New digital high streets programme to boost local shopping launches in Warwickshire

Photo shows: Alcester high street in Warwickshire
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A new programme to attract shoppers back to the High Street by harnessing digital technology has been launched across Warwickshire.

The initiative, Local Rewards, a collaboration between Warwickshire County Council and social media company MaybeTech – aims to help businesses across Warwickshire recover from the impact of COVID-19 by helping them reach more customers and make more sales.

Local Rewards allows businesses to communicate with and reward shoppers when they hit the high streets and has been created with the intention of ‘levelling the playing field’ between local retailers and giants like Amazon. Businesses can also cross-promote and support their high street neighbours to create an online network of connected traders.

The technology enables shoppers to see businesses near them, view and engage with their social media content and shop with them via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

In addition, for every pound a shopper spends “in store” with a participating business they earn a point which can be used to claim rewards offered by local businesses across the county.

The Local Rewards programme, which goes live today, already features more than 7,050 businesses from across the county. Data within the technology shows that across Warwickshire, only around 25 per cent of High Street businesses use social media.

Of those retailers on social media around 27 per cent are active, posting most days. Research conducted by Maybe* Tech suggests around 66 per cent of consumers spend three hours per day using social media (Ed…. gosh that sounds a lot?)

Lara Smith, the founder of Smithery, a shop on Warwick’s Smith Street that stocks handpicked and handmade items produced by small businesses from across the region, has signed up for the scheme.

She said: “We are very excited to get involved in the new Warwickshire Local Rewards programme. It will help us connect with current customers and hopefully also help new customers discover us, as well as the many other independent businesses whose products that we stock.

“Warwickshire’s independent retail scene is thriving despite the challenges we have all faced across the last 18 months, but we still need local consumers and visitors to support our local businesses. There is an incredible amount of variety available on our high streets, it’s constantly changing and evolving, and each day brings something new.”

Cllr Kam Kaur, Portfolio Holder for Economy and Place, added: “We saw real business success stories through the pandemic lockdown. These successes have been attributed to the increase in digital skills and innovation from Warwickshire businesses. In this climate of uncertainty, it’s wonderful to see small retailers and High Street businesses embracing social media, changing the way they interact with customers and gaining new customers as they do so.

“Giving businesses access to further digital monitoring tools as we emerge from the pandemic, on top of the continuing digital skills training will enable businesses to provide safe, interesting, social and unique experiences for locals and visitors.

“It’s vital that our businesses embrace the possibilities that digital marketing offers to reach new markets and respond to consumers’ changing habits.

“We are delighted to support with this. I would urge retailers to sign up to the Local Rewards Programme to help improve their resilience, as well as their town and trading environment.”

Every business that signs up to manage their listing on the Local Rewards High Street Guide will also have access social media tools and training provided by Maybe* Tech.

Polly Barnfield OBE, CEO of Maybe* Tech said: “Around two thirds of shoppers regularly look online for inspiration and the Local Rewards programme groups all social media content by location to encourage people to browse their local high street and then rewards them for their local spend.

“High streets need infrastructure that until now has only been available for online businesses and this programme will help local businesses level the playing field with giants like Amazon.

“They need to communicate with shoppers in real-time and be able to showcase what’s available. In order to compete, High Street businesses need to up their digital game, promote their physical stores and collaborate. Our platforms help them collectively to do that and we are delighted to be working with businesses   across every high street in the County.”

High Street businesses and shoppers can access the Local Rewards programme online at https://www.localrewards.chat/.