Adoption of Communication Tools in Agriculture


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Fall 2010 Ag Technology Study
By: Kristi Moss & Sara Steever

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Adoption of Communication Tools in Agriculture

  1. 1. Adoption ofCommunication Tools in Agriculture By: Kristi Moss & Sara Steever
  2. 2. As agri-marketers, we spend a lot of time trying to understand where producers are gettingtheir information. We know vehicles for information are changing rapidly, but we really want toknow how quickly producers are adopting these new communication tools.Factors like operation size, gender, age or experiences outside of the operation would seemto have an effect on the adoption of communication technologies. But how big of an impactare these factors?Paulsen randomly selected 25 farm families to ask how they use communication technologyin their operations. We came away with five important factors to drive communicationstrategy in the future.Throughout this study are excerpts from those conversations and some conclusions drawnfrom these interviews. 1
  3. 3. Operation Size vs. Tech Savvy producer 1500+ acresregular cell phone smartphone computer with 750no Internet access multiple computers acres Internet access no computer 100+ acres 2
  4. 4. This study is not a substitute for the scientific research we come to rely on performed byFarm Progress, AMR/NAFB, Meredith or any other organization that interviewsthousands of producers.But what these producers told us is important, insightful and sometimes entertaining.We can learn a lot from them. Producers Discuss the Technologies They Currently Use 3
  5. 5. The Right PlaceIn speaking with producers, we found some commonalities and some real surprises.And don’t think for a minute that digital savvy can be guessed at a glance.We spoke with farmers aged 15 to 75, male and female, with operations from 120 to 50,000acres. There continues to be a strong level of comfort with traditional medias like print andradio that cross all demographics. But there are factors that drive how farmers get theirinformation right now.Reading print is very different from reading on a desktop computer or laptop and very, verydifferent from reading on a mobile device. Magazines and newspapers can introduce newconcepts because the reader is more passive, relaxed and in familiar, trusted territory. 4
  6. 6. Because producers spend a lot of time in tractor, combine, truck and pickup cabs, theydescribe themselves as listening to radio frequently. Similarly, TV still has a foothold, due tothe prevalence of televisions in the home.Desktop and laptop computers require a more active behavior, most frequently beginningwith search, but with ag information websites as a secondary source of online information.Even though those sites are trusted sources, one producer described this activity online asfollows, “You have to know what you are looking for when you go on electronically.”Most farmers had at least one or two e-newsletters they read regularly. They appreciatethe convenience of having the information ready and waiting for them — and they reallyappreciated e-newsletters formatted for their smartphone. 5
  7. 7. Mobile is the device of choice when information needs to be as current as possible. Most ofthe mobile usage revolves around markets, weather and interpersonal communications. Ourfeedback indicates that mobile devices are seen as tools for making decisions and stayingconnected. For example, “Mobile texts I read religiously because it is current and topical.”There are definite correlations between how quickly producers expect or need informationand the devices used to get it.The information must come from a trustworthy source, and it must be delivered right whenthey need it. Producers Discuss the Best Ways to Reach Them 6
  8. 8. If printed materials are associated with open-minded browsing, and desktop and laptopcomputers with active searching, then mobile content can’t just be informational, butmust be thought of in terms of how it impacts quick decisions. Key to this is relevancyand the right amount of content to help producers make informed decisions. Marketing Take Away: Right Place Producers are using smartphones to access weather and current market stats. However, as producers continue to adapt to new technology, they will begin to receive more information from their smartphones. Therefore, it is important to maintain a balanced media plan by incorporating smartphone marketing techniques into your media plan. 7
  9. 9. The Right TimeTrying to determine when producers are going to move up the tech chain has marketerslooking for answers. Internet penetration among consumers and producers is virtually thesame* If this holds true for smartphones and web-enabled cell phones, half of all producers .will have mobile Internet access by the end of 2011.What we currently see is new technology adoption happening in agriculture right now. Thecircumstances bring what we call “tech triggers” — events that cause a leap in technology.As producers spoke about their experiences, a pattern of these tech triggers emerged.They can be as commonplace as renewing a cellular contract and getting a new phone,or upgrading from dial-up on a desktop computer to wi-fi and a laptop.*Nielsen indicates that among consumers, smartphone adoption may be as high as 49 percent by the end of states consumer Internet penetration is at 77.3 percent in 2010. The 2010 NAFB InternetResearch Study reveals 75 percent Internet penetration among farmers. 8
  10. 10. If you don’t have AT&T right now, you don’t need Tech Trigger #1: an iPhone yet. We found several producers that shared an experience similar to this, “I currently Cellular providers just have a phone for phone and text, but my have a big impact contract is due to expire. I’m considering aon mobile technology. smartphone for the combination of the opportunity to look things up while I’m doing other things and receive better information.” As a younger generation steps up within the Tech Trigger #2: operation, they bring their tech preferences with them and provide the support needed for the older generation. Technology expectations. One young producer described the support she offers her father-in-law, “We just got him a new computer. I’m setting him up. Trying to figure out all the websites...where all the crop prices are... whatever I put up on there for him. ” 9
  11. 11. Producers are investing in more advanced Tech Trigger #3: technology across the board. Even general equipment and basic programs have become more sophisticated, equating to a need forIn-cab technologies. better computers and faster, more reliable Internet access. One producer’s example of this was, “My father-in-law just upgraded his computer and got DSL because of his new GPS and field mapping system.” Likewise, experiences outside of the farming Tech Trigger #4: operation provide exposure to new technologies. In one instance the son in an operation had Working off worked for an ag in-cab technology provider. His return to the operation meant that his brother the farm. and father made a very rapid transition to wireless and mobile technology. 10
  12. 12. For some, their ag advocacy spurred them to Tech Trigger #5: become more mobile as a way to fit their volunteer efforts into an already busy schedule. As “agvocacy” becomes necessary to preserve a Ag advocacy. way of life, farmers find they can reach out to consumers with what they are doing on the farm, while they are doing it. Smartphones become a platform for consumer education. The most frequent tech trigger revolves around Tech Trigger #6: the speed of information required to run a successful operation. As market fluctuations become the norm, checkingMarket volatility. them once in the morning and once at night can mean profit lost. Perpetually making phone calls or running in to see markets on a computer keeps producers from other critical tasks. 11
  13. 13. For one producer, timing is everything: “I think it is becoming more and more important.In the last five years the markets have changed drastically. They’re so variable. They fluctuateso much that if you don’t know immediately what the price is, you’ve missed out on a hugeopportunity. If I could have had the information at that moment, and basically I could havepulled out my phone and pushed the button and made a sale, I would have been waybetter off.”As important as the speed of information is, the context for these fluctuations is important, too.One producer told us, “Nothing bugs you more than to hear on the radio that corn is up adime and they don’t tell you why, and you’re trying to search it and trying figure out what’sgoing on and you should be working.”His ability to make a well-informed decision hinges on knowing why the markets change.Another producer summed it up well, “Not so much how (I get my information), but when.Make it short and sweet so I can make decisions and still do my daily work withoutbeing interrupted.” 12
  14. 14. Producers Remark on Experiences Associated with Technology Upgrades Producers Comment on Their Need for Timely Information 13
  15. 15. Marketing Take Away: The Right TimeThe cycle for mobile adaptation is short, and the higher the income of theproducer, the faster they are to engage in and utilize the latest advancementsin technology.Based on current trends and research, we can assume that half of all producerswill have mobile Internet access by the end of 2011. Love it or hate it, thesmartphone is going to become an important source for information andnetworking; in order to stay current with producers, marketing experts aregoing to have to adapt to this new form of media. 14
  16. 16. The Right TechnologyAs leaps in technology propel many producers ahead, some still lag in acceptance. Forsome, the desire for mobile information is not worth the frustration of its shortcomings.As marketers, we need to optimize what we can to accommodate our demographic andtheir hardware preferences.This is not a new phenomenon. As one female producer stated, “A good website makes abig difference. For people that are developing websites, do it right. If you have lost me on thefirst look, I am not coming back.”Mobile devices can lose an audience even more quickly.“Some (e-newsletters) aren’t compatible…I like to read the newsletters that are formattedfor the Blackberry.” We must be aware that as users migrate to mobile, there is a loss ofreadership for content that is not compatible for mobile devices. 15
  17. 17. On the hardware side, small buttons frustrate big fingers — little screens mean tiny type for“fifty-year-old eyes” — and laptops can be seen as too large to be carried conveniently.We also heard some producers remark how laptop keyboards “fill with dust and theirscreens break.”The shortcomings of current technologies diminish as more hardware options enter themarketplace. They may even help the adoption of tablet technologies like iPad, PlayBookand Android tablet. Producers Comment on the Shortcomings of Current Technology 16
  18. 18. When shown an iPad, almost everyone knew what he or she was looking at. Mostacknowledged it as an improvement over small-screen mobile devices.“It’s the seeing it, if I have to grab my eyeglasses it’s not going to do me any good…if it had bigger print, I could probably take the Internet on the road.”We also heard several comments along this line:“Unfortunately farmers aren’t getting any younger, and that larger screen is a positive.”The few that were already using technologies like wi-fi with an iTouch loved the thought of alarger screen for things they were already doing.Marketers and producers alike hope that tablet technologies will address some of theseissues. But for widespread adoption, these technologies need to be durable, affordableand have reliable Internet access. Marketing Take Away: The Right Technology What marketers need to take away from this is that digital properties are becoming the new face of business, and websites and e-newsletters must be mobile enabled to maintain the attention of the producers. Also, the number of producers using mobile devices will continue to increase with advancements such as larger screens and easier to use buttons. 17
  19. 19. Right for the FutureWe asked producers how they think they will be getting their agricultural news andinformation in the future. Most indicated they expect the mobile platform to play a largerrole in their lives.We heard this from a few producers: “I would really rather just have all of this information onmy Blackberry.”The father of an operation described his sons’ use of mobile: “Their phones are theirright-hand man.”Even though everyone we spoke to believes the use of electronic mediums will grow, mostalso believe that traditional mediums will always have their place.One producer expressed this desire: “I would like to see our industry focus on paperless —more of using e-mail and Internet connections.”Another opinion countered: “I’m not going to sit down and read a whole story onmy Blackberry.” 18
  20. 20. There is an expectation that cutting-edge technology will improve operational efficiencies,relieve some stress and change the way producers interact with agribusinesses.One producer who also works at a cooperative said, “Just knowing that the younger farmerscoming on board are going to be texting — we need to give them the information they needhowever they want it.”Surprisingly, many producers were comfortable with paying a nominal fee for information thatwas truly helpful in running their operations, which is really an indication of how they demandcontrol of their mobile privacy. 19
  21. 21. Tread lightly when reaching farmers on mobile devices.As far as cell phones are concerned, the smaller the screen, the more they protectthat number.Although marketers will try to reach producers through their mobile devices, there are stillprivacy boundaries that should not be crossed. As one producer stated, “I don’t want anyoneon my phone unless it’s important.” The information sent out must also be relevant to theproducer, and it must come from a trusted source. Producers on Mobile and Online Privacy 20
  22. 22. As the world of possibilities opens up for right-sized mobile devices, producers envisiontools that can accommodate their work-styles and grow their bottom line.When we asked them to dream about what a tool like the iPad could do for them, theiranswers weren’t just a bigger screen for weather and markets.New ideas revolved around tracking various data with the added bonus of not being tetheredto a cab. Without exception all ideas were tools for the operation.The largest operation we interviewed already had a few iPads around the office, “We lovethese things…all this data at your fingertips.” Producers Talk About iPads 21
  23. 23. Marketing Take Away: Right for the FutureAs producers look toward the future, more and more of them expect to receiveinformation digitally; therefore, the use of mobile devices is going to grow. Theagribusiness community will need to be creative with how we provide relevantinformation on a mobile platform — as well as how we attach those marketingmessages to relevant information producers want to receive. 22
  24. 24. Right for ConclusionsStereotyping producers based on acreage size, age, gender and experiences outside of thefarming operation can translate to missed marketing communication opportunities.The adoption of mobile devices accelerates as producers adopt in-cab technologies — andtech triggers create faster-than-expected “leapfrogging” along the technology spectrum.Producers already use many digital technologies and continue to watch what’s coming nextvery closely. They expect information to become even more mobile in the near future — andseem ready to embrace it like any other useful tool. 23
  25. 25. Producers Talk About How They See Information Coming to Them in the Future Marketing Take Away: The Right ConclusionsAs we look for the best ways to attach our clients’ brands to the informationproducers consume, we must include the mobile world.However, we must still support the traditional channels producers continue touse and trust, such as print, radio and TV — and work to bridge the gap withimproved digital mediums. 24
  26. 26. A special thanks from Paulsen to all the producers who took time to speak with us about their operations and how they look to the future. We welcome you to continue referencing this study at the ag and rural lifestyle specialists • 605.336.1745 3510 S. First Ave. Circle • Sioux Falls, SD 57105 Follow us: