#WDYT on the verge of unlocking the future of the high street

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.

“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 driven 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 e-commerce platform with good products, an actual shop and enough social media noise to bring people to the door.

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

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

Read the full article on South West Business News.

Liked this? Then join the #WDYT community as we accelerate the evolution of places and high streets across the UK by increasing their digital reach.

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