In March 2017, tech startup Rewarding Visits launched its first system in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, giving the town’s high street a much-needed boost.
The platform, which allows shoppers to conveniently print vouchers to use on promotional offers at high street shops from a network of digital “touch points”, generated nearly £25,000 of consumer spending in Mansfield in its first week, after more than 1,400 participants printed over 900 vouchers to spend at local businesses.
One of three ventures to have won Innovate UK funding in 2015 to develop technologies to overcome the challenges facing high streets, Rewarding Visits could give Mansfield town centre a stimulus of as much as £1.3m over the next year.
Business Advice met the startup’s founder, Guy Chatburn, to find out why he thought UK high streets needed his help, and where in the UK his venture would take him next.
(1) Who are you and what’s your business?
I’m Guy Chatburn, the managing director of Rewarding Visits.
(2) How long have you been around for?
Rewarding Visits has been around since 2012, but I have been around a good deal longer.
(3) What makes your service different?
Rewarding Visits provides a digital high street package, comprising of a local brand card, a mobile app, a website and touchscreen kiosks to connect local bricks and mortar retail owners with their customers.
Each time a voucher is printed or a card is scanned, a retailer, whether it be a shop, bar, restaurant, salon or café, builds its own database with the same direct marketing capability enjoyed by large supermarkets and online retailers.
(4) What was the key to getting things up and running?
Originally, we had developed an app for retailers to scan their customers’ cards or mobile phone apps with, but the step-change came with our winning the Innovate UK competition – Reimagining the High Street – to also develop interactive touchscreens, called Touchpoints.
(5) What is meant by the term the “digital high street”?
Our community digital high street packages now give any town the ability to equip local independent retailers with the tools to market their promotional offers online, on mobile and at Touchpoints located around the town.
(6) Are we currently experiencing the “death” of high streets in the UK?
Physical retailers have largely failed to adapt to fast-changing habits, where consumers are now checking online before choosing what to buy and where to eat.
Most bricks and mortar retailers can’t contact their past customers quickly and easily, as individual transactions are anonymous. This is in contrast with even the smallest online retailer. We have set out to change this, in a simple way, using Touchpoint vouchers.
(7) What is the role of technology in ensuring the future of independent retailers?
Technology needs to be flexible enough to embrace all types of businesses within a town or city. Rewarding Visits’ Touchpoints print vouchers, as these can be accepted anywhere, from Marks & Spencer to the smallest corner store, but still create a digital trace for each retailer.
If necessary, our solution can include the larger, chain retailers in a town. This ensures the system is popular with consumers, which in turn helps independent businesses thrive, as they get exposure and equal promotional opportunities.
(8) How can small, independent high street retailers increase footfall in 2017?
Using community platforms such as Rewarding Visits provides an opportunity for independent shop owners to market to newcomers. More importantly, our system can be used by retailers to contact their past customers, or advertise on Touchpoints to incentivise them to return with targeted offers.
(9) In five years’ time, I will be…
I foresee Rewarding Visits working in many towns and cities, where local authorities will use their locally branded and individually tailored platforms to provide digital marketing opportunities for their high street traders.
(10) Who are your business heroes and why?
Rinalda Ward, of a mail order company called Compton and Woodhouse, taught me the importance of treating each customer as an individual asset of your business, to be valued and nurtured.
My background is from direct marketing and ecommerce, where it is second nature to know who your customer is, what they like and to retain the ability to contact them, to sell again. The technology we have developed now allows bricks and mortar shop owners to do the same.
Please share your views with us on the challenges facing high streets today in our quick two-minute High Streets Initiative survey.
Read more from the Business Advice High Streets Initiative here.
- Introducing the Business Advice High Streets Initiative
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- Yell and Facebook forge local advertising product
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