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WDYT campaign aims to get the tills of Gloucestershire ringing

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Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 09 May 2017 7:47

WDYT campaign aims to get the tills of Gloucestershire ringing

An initiative piloted in Gloucestershire could be on the verge of unlocking the future of the high street for businesses, retailers and those of us who enjoy shopping.

Ever since the best part of our population started walking around with smart phones and the likes of Amazon and eBay emerged as giants of retail without even having any shop fronts a question mark has hung over the high street.

Television personality Mary Portas OBE did her best to help highlight the issues and was resolute that all was not lost, but the rise of on-line shopping remains unstoppable and the plight of those who deal only face-to-face with their customers in our town centres unknown.

A strategy developed and road-tested in Gloucestershire to marry the power of on-line with the undoubted attraction of a shop where you can actually see, touch and feel what you want to buy and talk to someone who can tell you all about it is now rolling out nationwide.

That the high street can be saved by a hashtag might seem a little implausible, but bear with us. #WDYT (What Do You Think followed by #Cheltenham, #Gloucester, #Stroud, etc) is already bringing together retailers, businesses and consumers through signposting in digital channels.

The premise is simple – if you can bring together a steady flow of great images of great products and shops, reviews, offers, sales news for one place in one place then you have a digital shop window which will literally direct people to your town. Early signs are promising. As with all simple ideas it appears to be a cracker.

“The message of this campaign is that we all rely on signposts directing us to towns and cities. It is the same with on-line. It doesn’t matter what you are selling and how good you are, if no one knows you are there you are missing out,” said Polly Barnfield, founder of on-line shopping platform Maybe* which delivered the pilot project in association with GFirst LEP on behalf of the Government’s Future High Street Forum.

The forum “comprised of retail leaders and industry experts, is working together to support and champion local high streets, sharing best practice and developing new solutions to the challenges faced at the local level across the country”.

“The project was piloted in Gloucestershire last year. Really, it is all about skills training. If you are working on your own you can be working in something of an echo chamber, but if you can get all of retail to use the same platform you can make a difference.

“Seventy four per cent of high street retailers still have no active social media presence,” she said, suggesting the simple act of converting a large proportion of them to embrace the campaign – so they simply promote their goods through a daily picture on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #WDYT – would pay dividends for everyone.

Why should high streets bother? Aside from the issues they are facing to survive, here is a strategy which recognises shops are very much part of the future, but acknowledges most of that audience will be drive to their doorsteps by the impression they get through social media and is free and fit for time-poor people.

“Deloitte says that by 2020 80 per cent of retail will still happen off-line. Amazon is buying physical stores,” said Ms Barnfield, implying that says it all about the future of retail – it will be a combination of a good ecommerce platform with good products, an actual shop and enough social media noise to bring people to the door.

“However, 46 per cent of these transactions will begin on-line.”

The journey to where the project began has been a personal one for Ms Barnfield, who having left her previous role as a founder of the search engine Everyclick (which has raised an estimated £8m plus for UK charities since launch).

“I was doing up a house and began looking at door handles and after lots of research on-line realised I then needed to actually go and look at them, then realised they were all over the place and it got me thinking about how best to make the whole experience better,” she explained, which is how Maybe came to be born.

In other words, most people’s retail journey begins on-line, but end in a real shop. If #WDYT can get enough people involves, it will become the go-to place to find out what each county town and city has to offer.

This early experience put here in touch with GFirst LEP, the county’s enterprise partnership and its boss, Diane Savory, who happens to sit on the Future High Street Forum and the rest is becoming history.

To those who think the campaign is trying to catch a train that has already left the station – that most retailers have on-line down pat and everyone is social media savvy now, then the research driving the campaign says different.

Up to 74 per cent of high street retailers have no active social media presence, up to 55 per cent of High Street retailers have no e-commerce facility and up to 40 per cent of high street retailers have no website at all.

You can see why the forum is convinced there is work to be done.

Work is already taking place to judge just how much the campaigns are affecting the on-line profile of each town – and the early figures are not just positive, but significant.

Squaring the circle – to judge just what impact this might be having on the physical high street itself – figures are also being collated on footfall and are due for release soon.

We hope to bring you that news as it emerges, but we understand the numbers are all pointing in the right direction – all of which begs the question if you are not a retailer taking part in what seems to be an incredibly simple and effective campaign then perhaps you should think again?

A series of drop-in events are being staged throughout Gloucestershire to help businesses embrace the campaign. The next in Tewkesbury on Thursdaym May 5th in Tewkesbury. Visit the #WDYT website events page to find out more.

Once you sign up to the #WDYT campaign, you will be introduced to our expert marketing consultancy partner Trinity Mirror plc, publishers of GloucestershireLive.co.uk, the Gloucestershire Echo and Gloucester Citizen

Trinity Mirror plc is the UK’s largest publisher of regional newspapers and specialises in providing and implementing the latest in digital marketing solutions, giving your business the opportunity to connect with an unparalleled audience on your doorstep

Being a part of the #WDYT scheme will provide your business with access to a range of elite marketing opportunities designed and developed to deliver digital response and footfall

You will be invited to an exclusive seminar in June 2017 and receive a full digital health check outlining essential information on the performance of your current marketing.

The event will be hosted by Jon Payne, a search and social media guru. Jon is the founder and Technical Director at Noisy Little Monkey noisylittlemonkey.com. His successful sales career stretches back some 20 years with the last dozen or so working online.

For the past seven years Jon’s focus has been search and social media marketing. In addition to his role as Great Ape of Inbound at Noisy Little Monkey and is determined to make you laugh and make you think

We will supply your business with unrivalled strategic marketing advice with the highest levels of creative support. To find out more visit #WDYT.

 

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