Techworld

Elders chases rural clicks with online store

Rural services company will use CRM to target farmers in different locations and who are dealing with different pests

Australian rural services supplier, Elders, has climbed aboard the e-commerce bandwagon, launching a website called Agsure that makes it easier for farmers to order supplies such as pesticides.

Speaking at a NetSuite press and analyst briefing in Sydney this week, Elders Australia marketing and strategy general manager Mark Geraghty said that the website development followed market research into what farmers wanted from the supplier.

“Farmers want to shop online for all sorts of products and services. They’re researching online like everybody else does and want to trade 24/7- not just when our stores are open,” he said.

Q&A: Elders CIO, Shaun Hughes

Geraghty added that the demographic of farmers is changing from the traditional “crusty old farmer” to younger farmers who have grown up with computers and mobile phones.

For example, even though the Agsure website has only been operating for two weeks, a third of the traffic is coming via smartphones.

“The website has been optimised for mobile phones because that is critical to farmers who are on the move all day,” he said.

There are also plans underway to develop Agsure iPhone and Android apps by 2013 to make it even easier for farmers to place orders.

According to Geraghty, Elders made a decision in late 2011 that it would “get serious” about e-commerce.

In February 2012, the company selected NetSuite’s SuiteCommerce to manage its online business cycle including e-commerce, financials, supply chain, inventory and customer relationship management (CRM).

Geraghty confirmed that the firm planned to use the CRM services to eventually build a profile of its customers and their seasonal spending habits.

For instance, there are plans to send out targeted emails to farmers which will take into account the state or territory they live in, the type of pests they are dealing with and what type of farming they are in- such as dairy, beef and sheep.

According to Geraghty, the use of NetSuite gave the company the advantage of getting to market faster. “The development of the online store and an enterprise wide system took only six months,” he said.

“It [the website] also reflects a pricing strategy which makes it slightly cheaper to market. Without a physical store network, the cost of running the [online] business is lower so the pricing strategy can reflect that.”

However, he added that Elders did not plan to close any of its physical branch networks as some farmers needed supplies “right away” rather than waiting for the online delivery to turn up at their station.

“We don’t see physical and online fighting each other because there is a need for both channels,” said Geraghty.

The farming social network

In addition to launching its own website, Elders may plan to use social media sites such as Facebook to connect with farmers in remote areas.

“Farmers, particularly in Australia, suffer from isolation. You’re a long way from anyone so connecting online with the rural community means they can feel like they are part of something,” he said. Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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