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Jim Salas Shares How E-Commerce Levels the Playing Field for the Rural Consumer in E-Commerce Times

Jim Salas portraitRecently, Amazon’s online grocery sales have tripled during the pandemic. For cities with a Whole Foods or where grocery stores can offer curbside or delivery as an option, it’s great news. For rural communities, e-commerce isn’t as accessible or familiar to retailers or consumers located in rural parts of the country. Jim Salas shares how rural consumers are often subject to what economists call the “rural penalty” or the lack of service, resources, consumption opportunities that are available in higher populated areas. "From a business perspective, rural areas suffer from gaps in human capital, distance, and low population challenges and overall, lower socioeconomic differences which often do not represent the "low hanging" fruit that most businesses go after," said Salas.

Many may be surprised that rural e-commerce is not lagging behind more populated areas but in fact the main challenge for rural retailers and consumers is the cost of delivery. In addition, many rural community members are a part of their community and visit their local grocery store to socialize with people that live in their community. As online shopping becomes more and more of a norm, especially with the pandemic forcing retailers and consumers to change their purchasing behaviors, Salas states that we will start to see more businesses investing in rural areas. In fact, Walmart has launched free two-day deliveries through Walmart.com and has introduced Pickup Today programs that allow customers to order online and pick up in stores. "This fits their announced strategy of investing more in their online channels than building new brick and mortar stores and allows them to leverage their rural footprint strategically against competitors like Amazon," Salas said. Read more.