How rural businesses are reinventing themselves

East Devon may be regarded as ‘rural’ but it forms part of one of the biggest economies in England. Devon is ranked 19th in the country and rural businesses have benefited from both diversification and transformative technologies. Staying in the loop and riding the wave of the latest tech trends has been key to both innovation and growth – even if ‘super-fast’ broadband has taken a while to reach everyone.

One of the biggest obstacles firms in East Devon face is knowing what action to take when growth appears to stall. All businesses face tougher competition when they are impacted by a slowdown. The knock-on effect is profit margins being squeezed. To remain competitive, businesses have to be able to grow sales cost-effectively. This is where ecommerce, supplier integration and the customer experience have merged to deliver better results at a reduced cost.

rural businesses

In 2017, the Office for National Statistics recorded 6,260 micro businesses and 900 small businesses in East Devon. The number of medium to large businesses was tiny in comparison – just 126 and 10, respectively.

This means the economy is depending on leaner enterprises to turn over enough revenue to support both jobs and prosperity.

Technology and better brand awareness

Delivering exceptional customer experiences is crucial to the long-term success of any business. In East Devon, where tourism plays a huge role in the health of the economy, customer satisfaction is a must. Around half a million visitors holiday in the district every year and their expectations are growing.

While nobody can guarantee blue skies all summer, here are some of the ways rural businesses, including those in tourism, are delivering excellence without adding to their costs:

Rural businesses and automation

If you think automation is something used by major manufacturers, think again. Self-service websites, including online booking platforms, rely on automation to simplify complex processes and improve the customer journey. This type of automation is used by a wide range of businesses and reduces manual tasks while eliminating risks associated with human error.

Almost any rural business can benefit from automation, including B2B businesses.

Personalised digital marketing

Rural businesses are recognising the benefits of personalised marketing. They are using cutting-edge tech to give website visitors a more engaging experience. Augmented reality, artificial intelligence and integrations are working together to give customers flawless interactions that drive up revenues and aid customer retention. In the B2B sector, order pads and mobile commerce are wooing Millennial buyers who want on-the-go and fast access to both product information and their purchase history.

Real-time data and multi-channel selling

By using real-time data and multi-channel selling, businesses are increasing the visibility of their products and services as well as ensuring they remain competitive. They are successfully tapping into both established and emerging markets, including global sales opportunities. Being based in a rural economy is no barrier to trade for those who have embraced online features that make it easier to raise awareness about who they are and what they do.

Social media, online marketplaces, omnichannel tech, directories and networking all expand audiences. They can also aid the authentication of brands and aid trust by bringing target markets closer to their core values.

Distributor integration for rural businesses

Traditionally, one of the biggest barriers to trade has been East Devon’s location. Being out on a limb in the far South West has added costs to transport and the sourcing of raw materials. Distributor integration has literally moved the goal posts. Rural businesses can now take orders and automatically arrange delivery with the distributor nearest the customer. They can also acquire raw materials from more sources and reduce costs by routinely reviewing suppliers and supply chains.

Implementing transformative technology is a must for East Devon’s established brands – if they want to remain competitive and relevant.

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