• Feb 27, 2018

Tomorrow's Coffee Shop

Visit any small town in rural America and you’ll likely find groups of farmers sitting around chatting in convenience stores, ag retail offices and restaurants. For years they have gathered to discuss the markets and local happenings, and to share stories of success on their farms. But today, that group of people in the coffee shop rarely represents the multiple generations who are actively working on family farms.
Farmers are more connected        
One thing about that group of farmers that has changed recently is the number who use smartphones. During the fall and spring, a quick glance at the social media feed of anyone in the ag industry reveals numerous photos and videos of field work. Farmers’ ability to connect with peers today is unlike any other time in history. A recent study by Flurry Analytics revealed that the average U.S. consumer spends five hours a day on their mobile devices. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that many farmers are using mobile technology more hours a day than that.
Today farmers interact with each other in ways that were not available to them a few years ago. A brief search of Twitter users and LinkedIn members revealed some interesting results: 17,250 Twitter users identify themselves as farmers in their bios, and 95,843 LinkedIn members have “farmer” listed as their title/occupation. It’s interesting to note that the Department of Agriculture’s 2012 Census of Agriculture reported just over 82,000 farms of 2,000 acres or more. While it’s difficult to cross-reference the two datasets, it’s not a stretch to say that many of those large farms probably have operators with some sort of social media presence. Another interesting fact from the survey is that of the 2.1 million farms in the U.S., nearly 1.5 million of them have intenet service. That means nearly 70 percent of all farms were “connected” in 2012, up from 50 percent in 2002. 
Meet customers where they are     
The most innovative agriculture retailers of the future will have to challenge themselves to continue evolving to meet their customers where they are. The ag retail system has a proud and storied history of building strong relationships with customers based on trust and local knowledge. Fostering strong personal relationships with farmers is going to be just as important in the future as it is today. Our industry is still driven by people buying from people, although the places where these retailers interact with their customers may change.
Word-of-mouth recommendations are still the most effective way for businesses to build their brand. Studies done in recent years indicate that 84 percent of people think that word-of-mouth recommendations are the most trustworthy source of product information. And 73 percent of millennials see it as their responsibility to guide their peers to smart purchase decisions.
As family farm decision-makers continue to transition to millennial buyers, leveraging this generation’s willingness to share positive experiences will be key for successful ag retailers of the future. The way those retailers build and share their brand offerings must evolve to incorporate a robust digital strategy. Today farmers browse online discussion boards to ask for recommendations or to share insights. With one click, they can distribute positive customer service stories to millions of people. That’s pretty profound.
Tomorrow’s coffee shop is already in the palm of your customers’ hands. What are you doing to be present where your customers are?