Small towns, big spenders: see how America shops

New Adyen research charts the differences between urban and rural consumers. One surprising tidbit? Rural shoppers are much more optimistic about their financial futures.

How do rural US shoppers compare to shoppers in cities or suburbs? Adyen teamed up with 451 Research to find out.

In Q4 of 2018, we surveyed more than 1,000 American consumers to better understand their habits and preferences. What’s an urbanite’s ideal shopping experience? What bugs suburban shoppers the most? What sorts of technology do rural shoppers look for in stores? With samples from all regions of the country, we found some surprising tidbits — like the fact that rural shoppers are almost as interested in the latest tech shopping experiences as their urban counterparts.

In rural areas, a rosy outlook

When it comes to costs, rural Americans are the most price-sensitive shoppers. But this shakes out differently depending on where a person lives. For example, rural Northeasterners are the most price-conscious group, with 59% saying their first priority when shopping is price, 6% higher than any other rural group.

You might think, given their concerns around cost, that rural shoppers would spend less than suburbanites or urbanites. But that’s not necessarily true. The research showed rural shoppers are much more optimistic about their overall financial outlook than either metro or suburban shoppers, with nearly half (48%) of rural consumers anticipating they will be in a better financial state within one year.  

Rural folks also enjoy shopping more. Forty-three percent of rural Americans said they enjoy shopping, compared to 40% in the suburbs, while urbanites weighed in at 38%. Again, the survey found the rural Northeast statistically interesting, with more than half of respondents there saying they love shopping — 10% higher than the rural average. Note to retailers: don’t overlook shoppers in outlying areas, who seem bullish about both their personal finances and shopping generally.

Rural Americans enjoy shopping the most.

Driving backroads, seeking new tech

Also, if you thought Apple Pay was only for tech-savvy urban shoppers, think again. The survey found that rural shoppers, more than other groups, showed the highest demand for alternative payment options — things like store-branded apps for paying in store, installment plans, and digital wallets. Companies who recognize this need now have a chance to develop deeper connections with shoppers in less populated areas.  

Drawing lines in the sand

Long lines spell misery for shoppers the world over. But in the end, who is willing to wait the longest? Not time-crunched city-dwellers. Of all groups, big-city shoppers showed the least tolerance for queuing, with 74% saying they had left a store and scrapped a purchase because the line was too long. Long lines weren’t quite such a bother to suburban shoppers. Only 68% of suburbanites said they skipped out on a purchase because of the wait. Rural shoppers landed somewhere in the middle (71%).

Around the country, shopper expectations are higher than ever, and technology is key to engaging with consumers across channels. While urban shoppers will adopt digital technologies first, rural and suburban Americans are increasingly open to tech that improves their experiences. This year, retailers should take a closer look rural shoppers, who are increasingly confident about the future.  

See highlights of the survey results

Find out how rural shoppers in the US stack up to shoppers in other areas.

Download infographic

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