In 2015, the global agribusiness industry grew to more than $5 trillion in annual revenues. With the current world population of more than seven billion people expected to rise to more than 10 billion by 2057, it is clear the market size for agribusiness will continue to grow. This incredible opportunity for innovation has generated interest in investments in the agribusiness value chain and created an enormous surge in development and utilization of new tech tools.
Increased digitalization and improved access to data analytics have helped agribusinesses to address some of the challenges they face in handling the global food system. New digital platforms exist to support food traceability, price transparency and improved access to customer trends and information. And with these changes, e-commerce is adding to the wave of change within the agriculture industry. E-commerce refers to the use of the Internet to market, buy and sell goods and services, exchange information and create and maintain web-based relationships. E-commerce includes four traditional business models:
- Business to Consumer (B2C)
- Business to Business (B2B)
- Consumer to Business (C2B)
- Consumer to Consumer (C2C)
Thanks to improved internet connectivity and the mass utilization of mobile technologies, agribusinesses and farmers are now able to use e-commerce to increase their access to customers and improve their margins.
Setting Standards of Success
Across industries, there are widespread advantages to e-commerce. Within the agriculture value chain specifically, the benefits are financial and operational. For example, a farmer selling produce through online channels is able to bypass intermediaries to reach new markets, reduce waste, provide customers with fresher produce and improve the bottom line. One such platform, Lima Links in Zambia, provides an online tool allowing buyers to post their demand for produce and farmers can make contact via a short code to initiate the transaction. The platform also allows input suppliers to advertise their products and farmers to request a call-back in order to arrange large orders.
On the financial side, as mobile operators continue to provide improved connectivity in rural areas, the options for utilizing data to improve mobile payments grows and supports the sustainability of agri e-commerce solutions. By generating transactional records and data related to the agri products bought and sold online, agri e-commerce services generate key data points enabling the creation of digital footprints and identities.
In order to establish a successful agri e-commerce strategy, agribusinesses must have scalable operations and a sustainable business model that reflects their target market. Multinational or regional agriculture and/or food service businesses are also investing in eCommerce and marketplace platforms to augment their existing operations and increase their B2B customer offerings. In the United States, Agroy is an e-commerce platform that connects farmers with other farmers and helps to locate wholesale products from around the globe. In another example, CommoditAg offers an online platform of high-quality farm products, such as crop protection and plant nutritional products, to agriculture retailers.
Because of the growing competition in the space of e-commerce, it is important to remain ahead of the curve. To move forward, it is necessary to have a strong understanding of the trends, challenges and opportunities within e-commerce. The top agri e-commerce trends of 2020 include:
The growth of online sales. Online shopping continues to grow in popularity. Websites are more customer-friendly than ever and the trust of buyers in online transactions is higher than ever. In fact, online sales are expected to reach 4.5 trillion by 2021, demonstrating threefold growth over a seven-year span.
An increase in mobile shopping. Data shows that sales made via mobile devices has increased by 15-percent since 2016. By the end of 2021, it is projected that more than 73-percent of e-commerce sales will take place on mobile devices. Improving e-commerce strategies to strengthen mobile components is a large opportunity for future growth.
Emergence of voice shopping. This trend has been on the rise since 2014 when Amazon launched their smart speaker, the Echo. Voice shopping is primarily used as a sales channel where customers select their products by providing a verbal description of what they need. Because it has no visual component, voice technology is used for purchasing products once a decision is made, rather than browsing for options. While the technology and its popularity are now in the early stages, it is expected to continue grow in the coming years.
The shift in the role of social media. Social media is rapidly becoming a favorite tool of online shoppers. Agribusiness brands now have the opportunity to revitalize their social strategies to increase the chance of being viewed by their target audience. There are now tools to link online stores with social media sites and the technology will only become more user-friendly.
Environmental concerns drive buying decisions. Green consumerism is on the rise across all industries and the calls for sustainability and traceability within agriculture have never been stronger. Online agribusinesses must now put safe, sustainable practices at the forefront and demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility.
Making a commitment to personalization. A personalized online shopping experience will improve customer satisfaction and create brand loyalty. E-commerce sites are already committed to this truth and have employed a variety of personalization tactics to improve the customer experience. This includes options such as communications regarding relevant discounts, increased video content and personalized customer communications. The growth of artificial intelligence is now providing new opportunities to create stronger personalization, including options like AI-optimized discounting and pricing, as well as demand forecasting.
With rapidly advancing technology and continuous changes in consumer behavior, it is clear that agribusinesses must stay informed regarding agri e-commerce trends and opportunities. However, in working to maximize on any e-commerce trend, it is important for agribusinesses to move forward with the aim of improving the customer experience and developing deeper customer relationships. Other important factors in creating and maintaining a successful agri e-commerce platform include:
- Understanding the market. The agribusiness industry is full of strong competition and understanding the needs and struggles of customers will drive innovation.
- Effective and consistent branding. Maintaining a brand across channels and platforms is a complicated undertaking. Make sure the vision, culture and voice of the brand is clear and consistent, while also allowing the goals of the brand to drive decision-making.
- Closely manage operational costs. Within the agribusiness value chain, there are complicated relationships and razor thin margins. No matter what insightful e-commerce trends an organization may utilize, it is critical to closely manage daily operations, rebates, growth opportunities and future challenges.