The Evolution of Digital Business

After 20+ years of conducting business in the digital era, we are starting to reach an age of maturity when it comes to our digital ecosystems. Gone are the days where simply existing on social media or having a website was sufficient. Instead, customers are expecting more out of their online interactions with brands.

In 2020, there are many digital-first organizations that are setting a new standard for online customer experience – think of companies like Netflix, Lyft, Spotify, and Dollar Shave Club. These are not your direct competitors, but your customers are their customers, and interactions with those brands are changing your customers’ expectations for how they want to interact with you.

Despite the sophisticated digital tools that are available, and the changing behaviours and expectations of our customers, agri-marketers have been slow to adapt. We believe that this failure to embrace digital transformation has been fueled by a few implicit assumptions (which we believe are patently false):

Assumption 1: Farmers aren’t like regular consumers and are not “digital”.

Assumption 2: Sales teams can only succeed primarily due to personal interactions with customers (face-to-face).

Assumption 3: “Digital” is an add-on to our other business activities, not something that becomes a core competency.

These assumptions lead to the stagnation of a digital ecosystem and hinder the organization’s ability to compete in a hyper-competitive and connected digital world. In today’s age of digital maturity, organizations that do not fully embrace the transformation to operating as a digital business are being left behind by more progressive industries. Evolution and transformation require us to step away from day-to-day management to intentionally review the digital ecosystem through the eyes of your customers.

Stage 1: Digital Presence

In digital presence, mere existence on digital platforms is satisfactory. ”We have to have a website.”” We need a Facebook page.” We need some fresh content.” Sound familiar?


There is little digital strategy and the digital presence doesn’t support any specific business need.

In this evolutionary stage, websites and social media exist to provide a digital presence for their customers, but these are not consistently updated or monitored. Digital advertising efforts are sporadic.

Based on a digital ecosystem assessment of agriculture companies, we estimate approximately 30% of organizations fall within “digital presence”.

Stage 2: Digital Marketing

In digital marketing, activities are more deliberate and support the core marketing activities like brand or product awareness, lead generation, or sales. Digital activities are consistent and push users towards a web presence.


Digital activities augment marketing activities and success is measured based on digital metrics such as impressions, clicks, website traffic or conversions. In this evolutionary phase, we’ve taken offline marketing activities and moved them into an online environment.

Based on a digital ecosystem assessment of agriculture companies, we estimate approximately 65% of organizations fall within “digital marketing”.

Stage 3: Digital Business

In this evolutionary stage, all business activities are Integrated digitally to create a consistent customer experience. The customer lies at the heart of the digital business, as marketing, sales and service all work to reduce friction in the customer experience.


In digital business, success in the digital environment is measured based on business results such as revenue, customer lifetime value, churn rate, etc.

Based on a digital ecosystem assessment of agriculture companies, we estimate approximately 5% of organizations fall within “digital business”.


Understanding the evolution of digital business helps us to be intentional about how we build and manage our digital ecosystems. This can present a roadmap for improvements, additions and removals to our portfolio of websites, social media, mobile apps and digital technology.

There is plenty of opportunity for those in the agriculture industry to embrace digital business transformation and integrate it into every piece of the customer experience. We believe that embracing change is critical to thrive and prosper in an era of digital maturity.