eCommerce for Horticulture and Agriculture: A Beginner's Guide
Learn about the importance of eCommerce in agriculture and horticulture. Discover the different components and best practices of eCommerce.
It's nearly impossible to name an industry that hasn't been impacted by digital transformation – agriculture and horticulture are no exception. While agriculture industries have long used technology to maximize crop yields and manage operations, they are now applying eCommerce to their sales processes to accommodate customer preferences for digital purchasing.
Just like manufacturers, farmers and growers must address increasing competition and shrinking profit margins. After all, you are producers too! So, whether you grow corn or flowers, your business has a lot to gain by expanding your sales channels and better engaging your buyers with eCommerce for horticultural and agricultural organizations.
Let's begin exploring the importance of eCommerce in horticulture and agriculture and then move on to discuss the different components, best practices, and ideal features of eCommerce for these industries.
DOWNLOAD NOW (Free White Paper) - Growing Crops, Plants, and Profit
Why is eCommerce important in horticulture and agriculture?
At DynamicWeb, we know the key to growing profits and your business is the ability to make data-driven decisions across operations. Let's look at how eCommerce helps you capture and consolidate meaningful data to help you better understand your customers, increase order volumes, and maximize dollars per yield.
Improve the Bottom Line
Connected data enables you to identify inefficiencies, automate processes, and maximize operational effectiveness. Ultimately, you need all kinds of data to improve your profit margins. With integrated eCommerce, you can analyze data at every level, including your website, sales, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
Expand Sales Channels
eCommerce opens your business 24/7, allowing customers to purchase at their convenience across channels such as your website, email, phone, fax, or any combination. They will no longer have to wait for sales reps to place an order or engage with you during business hours, increasing sales and customer satisfaction.
Unlock New Markets
With eCommerce, you are not only open 24/7 to your typical distributors or customers; you are available to the world. With an inviting, customizable storefront, you can sell directly to anyone who wants to buy, whether a distributor, retailer, restaurant, or end-consumer. Opening your doors to new markets can increase overall sales and even introduce you to new and higher profit markets.
Enhance Visibility and Planning
Your customers need to know precisely what they can buy, how much they can buy, and when. And they don't want to wait for sales reps to get back to them with the answers. An eCommerce platform lets customers view your product details, inventory, pricing, credit limits, etc. This real-time information removes any roadblocks to customers' ability to place orders conveniently.
What are the different components of an agricultural eCommerce business?
Agricultural eCommerce businesses have the same components as businesses in other industries, but the specifics differ somewhat because the products are often live or perishable and have specific handling and storage requirements. Let's take a closer look at the components of eCommerce for agriculture and horticulture.
- eCommerce or Ordering Portal Platform: For agricultural businesses, an eCommerce solution must be able to deliver on time-sensitive sales and meet industry-specific requirements like shipping date-based ordering and transparency into harvest adjustments, seasonal promotions, compliance requirements, and more.
- Product Catalog and Inventory Management: Best managed with a PIM solution that is seamlessly integrated with the eCommerce platform, the product catalog needs rich product details, dynamic search features, and helpful customer resources.
- Payment Gateway: Customers need to be able to pay in the methods most convenient for them, and they need to trust in the security of their transactions. Offering multiple forms of payment, specifically those that cater to B2B buyers, and showing trust badges will help make checkout a breeze.
- Marketing and Promotion: Within marketing, personalization is critical. The eCommerce solution needs to integrate with a content management system (CMS) to create engaging content like gardening guides and tutorials, follow search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, and launch email and social media campaigns, prioritizing personalization throughout all initiatives.
- User Experience (UX) and Design: Personalization is also crucial in UX and design. Thus, the eCommerce solution must enable engaging customer experiences on all channels and at every touchpoint in the buying journey.
- Customer Support: An agricultural eCommerce business must offer robust customer support through multiple channels such as website chatbots, email, phone, FAQs, and DMs on social media.
- Sourcing: Sourcing is a significant part of eCommerce agricultural and horticultural businesses, particularly distributors who select goods from farmers and producers. It allows them to offer diverse product selections, optimize pricing and cost, integrate supply chain operations, and enhance the overall customer experience.
- Storage and Warehousing: Proper storage is essential as it allows for seasonal products to be available all year round and reduces the risk of spoilage or damage from pests.
- Shipping and Logistics: Agriculture and horticulture businesses need reliable carriers to transport live plants and other horticultural products. They also require specific packaging to ensure safe transport for delicate products.
- Regulatory Compliance: Businesses in the agriculture and horticulture industries must be aware of and comply with regulations related to selling and transporting agricultural products, particularly if the live plants are shipped across borders.
- Analytics and Reporting: A staple of eCommerce businesses is the technology and tools to track website traffic, user behavior, and sales data, along with dashboards to visualize data and glean actionable insights.
10 Horticultural and Agricultural eCommerce Best Practices
Horticultural and agricultural businesses must follow these best practices for B2B eCommerce success.
- Understand Your Customers Needs: Conduct thorough customer and market research to understand the target audience. Analyze competitors to identify gaps and opportunities in the market.
- Plan Strategically: Develop a strategic plan with specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely objectives. Engage stakeholders to align on the vision and mission of the business.
- Develop, Organize, and Maintain Rich Product Content: Create detailed product descriptions supported by high-quality images, videos, and relevant documents. Utilize PIM systems to synchronize product data and content across all channels. Structure the site properly and ensure visibility by attending to SEO best practices, starting by ensuring on-page elements like meta titles and descriptions are on point.
- Market Your Products: Use SEO strategies, automated email campaigns, and social media to increase visibility and attract potential customers.
- Personalize the Experience: Tailor product recommendations and content to individual customer preferences, needs, and behaviors. Create immersive and memorable customer experiences that streamline the sales funnel.
- Cultivate Loyalty: Focus on retaining customers by implementing loyalty programs and providing excellent customer service. Build long-term relationships to foster brand loyalty and repeat business.
- Analyze and Optimize: Clearly define business goals and continually gather data on metrics such as conversion rates, customer acquisition channels, and revenue contribution. Gather customer feedback and use data-driven insights to optimize strategies and improve performance.
- Choose a Strong and Suitable eCommerce Partner: Select an eCommerce platform that caters to horticultural and agricultural businesses' unique needs. Ensure seamless integration with ERP systems and prioritize long-term support, scalability, and ease of use.
- Prioritize Integration: Integrate ERP and eCommerce solutions to facilitate seamless data flow and operational efficiency, as symbiotic relationships between systems are necessary for data to move seamlessly and operate efficiently.
- Avoid a Bold Rollout: Implementation can be complex, so it's best to strategize the rollout in phases, beginning with an MVP (minimally viable product) for phase 1 and then proceeding to roll out long-term wishlist features in phase 2 and beyond.
What To Look For in an eCommerce Platform
When evaluating eCommerce for agriculture or horticulture operations, you'll want to be sure to choose a system that is designed for your specific business needs and model. Here are some key features we built into the DynamicWeb eCommerce platform that are critical for your industry.
1. Better planning and ordering processes for customers and sales reps
Provide your customers the ability to order online, entirely at their convenience, with a 24/7 storefront. Tailor your shopping, checkout, and payment experiences for your customer's purchasing requirements. For example, customer pricing and units for wholesale vs. consumer customers. You can also have unique payment options like ACH or digital invoicing.
2. Shipping date filters
Growers and distributors in the agriculture industry often have to make time-sensitive purchases. DynamicWeb allows customers to browse products by shipping date availability, a critical purchasing requirement for perishable inventory.
3. Expanded product details
Many plants and crops are subject to certain requirements, such as Phyto certification and geographic restrictions. Now, you can enrich your products with details such as the best growing conditions, methods, and use cases. You can educate customers and help them quickly search and find the products they need through your product pages and links to associated documentation and web pages.
4. Find a retailer or vendor
Guide your end customers to the closest retail location to purchase your products by offering a "find a vendor" function that serves the customer and supports your distribution and retail networks.
5. Real-time transparency
Customers want real-time visibility into inventory, pricing, and shipping availability. With eCommerce, you can provide the 24/7 transparency they need to make accurate decisions.
6. Personalized product recommendations
eCommerce stores customer preferences and behaviors behind the scenes so you can easily and automatically provide every customer with complementary product recommendations. You can also proactively help them plan better with timely reminders about potential orders that may need to be placed based on their purchase history.
7. Tailored promotions
The ability to customize promotions and move products quickly within expiration timeframes is particularly valuable to agriculture and horticulture organizations. You can also create promotions for specific customers based on their purchase history.
8. Seamless integration with ERP and CRM
As your industry evolves, there is a greater need to integrate your website and eCommerce data with your ERP and CRM. This allows you to connect with financials, operations, and customer data to automate sales from your website, gain deeper insights, and make data-driven decisions.
Agricultural eCommerce with DynamicWeb
DynamicWeb delivers an all-in-one eCommerce suite containing CMS, PIM, and eCommerce - reducing eCommerce complexity without zero compromise to functionality. With the composable eCommerce suite, DynamicWeb is uniquely positioned to support and help horticultural/agricultural businesses drive growth and excel. For agricultural and horticultural businesses, DynamicWeb can help expand sales channels, empower customers with online purchasing options, make data-driven decisions to improve profit margins, and more.
To learn more about DynamicWeb's horticultural and agricultural eCommerce solutions, contact us today.
DOWNLOAD NOW (Free White Paper) - Growing Crops, Plants, and Profit