A survey shows all shoppers want technology to make their experiences more pleasant. But when it comes to their willingness to use those technologies, and their general financial outlook, urban and rural Americans couldn’t be more different.

Kamran Zaki, president, North America, Adyen

Kamran Zaki, president, North America, Adyen

No shopper likes long lines, high prices, or inconveniences. But just how many of these are they willing to tolerate? The answer, it turns out, depends on the region in which they live.

A new survey from 451 Research and Adyen explored the differences between urban, rural, and suburban American shoppers, aiming to better understand each group’s habits and preferences.

The survey of 1,006 shoppers in four main US regions found that shoppers in all areas want technology to make their experiences more pleasant. But when it comes to their willingness to use those technologies—or their general financial outlook—urban and rural Americans couldn’t be more different.

Connecting the dots


 One of the study’s clearest findings: urban shoppers are the most wired. In all regions, shoppers in metropolitan areas had the greatest affinity for using digital technologies (46%, compared to

Rural shoppers showed the highest demand for alternative payment options.

38% of suburban shoppers and 34% of rural shoppers). Urbanites were also more likely to own devices like smartwatches and smart speakers. But rather than coastal city-dwellers leading this digital charge, the survey found urbanites in the Midwest were most likely to report they love using digital technology, followed by those in the West and South.

When it comes to costs, rural Americans are generally the most price-sensitive shoppers. But this trend too had a surprising regional twist: rural Northeasterners are the most price-conscious group in the US, with 59% saying their first priority when shopping is price, 6% higher than any other rural group.


In rural areas, a rosy outlook

You might think, given their concerns around cost, that rural shoppers would spend less than either suburban or urban dwellers. But that’s not necessarily true. The survey 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. (The study was conducted in Q4 of 2018).

Rural folks also enjoy shopping more. Forty-three percent of rural Americans said they enjoy the activity, compared to 40% of shoppers in suburbs, while urbanites weighed in at 38%. Again, the survey found the rural Northeast statistically interesting, with more than half of respondents there proclaiming their love of shopping—10% higher than the rural average. If you’re running a retail operation, don’t overlook shoppers in outlying areas, who seem more bullish about their personal finances and the overall notion of buying new things.

Less populated, but seeking better tech


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.

Give (urban) people what they want

If you’re a business catering to urban shoppers, you’d be wise to take note of how they like to pay. The survey found that 30% of urbanites in the past year came across a shop that didn’t accept their preferred payment method—which had serious repercussions for the shop. When the preferred payment method wasn’t accepted, 32% of urban shoppers said they spent less, and 14% didn’t make the purchase at all.

Online checkout experiences are also extremely important to urban shoppers. Big-city spenders “have little patience for tedious checkout processes riddled with laborious data entry,” the survey found. How does that translate to real-life buying? When forced to enter card details,

24% of urban shoppers abandoned an air-travel purchase, and 21% bailed on luxury fashion purchases.

Drawing lines in the sand

Long lines spell misery for shoppers the world over. But in the end, who is willing to stand around 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%).

Another note to retailers: Even though metro and rural shoppers show little patience for lines, they react to them differently. The survey said metro shoppers who leave a line are more likely make a purchase from the same company via a different sales channel. But rural shoppers are more likely to seek out the product from a different retailer. In other words, if you’re operating in a rural area, the stakes are high for making an in-store sale.

Around the country, shopper expectations are higher than ever, and technology is key to engaging with consumers across channels. While urban shoppers are most likely to adopt digital technologies, rural and suburban Americans are also open to new tech that could improve their overall experiences. Retailers have long catered to affluent urban shoppers on the hunt for the next big thing. This year, they would be wise to take a closer look rural shoppers, who are increasingly confident about the future.

Based in the Netherlands, Adyen provides a payment platform for online and offline transactions.