The first in a series of four blogs on digitally transforming the high street by David Worsell, Founder of Ineo Digital
“As councils and businesses begin to reopen their high streets and spend thousands on stickers, hand sanitiser, plexiglass and barricades, why not provide their overstretched teams and the citizens they serve with the tools that can rebuild communities, enhance customer satisfaction and help stimulate the economy?
We need to focus on making cities smarter and more responsive to the needs of citizens as lockdown eases, not just ticking ‘easing lockdown restriction’ boxes. As local government teams and businesses reopen their non-essential shops, pubs and attractions, the question remains: Will people come? How will we rejuvenate the visitor economy?
In my last article, I asked the question: Is the high street worth saving? According to the BBC, people have turned to their local shops to buy their essentials, with shops seeing a nearly 40 percent increase in sales despite a third conducting their retail shopping online.
If there is an appetite to visit the high street, I believe that local governments should use digital tools to engage and empower people, therefore increasing local revenue.
Imagine people being able to chat to their towns and cities to feel more connected, safer, and able to feed back quickly and easily to the local council. This interaction can be used to direct people to shops, historical points of interest, or even public consultations. As explained in a recent MJ article, Hello Lamp Post is a digital platform that lets people talk to buildings, benches, points of interest and landmarks and could therefore be a route to creating a talkative city.
Through friendly text chats to a variety of street objects, visitors and residents can interact with any object on the street and have their say, tell their stories, and shape their cities. Hello Lamp Post is making this possible through a playful text-based SMS, WhatsApp, and messenger platform that empowers people to connect, engage and shape their town or city by talking to street objects.
Here’s how it works:
In Belfast’s award-winning implementation of the system, the Maritime Mile quarter of the city has come to life. Visitors ‘chat’ with several historical sites including Titanic Belfast; HMS Caroline; SS Nomadic; The Great Light; and ‘The Big Fish’. Visitors have a self-propelled, self-curated experience of the area, learning about the stories, asking questions about the area and understanding how they can help shape its future. HLP enables the local authority to connect instantly with citizens, and gives people a voice in local decision-making. Tourists are signposted to other historic, cultural and retail areas of interest, which provides a boost to the local economy. Insights drawn from visitor interactions have now allowed Belfast City Council improve visitor satisfaction, increase visitor engagement and develop attractions more attuned to specific interests and needs of individuals.
Southwark LBC used the system to generate a 40 percent increase in engagement compared to traditional methods for their public consultation on school street closures. By striking up playful conversations with the public, the council increased their engagement and increased the safety and wellbeing of its residents. See the results of the project below.
The City of Summerside in Canada is using the system to engage a younger generation to shape the city’s tax budget and found that 40 percent of residents feel that the City’s financial priorities are well intended and they have a strong trust that their taxes are being correctly allocated. See the results of the project below.
HLP conversations take the shape of a playful, friendly, two-way chat. People can then learn about independent shops, safety messaging, targeted public health announcements, historic and cultural events, and more. Amazing how a playful chat can make your city smart and raise revenue at the same time.
Make sure you keep an eye out for our next blog in our series about digital transformations – Kathy Kyle Bonomini will be sharing her thoughts on rejuvenating the high street. She and her team worked on the award-winning high street campaign in Dorking“.
To get in touch or find out more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
About David Worsell – Tarmac VP of Europe
David Worsell is an accomplished sales and marketing leader with a background in Digital, DevOps, and Communication technologies. He has a successful track record of mentoring organisations, companies, and bringing tech companies to market in the UK and Europe.
A recognised thought leader and former TechUK Public Service Board SME representative, David regularly serves as a keynote speaker and digital communications advisor on digital, product, marketing, and sales.
David likes nothing more than bringing new products to market and applying innovative technology solutions to solve problems.