality BI tool has:

  • Approachability: Both leaders and sales teams across your organization will be able to build reports that give them visibility into how to optimize their areas of ownership.

  • Shareability: It’s simple to share reports once they’re built. That ease of access cuts down on redundant work and ensures alignment among all the parties.

  • Scalability: Your business will grow over time, and so should your BI tool. That’s why it’s important to choose one that integrates with your existing (and future) systems, pulls information across departments, and has back-end capabilities to standardize data inputs.

Success comes when you’re able to align your teams around a common direction. Using the right BI tool is an important step to establishing those goals.

Valley Agronomics relies on BI to help their reps get an accurate read on how things are tracking with a customer. Connor Lankford, Precision Ag Manager and AgVend Portal lead, shared “Especially during these times of supply uncertainty, giving our teams visibility into what has been planned vs. what’s been quoted vs. what’s been actually sold is necessary. Our guys want to make sure their customers are covered.”

Ready to Get to Work?

Here is a good roadmap to begin with:

  1. Implement the initial building blocks, like digital orders and recommendations. Show your team the value that technology can deliver to them, personally, which will drive increased usage.

  2. Next comes the natural adoption of more advanced tools like new communication means or automated resources. This will help your reps view the app as a key tool in their arsenal that differentiates the service they provide to their customer.

  3. From there, introducing sophisticated features like CRM and BI become much easier. And the two, when rolled out together, have amplifying effects.

  4. Finally, look to an experienced solutions provider who will act as a partner beyond the technology and help you design the digital journey that fits your organization.

For many ag retailers enabling their business with technology is no longer just a nice-to-have, rather, it’s their key differentiator for the years to come. Ensuring you have the right strategy in place means protecting yourself against fluctuating supply chains, attracting (and retaining) the best talent in the industry, optimizing your internal systems, and giving producers the communication and support they’re asking for. In these times, you can’t afford to compromise on any of those — and a properly implemented digital experience can ensure you don’t have to.

AgVend is the leading digital engagement platform to serve the producer of tomorrow. Our white-labeled information and commerce portals are designed to strengthen the relationship between the ag distribution channel and their grower-customers. The AgVend team is composed of individuals with decades of experience in agriculture, digital marketing, and enterprise software for the Fortune 500. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, AgVend operates a distributed organization model with local coverage in all major US and Canadian ag regions.

Optimizing the digital experience

This article was originally published by Agworld. 

CHALLENGE

The way we interact with each other and the way consumers prefer to do business is showing an increasing tendency to move into the digital sphere. The ag retail sector is not isolated from this trend, with a number of online-only input providers appearing in the competitor landscape, and traditional input suppliers therefore need to take the appropriate steps in order to ensure their sustainability and profitability in the long term.

 

RESULT

By proactively adopting digital technologies into their organization and providing a hybrid of in-person and digital products & services to their clients, ag retail organizations can ensure they maintain relationships and a superior service offering within their industry.

Introduction

The ag retail industry is no stranger to change; ever since the first farmer-owned cooperatives started to sell inputs and other products and services to farmers, their product and service offering has constantly evolved as the farmers evolved in the way they farm their land. Most ag retail stores are now part of a larger organization, through many rounds of mergers and acquisitions, and some are still cooperatives today while others have adopted a different business model. All ag retailers still have the same goal at the center of their organization however: servicing the needs of farmers in their local communities.

Arguably one of the biggest challenges that ag retailers are facing right now is the threat of disruption by online-only providers of inputs. These online sellers are looking to commoditize agricultural inputs and switch the farmers’ focus from service to price. While this kind of digital disruption has been successful in other industries, TurboTax vs H&R Block or Rocket Mortgage vs a local bank for example, ag retailers enjoy the unique advantage of having local stores with a wealth of specific and localized knowledge that cannot easily be replicated in an online-only model. In order to prevent disruption of the industry by online-only players, and improve their service offering to farmers, ag retailers are increasingly adopting digital tools. The goal of this is to take away any advantage that online-only players might have and double-down on their own strengths. In this case study we explore this process of digitizing ag retail, and the advantages it brings to both growers and those working in the ag retail landscape.

Adopting digital technology in ag retail

Like many ag retailer organizations throughout the country, Nampa, ID, headquartered Valley Agronomics, the 15th largest ag retailer in the United States, have had a strong focus on adopting digital technologies into their organization for a number of years. Servicing Washington, Idaho, Oregon and parts of Montana and Utah, Valley Agronomics decided in 2016 that they would put their grower clients’ needs and demands at the heart of their digital technology strategy. According to Valley Agronomics Precision Ag Manager, Connor Lankford: “Every digital tool or platform that we adopt needs to address a need that our grower clients have, as well serve our internal needs.”

Valley Agronomics is one of the more advanced ag retailers in the United States when it comes to adopting digital technology and offering tailored digital services to their growers. This strategy saw them win the 2018 ARA Precision Impact Award in recognition of being an industry leading retailer for the precision ag products and services offered to farmers through their ‘Platinum Precision Subscription’ program. Connor: “The ‘Platinum Precision Subscription’ is a key piece of the digital offering for our growers, and Agworld has been an important part of the program since 2016.”

Connor explains: “Implementing Agworld into our organization means that our agronomists, dispatchers, admin staff and growers all collaborate on the same platform with the same data set, which brings a number of distinct benefits to us as well as our grower clients. Once we became comfortable and experienced in using Agworld, we felt that the time was ripe to take the next step for our organization; digitizing the buying process for our clients to further facilitate the information going back and forth between our customers and agronomists.”

Connor continues: “As we looked to further digitize the way Valley Agronomics interacted with our grower customers, we wanted to make sure that the technology integrated with our existing technology providers, such as Agworld and Agvance – our internal accounting software. It was important to connect the pieces, given our agronomist’s comfort with creating Agworld plans and recommendations, our applicators using Agworld work orders and actuals, and our customers utilizing Agword for their own record keeping and budgeting purposes. Similarly, given Valley Agronomics admin and operations teams using Agvance for our accounting needs, we wanted something that would compliment these pieces and further help us connect to our customers digitally.“

Choosing AgVend

Choosing a new digital partner is not an easy process and, according to Connor, something that takes time and vision: “We looked at several different solutions that existed. We were not interested in a pure e-commerce play, instead our desire was to augment our existing customer service strengths. AgVend’s vision was similar, offering an omni-channel approach to our grower clients, where digital components complimented our in-person, in-store, or on farm personal components. Given our similar vision, we decided to work with AgVend to build the Valley Agronomics Grower Portal in December of 2019, and set our sights on an April 2020 launch.”

Within Valley Agronomics, different parts of the business utilize AgVend, says Connor: “Our sales agronomists use AgVend to send quotes and place orders on behalf of their clients. The admin team has access to AgVend to work on things like credit limits, invoices, statements, etc. and answer any questions a client may have. Location managers and area managers have access to the system as well to get a global view of what’s happening with the customers in their areas and see how the sales agronomists are interacting with their clients.”

With the data integration between Agworld and AgVend, ag retailers have the benefit of a seamless data flow throughout the entire ordering process. A crop advisor will scout a growers’ field with Agworld and then create a recommendation of the product that needs to be applied. Quite often, the next question from a grower will be: “what is this going to cost me?” says Preston, ID, based Valley Agronomics agronomist TJ Bingham. “Because we now use both Agworld and AgVend, it’s easy to pull the recommendation from Agworld into the AgVend portal, find the right pack sizes etc., make any adjustments as needed and send a quote straight from AgVend to the grower.”

TJ ads: “A grower then has the ability to completely transact digitally if they choose to do so, and place the order through AgVend if they like the quote I sent them. Or, they can still just call me of course, if that is what they prefer. We don’t force anyone to use software together with us, but a lot of growers prefer doing things digitally these days. From that point, the order flows into our back office accounting system, the fulfillment team gets a notification, and the crop advisor gets a notification that the grower has made a purchase as well. I really like that, with the combination of Agworld and AgVend, everyone is on the same page at all times – that really makes things easy for all of us.”

Connecting the dots with Agworld and AgVend

Full transparency: Stay informed with notifications. Easily access your information at any stage during the process.

Alternatively, AgVend can be used by crop advisors to create orders for growers, explains Connor: “The Agworld – AgVend integration doesn’t just allow us to turn recommendations into quotes but also directly into orders. We can take a recommendation created in Agworld and turn that right into an order in AgVend. Once the order is created in AgVend, it is pushed into Agvance, our accounting software, for fulfillment. In this scenario, the grower will automatically get a notification from AgVend that an order has been placed on their behalf.”

Transacting digitally with an ag retailer

Preston, ID, based Yance Bosen farms 3,300 acres of both irrigated and dry land together with his father, running beef cattle and growing a mix of barley, hard red winter wheat, silage corn, grain corn and alfalfa. Yance has been utilizing Agworld for the last 4 years and also started to use AgVend as soon as his agronomist, TJ Bingham, began to use it for creating his quotes and orders. Yance uses Agworld for record keeping purposes so it becomes easier to isolate the critical success factors in his cropping program retrospectively: “Agworld shows me exactly what we did in a field during the season and then also how that translates into the cost aggregate, net income per acre or crop, etc.”

Yance continues: “Having a pre-season plan in Agworld is really helpful, especially when we’re trying to calculate our input costs and our projected income based on futures markets. The other big thing for me is having all plating dates, varieties, seed rates, fertilizer dates, application dates and products etc. available for everyone. If Valley Ag performs an application for me I know exactly what they’ve done and vice versa – TJ can see in Agworld exactly what I’ve done in each field and when I’ve done it.”

Now that Valley Agronomics have started to use AgVend as well, this adds even more advantage to having a digital relationship with his agronomist and ag retailer, says Yance: “I like having all my important information digitally as I lose papers all the time. I prefer to have my invoices available digitally through the Valley Agronomics Grower Portal (built by AgVend) so that I can check them immediately when I get them and don’t risk losing them. It’s also much better to get invoices throughout the month rather than just one $150,000 invoice at the end of the month spread over several thousands of acres; it’s pretty tough to remember exactly what we did 30 days ago when we’re in the busy part of the season!”

Yance concludes: “I think that, between Agworld and the Valley Agronomics Grower Portal, I have all important information at my fingertips at all times, as it’s all in my phone. I support local businesses like Valley Ag 100% and don’t want to transact with an anonymous online business at all, but I really like that Valley Ag now also offers me the benefits that an online business would offer me while maintaining their original strengths like having a local presence and employing knowledgeable agronomists like TJ.”

Creating an unfair advantage

For Connor Lankford and the team at Valley Agronomics, the adoption of technologies like Agworld and AgVend is all about creating an unfair advantage in the marketplace that prevents disruptors from entering the market. “Our strategy is to build on existing strengths, namely our people and their relationships with their customers, by providing our team and our customers with another way to stay connected, have access to the same key information, and interact digitally where it makes sense to do so. The full experience we offer to our customers allows them to have their financial and agronomic records in the palm of their hands.”

Connor continues: “We are now able to offer our customers different in person or digital channels to interact with us, depending on their preference. This allows our team to take care of our clients on a personalized, one on one basis.” Connor concludes with: “We want to make sure that Valley Agronomics remains an industry leading retailer well into the future, so we’ll continue to adopt those technologies that make sense for both us and our customers. With Agworld, AgVend, and our Platinum Precision Subscription, our grower customers are getting the best of both worlds: our local presence and experienced staff, as well as cutting-edge technology that can compete with any other provider out there.”

“We see on a daily basis the difference that Agworld and AgVend make for us and, having recently acquired two small regional ag retail organizations, they also make it easy for us to onboard new colleagues and clients into Valley Agronomics. From my perspective, you either have to move with the market and lead the adoption of new and novel technologies, or the market will overtake you; I know on which side of that equation I want to be on!”

AgVend is the leading provider of digital engagement software to serve the producer of tomorrow. Our white-labeled information and commerce portals are designed to strengthen the relationship between the ag distribution channel and their grower-customers. The AgVend team is composed of individuals with decades of experience in agriculture, digital marketing, and enterprise software for the Fortune 500. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, AgVend operates a distributed organization model with local coverage in all major US and Canadian ag regions.

How user feedback, iteration, and flexibility guide AgVend’s product design process

Product design in the ag world can feel fast and furious: new features hitting the market before they’re ready, companies competing with each other to be first with a new feature, and new problems that need solutions appearing quickly.

But at AgVend, a prioritization of speed doesn’t have to mean less quality. In the lightning-fast 21st century, we work to release features as soon as possible too. But added to that process is continuous iteration on our features after they’re released. In our design process, minimum viability is just a starting point, not the finish line. We listen to feedback, come up with better ideas, and iterate on our products — from minimum viability to maximum evolution. There’s no “MVP and done” here.

We have empathy for our users and care about solving their problems in tangible ways. That’s why human-centered design is at the core of our products. But what does empathy for the end user mean in practice? How does it affect the design process? To put it simply, we iterate on products frequently, take into account both user feedback and employee ideas, test assumptions, and never believe we have all the answers.

Here’s a glimpse in more detail of how our design process plays out to create the best, most helpful and solutions-oriented products possible:

We act on user feedback

Think about the last time you filled out some kind of feedback survey — for your gym, car repair shop, or new computer you just bought. You put time into giving answers that could help make the product or experience better. And then… you wait, and wait, and wait some more. You keep returning for the same service or product, but nothing changes. What was even the point of you giving all that feedback?

That’s the opposite of what we do at AgVend. User feedback informs our whole design process. We don’t stash it at the end of a 3-year roadmap; instead, we use it to make our product better as soon as possible. It sounds like common sense — but in a world where companies feel a rush to get a product out quickly (even when it’s flawed), integrating user feedback in real time can be rare. But we believe speed doesn’t have to mean a sacrifice in quality.

Instead, our approach is twofold: speed and iteration. We start simple to quickly get a solution into the world. It may be imperfect at first, but it still provides value and is a foundation on which to build. Then, we test it with our users, listen to feedback, and iterate. A fast feature release does not equal “done” for us; it’s simply a starting point to continuously improve.

“It’s important to act on the feedback instead of just sitting on it, so people you’re making the product for can see the results of your conversations with them,” said AgVend product designer Melinda West. “We want to empower our users to make an impact on the product they use every day.”

For example, take our Job Completed Notifications. When we first released these for growers, our partners asked for those notifications to also go to their sales team so everyone stays on the same page. Just a week later, we implemented text notifications for salespeople. And we can take it further: going forward, we’ll implement in-platform notifications, notification settings, and more. Every feature starts with the kernel of an idea, and many of those ideas come directly from our users.

When it’s time to design a new product or feature, we start with a simple, lightweight solution to a problem we’re aware of. We start with that simpler solution so we can test and expand on it as the process evolves.

Throughout that expansion process, we prioritize any user experience issues we find, instead of shuffling them to our backlog and promising to deal with them later. Because user feedback isn’t an annoyance to be dealt with: it’s a core feature of our product design.

We are always iterating

Our products and features are constantly evolving. It’s a design process that’s less a closed loop and more a constantly-moving wave of information and ideas. Our partners’ needs and problems are always changing as the world does, so why shouldn’t our design process mirror that?

When we design a new feature, it’s not a race to get something out as soon as possible, and then move onto the next product. We work quickly to release a new feature, but know that it’s just a starting point for our design process. The best product won’t necessarily be the first version we release, so we stay flexible and open to feedback.

Before we launch a big feature, we meet with multiple partners, as well as growers they serve across the U.S., to understand how they do business and figure out potential ways we can help them. Based on those conversations, we brainstorm as an internal team and start to come up with solutions. But we know we don’t have all the answers: we take those designs to our partners for even more feedback.

From there, we iterate, develop, and then iterate again.

And for good measure, we continue to iterate once our partners have had a chance to play with all the features and get a good feel for the product using their actual data. We then turn that feedback into new features that truly help solve real-world problems our partners experience. No guesswork here.

And this philosophy is baked directly into our design process. We know we aren’t perfect and we definitely don’t have all the answers. That’s why we leave space in our roadmap to learn new things from the people whose opinions matter most — our partners’. And not only do we leave enough time and space to hear new ideas and feedback: we leave time to actually act on it before moving on to longer term projects.

We cultivate an open and high-performing work environment

While we hold user feedback at the top of our priority list, there are other opinions we take into account as we design something new: our team’s.

Here at AgVend, everyone’s opinion is valued and respected. No matter what your position or so-called “level” here, you can easily make a real impact on the product without going through layers of red tape. In our design process, hierarchy or arbitrary position titles don’t get in the way of great ideas.

That work environment is twofold: we care personally, but challenge directly. People can speak up and challenge leadership without fear of repercussions, because we know we all have the same end goal: to create the most far-reaching solutions and best-performing products for our partners.

Our creative process is sacrosanct. We keep meetings to a minimum so each person has more time to focus on designing (and iterating on) the best possible product. We prize agility and creativity over repetitive ceremonies and spending time in meetings just to say that we met.

The benefits of that work environment speak for themselves. Prioritizing the creative process and the ideas of the whole team ensures we’re designing the best possible features. But it also keeps our employees engaged, interested, and empowered.

Human-centered design is a win-win for everyone

Our product design process isn’t complicated, and it doesn’t need to be. It’s about idea generation, quick action on feedback, and agility. We actively seek out feedback from our partners, because we’re not afraid of it. Instead, we welcome it.

We don’t build things just to check a box, or to release the first version we can and then completely stop evolving it. At the end of the day, if something doesn’t add value for our partners and their growers, we won’t build it. The best way to figure out that value? Actually listening to the people who use our product every day.

Internally, we also prioritize the ideas, creativity, and opinions of our team — because a strong team builds a strong product.

At every step of the way, we remain human-centered. For solutions and features that are helpful to actual humans, we have to prioritize those people in the design process. Their ideas, feedback, and abilities inform everything we do. And our end users get to enjoy even stronger, more impactful products because of that approach.

AgVend is the leading provider of digital engagement software to serve the producer of tomorrow. Our white-labeled information and commerce portals are designed to strengthen the relationship between the ag distribution channel and their grower-customers. The AgVend team is composed of individuals with decades of experience in agriculture, digital marketing, and enterprise software for the Fortune 500. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, AgVend operates a distributed organization model with local coverage in all major US and Canadian ag regions.

From Data to Decisions: AgVend Launches New BI & CRM Tools

An Approachable Path to Insightful Analytics for Ag Retail Leadership and their Sales Reps

Tracking your business performance and enhancing relationships with your growers just got easier. AgVend, the leading provider of digital engagement software to serve the producer of tomorrow, announced today the addition of Business Intelligence (BI) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Sales Drivers to their Grower Portal platform. These new package options provide ag retailers access to the data needed to make strategic business and customer decisions in real-time.

With the Business Intelligence Sales Driver, Partner Retailers have the ability to create and track goals across the company, specific locations, or individual salespeople, keeping their team motivated while being able to dial-in performance adjustments. This approachable, yet comprehensive, reporting tool means that any sales leader can access this information and derive value from the data, ie. no BI Analyst needed.

To compliment these business performance insights, the CRM Sales Driver is designed to amplify the quality of customer service that sales reps can provide. With streamlined access to grower information, automated insights, and key wallet-share indicators, salespeople can maximize their productivity while providing a highly personalized experience for their customers. As with all AgVend software, the CRM tool is designed and built “mobile-first” meaning that it is optimized for on-the-go use in their retailer’s native Apple or Android Sales Hub apps.

“When designing the Business Intelligence and CRM tools, it was critical that they work seamlessly together and generate meaningful and actionable insights for our users,” says Eli Rosenberg, VP of Product and Engineering and co-founder of AgVend. “With this additional information at their fingertips, our ag retail partners can focus on enhancing their customer experience and facilitate growth opportunities for their organization.”

These features complement AgVend’s current agronomy and grain tools that offer easy viewing of invoices, grain contracts, agronomic plans, and more. The new functionality will promote communications across business units and highlight cross-sell opportunities, from fertilizer to seed to grain and more.

“There are plenty of good BI and CRM software options designed for other industries,“ says Alexander Reichert, co-founder, and CEO of AgVend. “But ag is different, and listening to our partners we heard a common thread of feedback – the existing solutions are too complicated and/or require too much upfront data entry. We flip that concept on its head, making it easy to get going and derive insights from Day 1. ”

Continued expansion of the AgVend digital engagement platform is planned with the addition of an Energy Business Unit later in 2021 and a Feed Business Unit in early 2022. Similar to Grain and Agronomy, the BI and CRM Sales Drivers will be extensible to these new Business Units.

   

AgVend is the leading provider of digital engagement software to serve the producer of tomorrow. Our white-labeled information and commerce portals are designed to strengthen the relationship between the ag distribution channel and their grower-customers. The AgVend team is composed of individuals with decades of experience in agriculture, digital marketing, and enterprise software for the Fortune 500. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, AgVend operates a distributed organization model with local coverage in all major US and Canadian ag regions.

Just Adding an App Isn’t the Answer in Ag Retail’s Digital Transformation

With technology advancing by the day, we know producers and ag retailers are searching more than ever for digital solutions (as they should be!) to help manage their operations. Many look at the growing transition to digital and say, “Okay, so I just need an app for my growers?” And that part is critical: we see over 70% of users across AgVend’s network of Grower Portals prefer to use the mobile app.

But as I discussed in my previous CropLife piece, eCommerce Alone Won’t Cut It For Ag Retailers, relationships still reign supreme, and a digital experience should be designed to strengthen those connections. In this new era of agriculture, it’s about so much more than just adding an app. What you really need is a partner beyond the technology who can help you leverage digital to transform your business. You don’t have to enter into these changing times trying to figure it out on your own.

So the question becomes: how do you evaluate a prospective digital provider? What value can they provide beyond technology? How can they make it easier for you to do business with your customers? There are a few core components to keep an eye out for:

 

Centralize Access to Information

One app to rule them all doesn’t exist (if only). So centralization is key: whether that means integrating data into one platform, or making it seamless to switch between programs through a robust single sign-on option. Along the same lines, one partner to rule them all doesn’t exist. You want (and, really need, in order to be successful) a partner who understands the importance of being a constructive player in the broader ecosystem. In other words, they’re not trying to be everything for you (accounting, inventory, agronomic planning, finance, eCommerce, etc). Instead, it’s a partner who values building relationships with other industry leaders in those spaces and productively working together to deliver the optimal solution.

In a recent study we ran across the AgVend network, 93% of producers reported the number one value proposition of their retailers’ AgVend-built Grower Portal is the ease of access to information (across business units, agronomic data tools, financing providers, and more). An ideal partner will work with you to understand the connections and experience important to your team and customers. But beyond just an understanding, you need action: you want a partner who is able to make those connections technically feasible — quickly and at no additional cost to you.

It’s important to evaluate your past needs and figure out solutions for those — but keep an eye toward the future too. With new tools and strategies constantly coming to market (think: carbon, traceability, etc.), you also want a partner who can help you evaluate those opportunities and figure out how they can fit into your overall digital strategy.

 

Adoption Strategies Are Crucial

What good is an app or new technology if no one knows how to use it?

To truly make the most of your digital transformation, you want a partner who understands how to educate your team through onboarding and beyond. Most retailers don’t have internal training teams, so you want to be sure to find a partner who’s ready to roll up their sleeves and not only help you plan education sessions for your organization and growers — but also execute them.

When it comes to adoption of a new technology, your sales team can either block it or accelerate it. It all hinges on how comfortable they are with the tool. Finding a partner who can effectively train your sales team not just on how to use it, but why and how to evangelize it is critical. With robust training comes robust adoption numbers: with a focus on training and education, AgVend partners have seen over 70% of their growers create accounts on their app within the first 3 months of going live.

And while a focus on educating your sales team will get you far, it also helps to share the news of a new app with growers directly. Take a multi-channel approach when spreading the word: in-person (i.e., via sales team), traditional marketing (i.e., postcards, events, etc.) and digital avenues (Facebook and other social media posts, newsletters, and text campaigns).

 

A Network That Learns Together

Ag retail is still in the early stages of its digital transformation. It’s an exciting time — but that also means there’s plenty to be learned (fast). You want a partner who recognizes that potential for learning and development, and has the humility to iterate and change course when needed.

More than anything, collaboration should be top of mind for everyone involved. We’re all entering into this era together, which means we can all learn from each other on what works, what doesn’t work, and what needs further exploration.

 

Together, we can build the ag industry of tomorrow.

“The best relationships I have experienced with other businesses have been collaborative and oriented around creating success,” said Neal Horrom, COO of Mercer Landmark. “Since we have become a partner of AgVend, we have experienced this partnership mindset and are excited to build this together.”

That voluntary collaboration is huge when it comes to the ag retail digital transformation. We’re all going to have successes and failures — but the only true failure would be not learning from each other, not sharing ideas, and not helping each other navigate towards the optimal experience. No one has all the answers — we’re writing the script as we go! But when we can test and learn throughout that process, we can meet the producers of tomorrow with the tools they need to thrive in this new era of agriculture.

 

A Partner That Listens and Responds

Technology is not at its best when it’s led by detached developers and teams creating a product without input from the people who will actually use it. That’s why it’s so critical for you to find a partner who actually listens to your team, spends real time with your growers, and ultimately designs a platform to fit their needs.

It sounds so simple. But taking into account what your team or growers need, and actually building that in real time — that’s how you inspire digital adoption and ownership for everyone involved. It all goes back to the value of iteration: technology is never going to be exactly right, straight out of the box. It needs to be constantly tested to reach its fullest potential — and that evolution needs to happen with input from partners and growers in mind.

“Technology solutions are rarely perfect from the beginning,” said Eli Rosenberg, VP of Product and Engineering and co-founder of AgVend. “To get it right, you need to continually test it, solicit feedback from your partners, and iterate on it constantly. That is what will develop a digital platform that delivers a best-in-class user experience and an ROI.”

So during that development, what are some things to look for when choosing a technology partner?

  • Short development cycles: roadmap timelines should be quoted in months — not years.

  • On-time releases: feature deadlines should be confidently set and hit.

  • Access to product teams: you should have an open line of communication to submit requests and guide roadmap decisions.

Fast and intuitive apps for your growers and teams are still crucial to successfully launching a digital platform. But so are some of the intangibles, like how your provider works with others, whether they have a team to guide you through onboarding, what opportunities they create to network, connect, and learn from others and how quick they are to iterate and advance their tech.

A partner who hits all those qualities is worth their weight in gold (or technology, in this case). Successfully executing a digital transformation is not easy — but choosing the right partners for the journey can make all the difference!

 

AgVend is the leading digital engagement platform to serve the producer of tomorrow. Our white-labeled information and commerce portals are designed to strengthen the relationship between the ag distribution channel and their grower-customers. The AgVend team is composed of individuals with decades of experience in agriculture, digital marketing, and enterprise software for the Fortune 500. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, AgVend operates a distributed organization model with local coverage in all major US and Canadian ag regions.

A Year in Review: Evolving the AgVend product strategy amidst a global pandemic

COVID-19 forced companies across the globe to re-examine their businesses and, for some, restructure their models in 2020. While it was a highly challenging time, many organizations found a way to adapt and emerge stronger than ever. We at AgVend, fortunately, count ourselves among this group.

Most know AgVend for our industry leading online marketplace. We had two successful seasons with this product, however the pandemic accelerated a shift in our offering to white-labeled Grower Portals. These portals provide value to a much broader segment of ag retailers and their grower customers.

Rolling out this new platform while constrained to our home offices wasn’t easy but a year later our business has grown over 300%! Below I recapped the journey from then until now.

 

We built

Since the Marketplace focused primarily on eCommerce, we quickly invested in expanding functionality around grower-sales person engagement. The portal needed to enhance our Partner Retailers’ existing relationships, while allowing growers the option of conducting business wherever and whenever they prefer.

 

Some of the improvements included:

  • Online bill pay

  • Account details (such as bookings and balances)

  • Digital marketing tools

  • In-app communications

  • Contract management and eSignature

Rather than an AgVend-branded environment, we shifted to a white-labeled experience that is designed and built for what growers prefer – a mobile app brought to them by their trusted retail partner…no middlemen.

Today, the functionality of the Grower Portal is 10 times what it was in April 2020. We now offer solutions for divisions beyond agronomy to include grain, energy, and, soon, feed.

 

We sold

Within the first six months we signed 10 new Partner Retailers for the Grower Portal. A year later, we’ve grown to more than 35 partners who represent roughly 15% of the U.S. Crop Input and Services market. All with one dedicated salesperson who joined us in December 2020.

We designed the company from day one with a focus on building a good product that solves a real challenge and delivers a tangible ROI within the first year. Our partners have seen that value and continue to be our best sales reps. As of July, 85% of our inquiries came from referrals from existing partners.

It’s not marketing hype. It’s executing with conviction. We did what we said we would do, and the results speak for themselves.

 

We grew

We scaled our team to support the rapid growth of our offering and network, growing headcount by 70%. We focused less on outbound sales and more on engineers and support staff for our Partner Retailers.

One of the key areas of team growth has been centered around our Partnership Management organization. These individuals are tasked with guiding our accounts through onboarding and beyond. They are key to successful launches and portal adoption by growers. Some of our Partner Retailers have seen as much as 72% of their customers adopting the portal within the first three months.

We have accomplished this headcount scale without the need for a massive round of venture-capital fundraising. Instead, we sustainably invested revenues back into the business and grew on fundamentals. Our company remains employee-owned and controlled, something our partners appreciate.

 

We partnered

Producers’ report that the number one value proposition of their retailers’ AgVend-built Grower Portal is the ease of access to information across business units, agronomic data tools, financing providers and more. This is enabled through a diverse set of partnerships with industry-leading third parties, that make up the AgVend Partner Ecosystem:

  • Top ag-specific ERPs like Agvantage and Agvance – Allows for seamless and easy access to live account information for sales teams and growers, while data flows between the Portal and ERP without any double-entry. This access for all parties creates real organizational efficiencies and improves the customer experience.

  • Grain partners like DTN and Barchart – Enables the automatic pull of cash bids and futures, and lays the groundwork for grower offer-management functionality to be released in the coming months.

  • Precision tools like AgWorld and FieldAlytics – Centralizes detailed plans and recommendations with growers in their retailers’ widely adopted Grower Portal apps.

  • Financing providers like John Deere Financial and CFA – Makes credit balances available and accessible to growers and internal teams at the point of purchase.

  • Manufacturers like Corteva – Gives customers and their sales representatives the ability to view and manage TruChoice and Corteva Cash balances and easily spend those credits within their retailer’s portal.

 

We listened

The Grower Portal has been built based on feedback from retailers and growers. Our product team regularly meets with sales agronomists, producers, executives, and more to identify areas of improvement and advancement.

One of our partners, Jeff Crissinger, VP of Agronomy Sales and Marketing from NuWay-K&H Cooperative, told us the following:

“We feel that we really have access to influence the outcome of the product. Requests that would take other guys 4-6 months to turn around, you guys get out there in a week.”

In addition, we recently conducted a series of extensive surveys to learn how producers and sales teams actually want to do business digitally. Here are a few key findings:

  • Centralized grower data in one mobile app – More than 55% of sales agronomists said this is their favorite thing about the Grower Portal. 65% of growers also said this feature was most important.

    “It’s convenient having access to the spraying info and invoices so quickly. The site is easy to navigate!”

  • eCommerce? Not so much – A minority segment of growers want to push the buy button. The ability to purchase products online was important to only 15% of producers.

  • Doing business should not be hard – 63% of growers said the Grower Portal makes it easier to do business with their preferred retailer. In fact, 9 in 10 customers recommend that others use their retailer’s portal.

 

Just the start

We’re enthused by our first year’s success with the Grower Portal, but we aren’t slowing down. Our product will continue to evolve based on the needs of our retailers and their producers.

As we look to the 2022 season our main focus will be moving beyond the “blocking and tackling” use cases of centralized access to data and third party tools. The next set of innovation will target automating portions of the sales process, surfacing relevant insights to leadership, and streamlining communication.

Since the start of this company in 2017 our goal has been to power the future of digital engagement in agriculture. After our evolution this past year, I believe we are executing on that mission now more than ever, and I look forward to what the future holds for this company, our Partner Retailers, their growers, and the industry at large.

Increased Efficiency and Experience with FieldAlytics-AgVend Integration

The FieldAlytics – AgVend collaboration enables a seamless sharing of FieldAlytics Plans directly to any retailer’s AgVend-built Grower Portal

FieldAlytics, a comprehensive solution that centralizes field logistics and planning from EFC Systems, and AgVend, the leader in providing white-label digital engagement platforms for ag retailers, announced today their launch of a new integration option for their shared agricultural retail partners.

In today’s ultra-competitive world, ag retailers are tasked with meeting the producer of tomorrow wherever and whenever they want to do business. The FieldAlytics-AgVend connectivity enables sales agronomists to build plans in the FieldAlytics tool and then share them with customers in their retailer’s AgVend-built Grower Portal. For growers, this means quicker and easier access to key planning and decisioning resources within their trusted retailer’s native mobile app. For the ag retailer, this eliminates the need for double entry cutting down on errors and [saving the average sales rep 30hrs during peak planning season].

“Based on a recent survey of our retailers’ customers, we found that the single most important thing that producers want in their retailer’s Grower Portal is all their operation’s information in one, centralized location,” says Alexander Reichert, co-founder and CEO of AgVend. ”In this new stage of ag technology, walled-gardens are being replaced by open platforms. EFC and AgVend find ourselves on the leading edge of this effort choosing collaboration over competition and seeking efficiencies for their retailers vs. creating redundancies.”

EFC Systems President & Founder, Ernie Chappell states, “Providing innovative solutions to ag retailers and growers is what we do every day. For over 30 years, we’ve been dedicated to improving efficiencies for ag retailers and profitability for growers. The FieldAlytics – AgVend integration is the first stage in working together to better serve our customers and improve their digital customer experience.”

FieldAlytics and AgVend plan to explore future opportunities for collaboration with the shared goal of improving the digital experience for their ag retail customers and those retailers’ growers.

 

AgVend is the leading provider of digital tools to serve the producer of tomorrow. We provide the agricultural distribution channel with white-labeled information, engagement, and commerce portals. Our suite of products is designed to strengthen the relationship between manufacturers, retailers, and growers. The AgVend team has experience in agriculture, digital marketing, and enterprise software for the Fortune 500. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, AgVend operates a distributed team model with local coverage in all major US and Canadian ag regions.

EFC Systems, Inc. is a 30-year-old technology solutions provider focused on improving farm profitability and retailer operational efficiency. Our solutions provide enterprise functionality to retailer and service providers and growers through FieldAlytics, a comprehensive field management system with the optional AgSolver planning for profit engine. Our Merchant Ag ERP platform helps retailers manage their profitability, risk and resource management. Our solutions support and enhance digital interaction between growers and retail service providers while also taking data and turning it into actionable insights.

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