Connecting Agribusinesses with their customers
We recently joined our sister company Hornbeam at their roundtable session where Agribusinesses came together for an interesting discussion on the opportunities that digital presents, for driving growth and increased customer engagement.
Many Agribusinesses operate in rural locations, so we started the discussion by exploring potential barriers in getting access to online services.
How are we getting online?
While UK households are increasingly able to access the Internet (London and the South East record the highest levels of connectivity at 94%), business connectivity lags behind.
The UK Government claims to have connected over 42,000 businesses through the Connection Voucher Scheme. And, they say, over 80% of SMEs (small and medium enterprises) now have access to superfast broadband, up from 68% coverage a year ago.
But, business connectivity continues to lag behind residential connectivity with 8% of small businesses, mainly in rural locations, without access to broadband speeds of 10Mbps or above.
It is essential that outdoor mobile services - such as basic talk, text and data are available wherever we live, work and travel.
All four mobile network operators now have a legally binding obligation to reach at least 90% landmass coverage by the end of this year, and by the end of 2017 the government expects 98% of the UK’s landmass to have outdoor 4G data coverage and around 98% of UK premises should have indoor 4G coverage from at least one operator.
Given the rate of growth in the past year and the Government’s commitment we cannot ignore the fact that connectivity is increasing. This will continue to drive more online consumption and grow the demand for easy, frictionless, and personalized experiences.
How do we spend our time there?
The Office for National Statistics has recorded growth in digital consumption and online behaviours in recent years.
Email is the most common digital activity (82% of adults use it) followed by using the Internet to find information about goods and services (71% of adults). The number of adults accessing the Internet ‘on the go’ has more than doubled since 2011 with nearly three-quarters of adults using a mobile phone or smartphone to get online.
In the past decade the number of adults reading news, newspapers or magazines online has tripled, from 20% of adults in 2007 to 64% in 2017, while over three quarters of adults now buy goods or services online and over two-thirds access online banking in 2017.
The Internet is no longer just the preserve of the young. Recent statistics show that 79% of men and 76% of women aged 65 to 74 years old are using online services.
And then there is the rise of social media...
GlobalWebIndex conducted a recent study of 16 - 64 year olds, to find out how people spend their time online. On average over 30% of the total time is spent on social media. That’s an average of 2 hours and 15 minutes per day on social networks and messaging apps, an increase of 45 minutes per day, per user from 2012.
There is limited UK data on social media usage but Social Farmers conducted research with its social masterclass attendees and found that respondents believed that 49% of those actively farming in the UK, were using social media, and that this percentage would increase to 68% by 2020.
Understanding customer behaviour
The purchasing behaviour of people is also changing as rapidly as the digital landscape itself. Today prospective purchasers are already up to 90% of the way through their buying journey when they make contact with a brand. They’ve researched their needs and assessed the options, before making contact.
Agricultural brands are no different from any other. Agribusinesses should be adopting best practice through effective digital strategy to engage, inform, influence and drive conversions.
One of the fundamentals of good digital strategy is thinking ‘audience first’. Designing digital communications and services around an audience's’ needs and motivations is more effective and drives a more engaging customer experience.
Understanding what your customers need or want your product or service for is vital.
This sounds perfectly logical. But some companies organise their website navigation around their internal structure and use menu headings that mean nothing to the customer.
For example?, products and services that have started off with a technology solution first and then worked out how people will use it as a secondary priority. Increasingly, websites or apps that look amazing until you try and use them and realise that you can’t find what you need.
Customers will go elsewhere if the user experience is poor. In our busy lives we just don’t have the time to find things that aren’t obvious.
Building personas is a technique that puts brands in the shoes of their users and makes them think of the product or service from their viewpoint. This approach keeps the user at the heart of everything.
The developed personas provide the foundation for mapping the user journey. Where are the touchpoints? Where will your audience find you? It’s important to consider offline as well as online.
Content is critical
Before you Tweet, post, blog or publish a new page, consider what content will make your audience tick? How and when would they prefer to find the information they are looking for? Consider segmentation by presenting your content across different channels to suit different audience needs based on identified personas makes for a more personal and engaging experience.
Brands are competing in a world full of attention grabbing media, and we have just a few seconds to make that ‘meaningful connection,’ which may be in the form of an impression (being viewed in a feed), a comment or share, referral or click through.
Seeing your content at the right time in the right place can make all the difference between customer engagement and ‘scroll past’, and channel choice should be driven by purpose rather than the desire to ‘sell’.
Consistent messaging is key. Will your audience recognise you across all your channels? Do you speak with the same voice at all customer touch-points?
Matching audience insight and digital interactions with each stage of the buying process can help you build a relationship with your potential customer, making you their first choice when it comes to purchase.
The discussion ended with all agreeing that one of the most advantageous aspects of optimising for digital experiences is the ability to track engagement and activity across multiple channels, including emails, website, content on third party platforms, social media and through surveys, though many of the Agribusinesses in attendendance recognised they still had some way to go to get the best from it.
You might also like to read our guide to user-centred design.