The State of Telecom Coverage in Rural America
On June 27th, 2018, Facebook posted on their blog that they were abandoning future development of their Aquila program – which was a high-altitude platform station (HAPS) system using drone aircraft to deliver internet accessibility to rural parts of the globe. To Facebook, this is a job for leading companies in the aerospace industry to tackle – companies like their partner Airbus, which will deploy it’s Zepher S model from Australia in September. And aerospace isn’t the only one tackling the rural internet accessibility problem. Wireless ISP (WISP) is rapidly growing. Currently, total industry revenue for WISP is $1bn, with annual growth at 21%. Not bad!
More Ways for the Rural Consumer to Connect
To boil it all down, what this means is there could soon be ways for rural residents in the United States to be more connected than ever. Work is being done all around us to provide better access – so the question now becomes, what can the telecom industry plan to do to appeal to rural consumers? Further, who are these consumers and what are they like when it comes to their phones and internet usage? Let’s dive in and find out.
When compared to their urban counterparts, rural consumers are much more likely to be the kinds of people who do not get wrapped up in the latest and greatest phones or devices. They are types who’ll purchase an old-school phone for their prepaid plan from Walmart. They’ll use it to call and check on their kids, but they are far from using it to sync with their bathroom scale or other smart devices. But there is another segment of rural consumers that are quite open to technology. They are learning, probably engaging on social media using their device. They are checking email and texting friends and family members…but they don’t really see their phones as a major source of entertainment – as least not to the degree their kids do. If you’re guessing these two segments might be our gray-haired relatives in rural communities, you’d probably be right. These are people who were introduced to mobile technology later in life. Many are blue-collared workers who simply do not have the time or need to be on their phones all day – they have work to do and unless their phone can help them accomplish a goal they have little use for it.
But if you’ll notice in the chart below, the Moberati, which is our younger generation of mobile users, is not too far behind. This group is likely going to take over as time goes on – especially as rural areas gain faster and more reliable internet speeds.
Mobile Professionals – Cell phones help them keep up with their professional life in addition to their personal life.
Mobirati – Grew up with cell phones and can’t imagine life without them
Basic Planners – Use cell phone for just the basics
Social Connectors – Cell phones serve as a bridge to their social world
Pragmatic Adopters – Still learning what they can do with cell phones beyond just calling
When it comes to technology adoption, rural consumers again index higher for being less technology-focused.
Wizards – Can’t imagine life without the internet or new electronic gadgets.
Journeymen – Internet is a source of information, commerce, entertainment, and connecting with others
Apprentices – Willing to learn and incorporate new technology – sensitive to price
Novices – Disconnected from emerging technology and resistant to adopting a new technology-focused life
But this doesn’t mean that everyone in rural communities are sitting outside their farmhouses sipping iced tea without a smartphone or laptop in sight. When you run these reports, focusing only on millennials, the attitudes toward technology are very different. In fact, rural millennials tend to have even more attachment to the internet and their gadgets than their urban counterparts.
Telecom Providers Can Reach the Rural Audience with Direct Mail
Because rural communities tend to have a higher number of older residents, it makes sense that when you look at rural, as a category, the numbers can seem to make everyone appear disconnected. Which is why it’s important for those in the telecom industry to dive in deeper to understand the rural consumer.
We have the intel needed to direct the right offer, to the right people at the right time through direct mail and powerful analytics. And with variable messaging, a telecom company can be assured that millennial family Jones in rural Alabama gets a great deal on high speed internet services to watch as much Netflix as they can stand. And Mr. Smith, a zip code over, can get just enough basic service to catch American Pickers next Monday after his regular sweet tea on the front porch. Each family is different; therefore, each family has a different offer. That’s the genius of combining quality data and precision targeting through direct mail. Here are some stats that show just how much influence coupons and direct mail have with rural consumers:
Our Precision Targeting Capabilities Deliver the Right Messages to the Right Customer
So, we’ve come a long way from talking about Facebook retiring their Aquila program, Airbus launching Zepher S, and rural millennials attached to their tech gadgets. What are we really trying to say here? It’s simple really. While Airbus, other leaders in aerospace, as well WISP providers work on ways to make high-speed internet a reality for underserved rural consumers, the time is now for internet and cellular providers to consider ways to, not only reach the right people via mailbox, but also target them with the right messaging that suits their family’s needs. It’s time to get to know Mr. Smith, the millennial family Jones, and other families in rural communities.
Want to learn more about how direct mail can reach the rural consumer? Fill out the form to speak with one of our knowledgeable experts about the best direct mail solution for your telecom business.
Prosper Insights & Analytics, Monthly Consumer Survey