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On the Willingness of Fujian Farmers to Sell Agricultural Products by Means of New Media from the Perspective of Rural Revitalization: Analysis Model Design Based on Programmed Grounded Theory
In the post-epidemic era, it is difficult for farmers to sell agricultural products offline due to their characteristics, and farmers once again fall into the situation of “difficult sales.” New media marketing of agricultural products, as an emerging form conforming to the trend of the times, not only increases farmers’ income but also promotes industrial integration and development. However, as this model is still in the early stage of development, a large number of farmers are not willing to transform the traditional sales channels into new media marketing for agricultural product sales. In this study, the interview data of 76 new-type professional farmers in Fujian were analyzed by three-level coding based on programmed grounded theory. It is found that core factors, and macro- and microfactors such as farmers’ characteristics and sales situation will affect farmers’ willingness to sell agricultural products through new media. Therefore, this study deeply explores the relationship between farmers’ willingness and various factors and puts forward three suggestions for solving the actual problems of agricultural product sales.
In the era of mobile Internet, agricultural products are difficult to sell due to the lack of good sales channels. Moreover, affected by the epidemic, offline sales of agricultural products have become increasingly difficult, and farmers are trapped in the predicament of “difficult sales.” The new media marketing of agricultural products is accelerating its development by virtue of its low marketing cost, rapid information dissemination, and other advantages. Under the new media, the new business form, live streaming e-commerce of agricultural products, has emerged, which not only improves farmers’ income but also promotes industrial integration and speeds up the development of the agricultural economy. In 2022, the No. 1 Central Document proposed the implementation of the project of “Revitalizing agriculture by developing digital commerce” to enable the development of rural e-commerce through digital elements and data elements and jointly open up a new era of new media marketing of agricultural products.
At present, this new mode is still in the preliminary stage of development under the new media. With the increasingly fierce competition in agricultural product sales in the new track, the means of live streaming e-commerce and short video marketing of agricultural products are flexible and changeable. Due to the particularity of agricultural products and the lack of new media marketing talents, as well as the immaturity of operating basis, platform rules and regulations, and industry norms, a large number of farmers are unwilling to change the traditional sales channels and explore new media means for sales. In this context, it is of great significance to deeply explore the willingness and mechanism of farmers to promote the sale of agricultural products by means of live streaming e-commerce and short video marketing from the perspective of new media, so as to solve the problem of farmers’ “difficulty in selling” and realize rural revitalization through industrial revitalization.
2. Overview of Related Research
2.1. UTAUT Theory
UTAUT theory  holds that there are four core dimensions of factors affecting users’ willingness and behaviors to adopt new information technologies. (1) PE (performance expectancy) means the degree to which an individual feels from the inside to be helpful to his or her job by using an advanced technology. The greater the degree of help is, the stronger the willingness of users to adopt. (2) EE (effort expectancy) refers to how much time and energy an individual has to invest in learning to use the technology. (3) SI (social influence) appertains to the degree to which the perception of the people around the adoption of certain information technology affects an individual. (4) FC (facilitating conditions) signifies the degree to which an individual perceives that the external environment is sufficient for the adoption of new information technology (Figure 1).
2.2. Research Studies on the Development Model of Farmers’ E-Commerce
Jalali AA et al. studied the development of rural e-commerce in Iran and proposed a new practice model for its effective development. Xie et al. summarized development models of farmers’ e-commerce from the perspective of regional collaborative development as A2A, A2B, and B2A. Among them, the A2B mode refers to the establishment of a relevant website with complete and timely information or an effective management platform for suppliers and purchasers to integrate resources and carry out online transactions with the help of third-party logistics .
Domestic scholar Lyu proposed an e-commerce model of fresh agricultural products based on supply chain integration and basic social network to deal with the unsalable products caused by excessive supply chain links of fresh agricultural products . Huang and Wang conducted a study on Anhui Province’s characteristic agricultural products’ e-commerce based on e-commerce models such as “origin + platform + consumer” and “platform + self-support + consumer” .
2.3. Research Studies on Factors Affecting Farmers’ E-Commerce Entrepreneurial Behaviors
2.3.1. Subjective Cognition
Berglund believed that “Entrepreneurship for survival” and “Entrepreneurship for an opportunity” are two motivations of modern farmers. According to Liu, there is a positive correlation between the willingness of e-commerce operators to sell agricultural products in virtue of e-commerce and the perceived usefulness, ease of use, and profits . Social trust proposed by Wenetal and individual innovation proposed by Mao have a positive effect on the willingness to use e-commerce for sales .
2.3.2. Individual Traits
Yao and Zhu research showed that, with the growth of age, farmers tend to be conservative in their ideas, and farmers of different genders also have different behavioral choices . Korgaonkar et al. considered that age has a negative impact on farmers’ willingness to engage in e-commerce sales. In addition, Li pointed out that people with higher education are better at using emerging Internet means and computer technology to participate in the e-commerce of agricultural products .
2.3.3. External Environment
Arayesh  stated that social economy, privacy and security, infrastructure, and national policies are the main factors affecting farmers’ adoption of agricultural product e-commerce. Mao said that external conditions such as the market environment, national economic policies, and related services have a greater impact on farmers’ willingness to use e-commerce for sales than operators’ own factors . In terms of government policies, Huang believes that national policies such as e-commerce subsidies have little impact on farmers’ willingness to choose e-commerce . According to Su et al., external factors such as network facilities, traffic conditions, and government support at the current stage have little influence on the use of new media for marketing .
Studies by scholars at home and abroad mostly focus on farmers’ use of marketing behavior, but rarely discuss farmers’ willingness to use e-commerce, especially new media to sell agricultural products. With reference to the research of domestic and foreign scholars, this study, on the strength of the programmed grounded theory, analyzes the willingness of farmers to sell agricultural products through new media, including live streaming and short video sales to determine the corresponding relationship between key influencing factors and farmers’ willingness and to explore the formation mechanism, so as to better play the role of new media marketing in solving farmers’ “difficulty in selling” and helping rural revitalization.
3. Research Contents
3.1. Research Methods
Grounded theory is an exploratory qualitative research method proposed by American scholars Strauss and Glaser that obtains the original data through in-depth interviews and abstracts and condenses the original data through three-level coding, with social phenomena and problems as the research object, so that a scientific and reasonable theory and model and a bottom-up systematic theory are established to deeply analyze the existing problems.
In this study, in-depth interviews with new professional farmers in Fujian Province are conducted, and the willingness of farmers in Fujian Province to sell agricultural products through new media marketing is studied using the research paradigm of Straus’ programmed grounded theory [13–16]. Nvivo12plus software is used as an auxiliary coding tool to reduce, screen, and extract the original data in the form of open coding, spindle coding, and selective coding, determine the concept and category, and finally establish the theoretical framework model [17–20].
3.2. Data Collection
In this study, a total of 76 new-type professional farmers are selected as the interview objects, including 40 males and 36 females, aged between 31 and 50 years, more than 90% of whom have a high school or junior college education. After obtaining the consent of the interviewees, a face-to-face semistructured interview is conducted, and the interview content is recorded by mobile phone. The average interview time is 45 minutes, the longest is 75 minutes, and the shortest is 40 minutes. The whole interview process strictly follows the research paradigm of grounded theory. Thirty five copies of text information were organized according to the recorded information, of which, 30 are randomly selected for coding analysis combined with the details such as tone and expression of interviewees marked by on-site observation, and the remaining 5 are used for the theoretical saturation test.
The interview outline and specific contents are set around the investigation of farmers’ willingness to use new media for agricultural product marketing. From the four dimensions of PE, EE, SI, and FC, 26 related interview questions are designed based on the UTAUT model of “integration theory of technology adoption and utilization,” involving the personal situation of farmers, application of agricultural products e-commerce to product sales, and personal attitudes towards new media marketing of agricultural products. Then, in strict accordance with the theme of new media marketing intention, these data are screened, processed, and numbered for and coding.
4. Coding Analysis and Model Building
4.1. Open Coding
In grounded theory, the first is to conduct an open coding analysis on all interview data texts; that is, the interviewer will code, conceptualize, and categorize the data in the original text records of interviewees, so as to form the original data statements, as well as initial concepts and categories. In this study, Nvivo12plus software [21–25] is used to sort out the interview materials, and more than 300 original sentences are obtained. Then, 37 initial concepts and 17 effective initial categories are generated by categorizing the initial concepts with word frequency greater than 2 times. Specific information is shown in Table 1.
4.2. Axial Coding
Axial coding is carried out after open coding. In this process, the initial concepts formed should be first analyzed and refined through cluster analysis and then put into the local social and cultural background for practical analysis to refine the main categories and merge the secondary categories. In the second round of coding, this study extracts eight main categories: natural conditions, characteristics of agricultural products, financial costs, social culture, population structure, the government environment, and the characteristics of farmers and sales. Specific information is shown in Table 2.
4.3. Selective Coding
In this study, eight main categories [26–30] of natural conditions, the characteristics of agricultural products, financial costs, social culture, population structure, the government environment, and the characteristics of farmers and sales are first determined by axial coding to form and develop the story line of “farmers’ willingness to engage in new media marketing.” Then, the logical relations among the factors of each category are integrated to construct the theoretical model framework of the research problem.
4.4. Model Building
After refining 35 original texts, 17 initial categories, and 8 main categories and sorting out the “story line” through selective coding, the research model of farmers’ willingness to sell agricultural products by means of new media marketing is finally constructed. The results show that farmers’ willingness to sell is influenced by eight factors, including natural conditions, characteristics of agricultural products, financial costs, social culture, population structure, government environment, characteristics of farmers, and sales. The model is shown in Figure 2.
4.5. Theoretical Saturation Test
Nvivo12plus software is used here to import the five unanalyzed interview text materials into the coding verification. The results show that no new concepts and categories are found in the theoretical saturation test, and the sample data can no longer generate new theories. It can be seen that the research model of farmers’ willingness to sell agricultural products through new media marketing based on the programmed grounded theory has reached theoretical saturation and thus has certain realistic explanatory power.
5. Discussion and Analysis
5.1. Impact of Macrofactors on Farmers’ Willingness to Sell Agricultural Products through New Media
With the wide use of new media, agricultural product marketing also ushered in a rare opportunity for development. However, due to the late start and a weak development base of new media in China, the majority of farmers, restricted by geographical location and the overall low-level of economic development, as well as the influence of long-term traditional culture, are relatively conservative and slow to accept new things. In addition, affected by such problems as poor infrastructure and unstable Internet speed in the outward environment, new media marketing is still in its infancy with a relatively low penetration rate, although the national government has strongly supported farmers to participate in rural e-commerce in recent years. Hence, farmers’ willingness to sell agricultural products using new media is influenced by social culture, population structure, and policy environments. Moreover, in the use of new media, most farmers show a herd mentality. According to the interview data, some interviewees think that “Being an ordinary person, I am conservative and used to rely on my own experience.” And when asked about “the influence of the external environment on my willingness to use new agricultural products marketing methods,” some interviewees say “I will use e-commerce only after many peers around me have adopted it.” Also, some interviewees express visceral resistance, saying, “Especially when it comes to ‘showing up’ on camera and interacting with fans in the studio, I am reluctant.”
5.2. Impact of Microfactors on Farmers’ Willingness to Sell Agricultural Products through New Media
Microfactors mainly refer to the natural conditions, characteristics of agricultural products, financial costs, and other key links closely related to the production and management of agricultural products.
Natural conditions include climate, temperature, and environment suitable for the production or processing of agricultural products. For a long time, the cultivation, processing, and production of agricultural products have been highly dispersed and small in size due to the influence of multiple factors, and too little sales result in the failure to form the influence of products. In the interview, when asked about “factors affecting the sale of agricultural products,” 17.81% of the farmers said that their products were small in quantity and difficult to sell. Scale and concentrated production are the premise of building agricultural products brand. The lack of a certain scale makes it costly to build information platforms, trading platforms, and circulation channels, which leads to the difficulty of unified processing and marketing of agricultural products. In the interview, nearly 60% of the interviewees think that there is no good sales channel, and 30% consider that the cost of trading on the platform is high.
Quality is the premise of building a brand and selling well. In new media marketing, when consumers can only indirectly perceive products through short videos and live streaming rooms, farmers are more needed to check the quality of agricultural products. Whether to have qualification, certification, and standardization is an indispensable “inspection rule” of high-quality agricultural products, which directly determines the quality of agricultural products. In the interview, when it came to “factors affecting the sale of agricultural products,” 15.07% of farmers believe that it is difficult to guarantee the quality of their products, which affects their willingness.
Financial costs are mainly reflected as product packaging, logistics, and advertising costs to attract fans on new media platforms. In the new media marketing, it is necessary to attract consumers’ “eyes” more from the sensory experience of consumers and to maximize the safety and undamaged arrival of agricultural products to consumers from the perspective of storage and transportation. Therefore, in new media marketing, farmers need to consider the cost of physical packaging and storage and transportation packaging. In addition, new anchors and vloggers need to spend a certain amount of money to attract fans. These marketing costs are also factors influencing farmers’ use of new media to sell their produce.
5.3. Impact of Farmers’ Characteristics on Their Willingness to Sell Agricultural Products through New Media
The characteristics of farmers, such as personalities, long-formed habits, education level, and personal and family income level, are core factors affecting their willingness to use new media marketing. In the interview of farmers who have adopted new media marketing to sell agricultural products and obtained better income compared with the previous year, it is found that 91.78% of the farmers have a high school or college degree or above. Furthermore, 62.12% of farmers say that “I don't want to be too conservative, and I like to break through the present,” and 35.17% of farmers think “I am a person who dares to think and do. I am willing to try electronic products and new things and get started quickly.” In terms of “attitude towards new media marketing in rural areas,” 45.21% of farmers express great interest and 41.1% express interest. Meanwhile, farmers’ income status will affect their willingness since the level of income affects their personal cognition to a certain extent. Benefiting from their good economic basis, farmers with high income are more willing to explore new ways to expand sales channels of agricultural products.
5.4. Impact of Sales Status on Farmers’ Willingness to Sell Agricultural Products through New Media
The sales status herein refers to the unit price, profit level, sales risk, and sales cycle of agricultural products provided by farmers for the third parties.
When the unit price of agricultural products is high, it is difficult for farmers to sell them through short videos or live broadcast rooms, and vice versa. In the interview, interviewees say that 40% of the tea produced by them that has higher price than other agricultural products are sold through offline wholesale markets, distributors, or agents, and 25% is sold online. Farmers who choose new media marketing say that “as the source producer, they can get more profits by choosing new media for sales.” On the contrary, farmers who grow less profitable agricultural products are less willing to choose new media for sales.
Farmers generally believe that merchants’ acquisition in traditional offline sales channels is the most stable, rapid, and convenient, but the price and sales volume of products brought by online new media marketing are unstable. Also, there is a popular belief among them that, under the background of new media marketing, the product sales cycle is affected by the individual’s knowledge of new media technology, live streaming sales technology, and short video production technology. Therefore, farmers, who lack professional new media marketing technology, generally express their concern about the use of new media marketing. Nearly half of the interviewees say that they only understand the basic use of new media tools, but have some difficulty in applying them to marketing or they cannot use new media tools. In the interview with the theme of “The most important problems to be solved in participating in rural e-commerce,” most of the interviewees indicate that they are in urgent need of training and technical guidance of professional e-commerce talents or in urgent need of being trained as professional new media operation talents.
6. Strategies and Suggestions
6.1. Strengthening the Training of Farmers on New Media Marketing Techniques
Strengthening the training of farmers on new media marketing techniques of agricultural products can improve their cognition of e-commerce, psychologically shorten their distance from new sales methods, and enhance their willingness to use new media. First of all, to strengthen the training support of new media marketing, a combination of horizontal and horizontal training can be adopted to make full use of the advantages of new media marketing related majors in agricultural colleges and universities under the coordination of “government, school, industry, and enterprise” for rural revitalization. The practical operation skills of farmers should be strengthened by improving new professional farmers’ educational background and training them on rural live streaming e-commerce and new media operation so that farmers can get familiar with the operation process of new media operation. Secondly, the opportunities for cooperation with large e-commerce platforms can be increased to train farmers on the production quality of agricultural products and e-commerce transactions and improve their skills in product production and network information technology processing, so as to enable them to better resist future risks and enhance their willingness to use new media to sell agricultural products.
6.2. The Government Issue a “Package” of New Media Marketing Support Policies
Governments at all levels should encourage farmers to their agricultural products using new media and promote rural revitalization through industrial revitalization. In terms of top-level design, better service and support policies should be introduced in various aspects such as industrial development planning, new media talent training, and follow-up service guarantee. First, build the brand of agricultural products. New media cloud support is provided for agricultural products with strong regional representation, a large number of employees and considerable market potential, so as to shape local characteristic brands. Secondly, prepare training materials for farmers’ new media marketing, as well as supporting teaching plans, courseware and microclass short videos. To highlight the main line of selling agricultural products through new media, the electronic textbook package can adopt methods of navigation-style bookmarks, “nanny level” companionship, and the way of accessing knowledge at any time through “clicking.” Thirdly, the professional new media operation team develops the operation package of “live streaming e-commerce of agricultural products” at a suitable price for farmers who are willing to buy it. By simplifying the process of new media, this operation package enables farmers to experience the use of new media marketing methods with “low cost and zero distance,” accumulating operation experience, such as setting character and attracting fans and learning efficient output, so that farmers can become local talents of live streaming e-commerce of agricultural products with their own characteristics and the gold spokesperson of local agricultural products.
6.3. Build the Brand of High-Quality Agricultural Products by Giving Full Play to the Value of Producing Area
Brand building is a crucial link for farmers to open the market with agricultural products. In the investigation of farmers’ willingness to sell agricultural products through new media, it is found that most farmers are reluctant to sell their products through new media because of the sales difficulties caused by the lack of brand promotion. In response to the proposal to take action to improve varieties, enhance qualities, build brands, and promote standardized production of agricultural products in No. 1 Central Document for agricultural product branding construction, the government should enhance the brand construction of agricultural products. First is brand empowerment. The tourism Bureau, agriculture Bureau, and other forces and resources are integrated to form a new media marketing force to boost agriculture. The professional team will select 1-2 single agricultural products with local characteristics according to regional resource advantages and market thinking and carry out brand construction through packaging design, trademark registration, relevant certification, and other ways. The second is content distribution. A series of promotional videos, brand promotion activities, and food selection activities are launched by making full use of news media and video websites on the basis of their own media to accelerate the development of leisure agriculture and rural tourism, and other industries. The power of new media platform is used to help rural areas promote featured products and tourism resources and explore the historical and cultural deposits, so as to continuously expand the brand influence.
The dataset can be obtained from the corresponding author upon request.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
Li Lin and Xiong Zhou contributed equally to this work.
This study was supported by The Commerce Economy Association 2022 Special Research Project on Vocational Education “On the dilemmas of Fujian farmers’ e-commerce entrepreneurship and their solutions from the perspective of rural revitalization,” Project no. 2022ZSZJYB38.
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