Braunton has been crowned Britain's number one Rural Digital Trailblazer by Google, the village whose business has grown the most due to Internet use. Not only is the village one of the UK's surfing capitals, local businesses are also riding the wave of online success - beating villages across the country to the number one spot. Through its online advertising service, Google has assessed the strength of online commercial activity in rural areas with populations of 13 000 and less in the UK.
In recognition of Braunton's digital status and to encourage other small enterprises to join the growing success of online commerce, Google has teamed up with the Countryside Alliance, to award the town with its own Juice Bar, giving local businesses the opportunity to have one-to-one digital advice for free.
Google has seen Britain's rural areas beginning to bloom digitally over recent times, and is recognising web-savvy villages that are using the Internet to thrive online, despite not having immediate access to large city amenities and services.
The Rural Digital Trailblazers list aims to highlight that entrepreneurs needn't be based in an industrial centre or a traditional urban hub to start or grow a business; an enterprise that uses the Internet can be located anywhere.
According to the Boston Consulting Group, companies with an online presence grow from four to eight times faster than those companies without.
The top 20 Google Rural Digital Trailblazers in the UK are:
Town % growth over the last year
- Braunton 43.5%
- Corsham 39.4%
- Hockley 37%
- Bourne 34.6%
- Newhaven 34.6%
- Mold 33.3%
- Henley on Thames 31.4%
- Great Dunmow 30.8%
- Ulverston 30.4%
- Bewdley 28%
- Haverfordwest 26.8%
- Alnwick 26.1%
- Morpeth 25.6%
- Wymondham 25%
- Marlborough 23.3%
- Malmesbury 22.6%
- Selby 22.2%
- Malton 21.6%
- Arundel 21.1%
- Holt 20%
Google shortlisted the rural villages with the highest online economic activity, and then ranked them in terms of the percentage increase in local enterprises using AdWords over the last year. Braunton has the highest growth out of all the villages in the UK, indicating that its online entrepreneurs are boosting growth across the area.
Business owners who aren't yet online or who want to improve their website or 'e-skills' can sign up for free one-to-one consultation at the Juice Bar to harness advice on how to grow their businesses online.
Local business Gulf Stream Surf has grabbed both 'surfing' opportunities by the horns - by selling surfboards and ensuring customers who surf the web find their store in one click. Simon Skelton of Gulf Stream Surf said:
"We set up the business in the '90s and things have changed dramatically with the Internet. Online sales have rocketed and we knew that it had the potential to bring us new surfers. Our website is a massive window into our shop and if you create the right impression when people are surfing the web, you're bound to get them surfing with you all year long!
For businesses of all shapes and sizes, particularly niche services, the Internet opens up a world of possibilities at a very low cost. Tools like Google Adwords help us stand out. I used to think that no one would buy a surfboard online without coming into the shop and testing it out but I've been proven wrong!"
Dan Cobley, Managing Director of Google UK, said:
"Braunton may be considered small in size, but has proven itself to be a formidable entrepreneurial centre as seen by its exceptional growth in online business. Braunton's Internet commercial activity grew by almost 44% in the number of businesses advertising online, putting it as number one 'e-Village' in the UK. We want to award the town by offering Braunton businesses free digital services at our Juice Bar, so that they can continue to boost their enterprises eight times faster than if they weren't using the Internet."
Barney White-Spunner, Executive Chairman of the Countryside Alliance, said:
"It is great to see Britain's traditional rural industries embracing new technology, and the small businesses that have made Braunton the most internet-savvy village in Britain are a brilliant example of this. If the countryside and our important rural businesses are to weather the tough economic conditions, they need access to the right tools. That is why it's more important than ever that local councils and the Government get moving on schemes to deliver rural broadband, and help give other parts of the British countryside the same opportunity that Braunton has had."
Nick Harvey, MP for Braunton said:
"I am thrilled that Braunton has been named the fastest growing online rural business centre in Britain; I am proud to represent an area with such an entrepreneurial spirit and hope that more local enterprises sign up for the free digital consultations at Google's Juice Bar. The Internet is playing a leading role in Braunton's economic growth, boosting local businesses and contributing overall to the wider British economy. I hope this encourages other local businesses in the area to get online and grow their businesses using the Internet's tools."