Rural Marketing: 14 Things to Know About the Rural Consumer

In rural marketing, the first step to effectively engage rural consumers is to understand their needs are not typically the same as general-market consumers. Here are 14 things to keep in mind when planning your marketing messaging to rural consumers.

A Rural Migration

Consumers in small cities and towns and rural communities comprise over 20% of the U.S. population today, a growing rural marketing opportunity.

Did you know?

75% of consumers who plan to buy a house in the next year indicated they plan to purchase a home in the suburbs or a rural community, according to a June 2023 Prosper Insights & Analytics survey. By 2025, these small yet lucrative markets are projected to represent over a quarter of all U.S. households and hold a disproportionate share of spending power across a broad range of retail categories.1

The first step in engaging rural consumers is to acknowledge that their needs are not typically the same as general-market consumers, and the divide is felt more distinctly in rural areas, where consumers feel more separated and less understood by marketers.

Here are 14 things to keep in mind when planning your messaging to rural consumers:

  1. Nearly 70% of rural Americans believe their values are different than urban Americans, a distinction marketers should factor in when building a strategy to reach this valuable audience.2

Source: The Washington Post2

2. The rural value system is primarily built on relationships and community. The way people relate to each other in rural communities is more personal, emotional, direct, and socially supportive, while urban social interactions are more impersonal and indirect. 3

3. Rural residents empower themselves to be independent and appreciate the hard work that goes into what they make and buy. 3

4. Individualism is important to rural consumers to survive in the larger economic & social environments. 3

5. Rural residents celebrate community and hometown traditions, and they trust local communities more than mass media.3

6. Rural consumers are less digitally driven; they are active online 11% less often than urban residents on a daily basis.4

7. Despite a 9% increase in home broadband adoption since 2016, rural residents are still less likely than those living in suburban areas to report having home broadband. 4 It is important for advertisers to understand the differences in media access and online penetration in these markets.

8. Rural consumers respond to direct mail due to its longer shelf life and the value it offers in-hand via the mailbox vs. digital downloads.

9. Economic fluctuations impact rural consumers differently. Consumers in small and rural markets are impacted by inflation 9% more than their urban counterparts, which affects their spending and shopping behavior.5

10. Between January 2020-January 2022, rural consumers saw their discretionary income cut by more than 30% due to increases in fuel, food and home energy costs, according to research by Iowa State University.

11. Rural consumers are 5% more likely than urban consumers to decrease their overall spending as prices rise. 5

12. These consumers in small markets are more price and budget conscious and hungry for deals and value, making them 21% more likely to use coupons than urban consumers. 5

13. Nearly 50% of rural consumers surveyed said they shop online for lower prices, and nearly 40% shop online to find better sales and deals. 5

14. Rural consumers are more likely to reduce driving and shopping trips to save on gasoline and to plan their shopping and purchases ahead of time. The planned bundling of shopping trips increases the need for longer value and deal shelf life, which affects the message and the choice of media. 5

Mspark delivers value to the rural consumers most likely to become your best customers.

If this audience is important to your business, we can help you reach them. Mspark specializes in driving brand growth and customer engagement strategies for national and local advertisers in these important markets. Reach out today to plan your strategy.

Sources: US Census Bureau1; The Washington Post2; TSW Rural3; Pew Research Center4; Prosper Insights & Analytics5