Amazon UK wants to lure more of Britain's rural businesses online

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Amazon is making inroads into the British countryside this year as part of plans to "double down" on the untapped potential of rural and farming communities.

The retail giant has already started working with businesses ranging from a furniture retailer in Dumfries, Scotland, to a tech firm offering cow tracking devices as part of that strategy, and has launched a major research project looking at how rural firms can harness the internet to ramp up growth.

Britain's rural economy is "actually a lot bigger than people realise," Doug Gurr, Amazon's UK country manager told the Press Association.

"There's now well over 530,000 rural businesses which is roughly 24% of the UK total, so it's a big chunk of the economy, far more than you might think in a world in which we always assume everything is urbanised."

Cows
Amazon says Britain's rural economy is much bigger than most people realise (PA)

A recent survey showed that 10,000 rural British sellers - including small business and individuals - are using the Amazon Marketplace to grow their business, but the retail giant is interested in reaching more entrepreneurs.

"This is a specific initiative that we've chosen to double down on," he said.

Mr Gurr will be making his way to Birmingham at the start of November where 6,000 businesses are set to descend on the Rural Entrepreneur Show.

There, the company will launch a new two-day Amazon Academy, where attendees will be offered advice from seasoned rural e-commerce entrepreneurs as well as senior Amazon experts on how to grow revenue online through the Amazon Marketplace and reach customers through its cloud voice service, Alexa.

Mr Gurr admitted that Amazon has a commercial interest behind bringing companies online, but suggested there were larger benefits.

"It's an area we're passionate about, and some of it is in light of self-interest, but we're very passionate particularly about helping small and medium sized businesses to succeed and export."

He pointed to YouGov stats that showed that of Britain's small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), those that export are expecting revenue growth of 2.1% over the next 12 months, versus 1.2% for those that do not.

Expected job growth for exporters is also higher at 0.9%, compared to 0.3% for businesses that stick to local markets.

The UK boss said that while it was emphasising rural growth, Amazon was not turning its back on urban partnerships.

"We're not seeing a lack of saturation (in urban areas), but... we just felt it was one of those opportunities that felt too important and too large an opportunity to pass by."