Attendees to the annual Farm Progress Show have always enjoyed kicking the tires on new ag equipment and indulging on a variety of freebies from vendors. 

The 2019 event in Decatur, Ill., offered the same opportunities, but there was a noticeable shift in how some companies chose to interact with visitors. On more than one occasion, my first point of contact was a tablet to “register” for entry to an exhibitor’s booth. 

Data harvesting is not a new trend for businesses — or consumers for that matter — as it’s become socially acceptable to have to share your name and email to get something in return.

In fact, one of the more creative efforts on the show grounds was an un-staffed vending machine which gave attendees a company-logoed hat in return for registering some pertinent information. Each time I passed the location, the line was at least 10 deep.

Other companies added incentives to their data-collection efforts, conducting scavenger hunts for attendees, which often took them to partners’ booths or demonstrations.

I decided to camp out for a few minutes at one of the booths where staff were soliciting information from attendees. The majority of people provided their name and email without question and engaged in conversation with staff about their latest product offerings for a bit before moving on.

(Ironically, after registering to enter the booth, I heard one visitor express skepticism over the motives of companies like Amazon and Google trying to tap into the pipeline of farmer data.)

There’s a changing mindset for how and when companies (including dealerships) engage customers and create lasting touchpoints, long after those initial conversations take place at farm shows.