When we launched our portal in the Fall of 2021, we gave ourselves a year to see if our mission was in line with producer interests and sentiments. We were greatly encouraged with the progress we were making throughout the next year. In 2022 we attracted more than 20,000 visitors, spending 1500 hours on the site, 4.5 minutes per visit; towards the end of the year site visits had ramped up to about 200/day. At that juncture, we reached the conclusion that the first phase of our mission had been “validated”, and that we would proceed with the next.
With the release of our revamped portal towards the end of January 2023, we gave more emphasis to why overseas buyers should procure directly from Prairie sources and get the grains they buy delivered to their own facilities in containers. We also gave more emphasis to the role our platform would play in assisting buyers find the crop varieties they need, consolidate from multiple sources to meet their volume requirements, and look after their servicing/logistics arrangements for container-deliveries to be made to their doorsteps with crop-quality intact.
A couple weeks later we launched a Facebook-campaign to reach buyers across Asia Pacific, which proved very effective in penetrating Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. In the last 20 days, we attracted 16,000 visitors – in another week we expect this volume to reach above 20,000, as many visitors as we attracted locally from the Prairies in all of 2022. Our daily traffic is up to 800 visitors, with an interim peak at above 1000, on average spending 3 minutes on the site – an indication of fairly serious interest, not just casual web-surfing. In the coming weeks we will fine-tune our ad-campaign to entice visitors not only to visit but also sign-up, so that we can engage with as many of them as possible through e-mail and online-chats.
We knew that Facebook was not going to be effective in reaching grain-buyers in China, Japan, or Korea; accordingly, we had to find alternative social-media channels to reach our targeted audiences. In China, we now have a marketing-team that is reaching out to targeted corporate buyers through a consultative-sales process, while setting up local social-media pages (WeChat and Weibo) to attract traffic to our portal (soon to be available in Chinese).
Though Facebook is available in Japan and Korea, it is not the prime conduit to business audiences. In Korea, we will establish a presence through Naver, the main search-engine but also a dominant player in social-media. In Japan, though Google remains the primary search engine, Line has become the most widely used social-media platform, thus our plans to use it as our primary reach-channel in the coming months. Both these countries have to be approached in their native languages (which we have the inhouse capacity for) but we are also exploring the need for internet-ad-agencies to reach the audiences we are targeting.
In a nutshell, we have achieved much quicker results in reaching out to Philippine, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam, but our challenge in the coming weeks is to deepen that engagement through direct contacts. We have little to report on China, Japan, and Korea, but we are making progress. We now have boots on the ground in China, our largest export destination (a third of our grain-exports this crop-year to date) and a market we are much familiar with to pursue direct-sales contacts even before we establish an effective social-media presence. Japan and Korea are going to take more time, but at least we have an approach-strategy worked out.
We are happy to report the progress we have made in Asia Pacific markets, and hope to achieve much more in identifying actual export opportunities in the coming months. Stay tuned; we will be updating you on our reach-campaigns every 2-3 weeks!