The pandemic has brought many livelihoods to a halt, but it has served as a catalyst that has spurred an already hot trend towards online sales of machinery and spare parts.
For example, Abilene Machine, one of the country’s largest agricultural machinery parts replacement companies, found that COVID-19 “has increased online purchases of machinery parts to 70% or more of total sales,” says Abilene’s Kenny Roelofsen.
Because of COVID, the in-person auction of machinery may become a thing of the past. Shortly before the end of last year I was surprised that a 17-year-old John Deere 7720 with just over 4,500 hours was sold at auction for $89,000, fetching 50% more than the year before.
What was surprising, however, was that I was able to personally witness the sale of this tractor.
With the exception of “life experience” auctions such as estate or retirement sales (I was present at an estate sale when I saw the 7720 being sold), all other used equipment is sold online, says Tim Meyer of the Steffes Group.
“There are times when a retiring farmer or his family want to see an equipment sale at an event,” explains Meyer. “But the vast majority of used equipment is now only sold online. My goodness, now we see guys living no more than 10 miles away from a live sale, bidding online rather than attending an auction.”
MIGRATION TO ONLINE
The trend has gone so far that other auction houses such as Sullivan Auctioneers have completely migrated to online auctions with their cars and land.
“There is no doubt that online auctioning has become the primary means of selling used machinery,” says Dan Sullivan. “At first, some farmers expressed concern about buying only online. But once they bought or sold through an online auction, they were hooked. You can sit comfortably in your office using your computer, or in the cab of your pickup or tractor using your smartphone and buy what you want.”
Increasingly, equipment dealers are reporting online sales of used equipment from farmers in several states.
In the current tight market with fewer machines available, “farmers are looking further and further away from home to meet their machinery needs,” Meyer adds.
The bastion of personal sales remains new machinery, especially when it comes to buying large and powerful machines.
“Indeed, a guy can buy a set of forks for a loader or a rear blade online,” says Meyer. “But when it comes to a four-wheel drive tractor or combine, these purchases will still be done in person for some time in the future.”
PARTS SALES BECOME MOBILE
When it comes to spare parts, Roelofsen from Abilene expects sales to be almost entirely mobile.
“We developed our website specifically for selling on smartphones, then for transactions on a tablet and finally on a computer,” he says. “And to help with orders, we offer apps, such as the ‘Will it fit’ widget we developed, which confirms that the part fits the car they are repairing.”
As for the future, “we’re not far off a time when a farmer will find a part on their phone, send in their order and a couple of hours later receive confirmation that the part has been shipped along with a tracking number,” Rulofsen. predicts. “At this point, I predict that more than 90% of our sales will be mobile.”