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Census Bureau’s Annual Business Survey Includes Data on Digital Technology for the First Time

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You have probably received unsolicited emails, texts and telephone calls. Ever wonder how you ended up on these lists?

The answer is simple: Everything you touch can turn into data that help businesses and individuals increase their reach to consumers.

Consumer information from shopping patterns to spending habits is precious information that businesses constantly collect. The Census Bureau recognized the surge in use of technology-related information and has responded.

Consumer information from shopping patterns to spending habits is precious information that businesses constantly collect.

For the first time, the Annual Business Survey (ABS) recently released its Digital Technology Module that provides readily accessible statistics on the digital share of business activity.    

While the ABS collects and maintains a core data set, the Digital Technology Module rotates data on different topics every year. 

The 2018 module, for example, provides 2017 data on digital technology and automation technology. Those topics won’t be covered again until they’re back in rotation in 2021.

How Is Digital Data Used?

The survey shows that businesses in many sectors of the economy collect data that fall in different categories: personal and financial information, customer feedback, marketing and supply chain information, production and other miscellaneous information. 

The data show not just how firms collect and store the information but also what they use it for. 

Take food service establishments and bars that provide incentives such as meal discounts when customers fill out short, online surveys via links displayed at the bottom of sales receipts.

How do these businesses store and manage feedback to “How are we doing?” surveys?

According to the ABS, approximately 26.2% of food service and drinking establishments did not collect customer feedback but those that did were more likely to store the information in non-digital formats.

About 10.6% kept all customer feedback in digital storage, 11.2% stored more than half of it digitally and 10.0% retained up to 50% in digital format.



Overall, approximately 30% of employer-based firms kept all financial information in digital formats.


Unknown Caller

What about those telemarketer calls, texts and emails flooding your mobile? 

Marketing information has a large digital footprint. Just how big depends on the business sector.

The top industries that keep marketing information in all-digital format are:

  • Information,
  • Educational Services,
  • Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services,
  • Finance and Insurance.

Here’s a breakout of sectors that keep all marketing information in digital format.



Data in the new Digital Technology Module are also available at the state level and include other dimensions of digital business activities.

If you’re interested in all things tech, visit Measuring Technology and the Economy, also known as the “Tech Stats” site, to see blogs, tables, presentations, archived materials, and release schedules on available technology-related Census Bureau data.


Lynda Lee is a supervisory statistician in the Census Bureau’s Economic Management Division.



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