Can chatting with city architecture raise the revenue of your city or town?
This is the first in our series of four blogs on high street digital transformation.
Photo credit: Luke Ow
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.
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. According to the Economic Development Officer:
“We were able to reach a demographic that usually doesn’t respond to engagement surveys. These are the people we are trying to convince to make a life in our city, so their feedback is important to us. In 2030, I see HLP servicing any organization (sports, tourism, government) that wants to conduct a strategic plan. Instead of paper surveys from the same people and spending a fortune to do it, take the conversation directly to the street via Hello Lamp Post.”
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.
Let us know what you think about Hello Lamp Post or if you have any questions about its applications. Next week we will hear Kathy Kyle Bonomini’s thoughts on rejuvenating the high street. She and her team worked on the award-winning high street campaign in Dorking.
About David Worsell, Founder of Ineo Digital
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.