Unlocking the digital potential for rural small businesses across the country could add $47 billion to the U.S. GDP per year. This new study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Amazon estimates the economic impact of digital technologies on rural small businesses based on official statistics and a survey to more than 5,000 rural small businesses across the country.
Potential economic impact of digital tools on rural small businesses by state:
There are 37 million working-age adults and 18 million households in the rural U.S. While accounting for close to 15% of the adult population and nearly 75% of the country’s land mass, annual revenues of rural businesses represent only 3.7% of total gross revenues in the U.S. economy.
Despite some improvement in the adoption of digital tools by rural businesses over the past decade, this new research shows how increased use of digital technology in rural America could help drive faster growth in the rural economy.
- Increased adoption of online tools and digital services for businesses across rural America could create more than 360,000 jobs in the next three years.
- Increased adoption could grow annual revenues of rural small businesses by more than 21% over the next three years – the equivalent of $84.5 billion per year – with states in the South seeing the greatest benefit
- Online tools and technology have the highest potential impact on rural small businesses with revenue under $100,000
- One-in-five rural businesses are already digital. Nearly 20% of rural small businesses in America generate the vast majority of their revenue (at least 80%) by selling their products and services online.
- Technology is boosting rural business revenues. Rural businesses say adoption of digital technologies are important for their future, with 55.2% of them agreeing that e-commerce helps them grow their customer base and a similar percentage (54.6%) confirming that online tools had a positive impact on their revenue in the past three years.
- Online services help rural businesses reach customers out of state and overseas. Almost 40% of these small business owners say that digital technology has allowed them to sell beyond their state and 16% of them confirm they are selling internationally due to their access to digital tools. Thirty-three percent sell their products using their own websites, 12.7% use a third-party online sales site, and 35.7% use online marketing, including social media.
- Digital tools and technology help purchasing and cut costs. 29% of rural businesses say that online tools reduce purchasing costs of products and materials, with 22% purchasing at least 80% of their goods and services online.
How to Unlock the Digital Potential of Rural America
Increase digital connectivity in rural areas
66% of rural small businesses say poor internet or cell phone connectivity negatively impacts their business.
Increase the talent pipeline of candidates trained in digital skills (cloud, digital marketing)
38% of rural small businesses say they can’t hire the talent with the right digital skills in their area
Increase adoption of digital training and digital tools by rural small businesses so they can scale their operations
Nearly 41% of rural small businesses agree that policymakers should create incentive programs that make it easier for rural small businesses to incorporate digital technology into their daily operations