Every year, we get inundated with hundreds of trends articles: business trends, tech trends, marketing trends. Not one of them focuses on rural business. Unless, of course, you count mine. Because all the trends I focus on are rural trends.
This year, I’m watching several larger society trends that are squarely in our favor. Big changes in technology have set the stage for changes in the way we live and where we live. That’s all good news for rural communities.
So Much for Geographic Limits
Lines on a map used to define small towns. Your business couldn’t reach much beyond the city limits. Small towns felt isolated from the world of big cities as information was slow to penetrate.
Lines on a map don’t mean anything anymore. Think about all that went into getting to this point: rural electrification, telephone cooperatives, global shipping and delivery, internet access, cell phone service and smartphones. Looking ahead, automation, self-driving vehicles, delivery drones, 3-D printing, augmented and virtual reality, and telepresence robots will all completely reshape the cost of moving people, goods and information.
Read more about this one in the cutesy infographic at Bain and Company: The Declining Cost of Distance.
Customers are Changing Retail
And it’s all small town. That declining cost of distance applies just as much in retail as any other industry, and people are preferring to shop in stores with a human scale and human touch. Except for boring commodity items, which we’d much prefer to have automatically delivered before we even think about them.
What constitutes a good life? When are you “better off”? How do you want to live? Increasingly, our society is answering these questions in a less material, more personal way. A slower pace of life, fewer possessions, more experiences with nature, more interactions with friends, a deeper sense of community are all playing into our hands. That’s a rural lifestyle. And if the geographic limits don’t apply anymore, then small towns really are becoming cool again.
Read more at J.Walter Thompson Intelligence on Comfort Consumerism and “The New Better Off” by Courtney Martin.
I’ll be going in depth into these and looking 30 years into the future in a live broadcast with Deb Brown on Jan 18. Learn more about it here.
Keep shaping the future of your town,
PS – This is why I keep talking about Idea Friendly. The towns that benefit from these trends will be the ones that are most open to new ideas. If that’s not your town, Deb and I can help you change that.