How to serve online consumers in rural markets: Evidence-based recommendations

Rui Sousa, Carolina Horta, Ricardo Ribeiro, Elliot Rabinovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Online shopping is growing significantly among rural consumers interested in overcoming product assortment limitations in their local markets. Retailers are taking notice, and some are looking for first-mover-advantage opportunities in rural areas where they see greater potential for growth when compared to saturated urban markets. However, expanding to these areas presents significant and unresolved challenges related to last mile fulfillment caused by low levels of population density as well as other socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. In this article, we present an integrated set of recommendations for online retailers to differentiate strategies to serve rural markets efficiently. To that end, we partnered with an online grocery retailer to examine differences between rural and urban consumers across online shopping preferences that significantly impact fulfillment costs. We draw on those differences and existing knowledge on last mile fulfillment operations to propose a tailored consumer value proposition and operational model for last mile fulfillment in rural markets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-362
Number of pages12
JournalBusiness Horizons
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Consumer value proposition
  • E-commerce
  • Grocery delivery
  • Last mile delivery
  • Rural markets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing


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