An initiative aimed at making UK high streets some of the most digitally enabled in the world has launched, starting with pilots in Cheltenham and Gloucester.
The digital high street programme is led by Home Retail Group chief executive John Walden and supported by businesses including IBM, Boots UK, Google, Lloyds Banking Group and Facebook.
It is also backed by the government in the form of high streets minister Marcus Jones, digital economy minister Ed Vaizey and business minister Anna Soubry, while trade body support comes from organisations including the British Retail Consortium, British Independent Retailers Association, shopping centre organisation BCSC and IMRG.
From now until September, a centralised high street “digital hub” of industry experts will provide providing strategic advice, measurement, toolkits and hands-on digital training to business improvement district managers and thousands of small businesses, including retailers, in Cheltenham and Gloucester.
Additional locations already carrying out limited digital initiatives elsewhere will be included in the project.
The aim is to launch the high street digital hub nationally in spring 2017.
Walden said: “As a result of the spread of online commerce and services, modern consumers are often more digitally capable than the places they visit. This has resulted in less consumer satisfaction with town centres, eroding both their economic and social viability.
“The potential for communities and local economies to reap the benefits of digital is not being realised. The high street ‘digital hub’ trials will help participating high street stakeholders take full advantage of the digital revolution to create a vibrant, attractive and engaging experience for all and validate the approaches that can effectively scale these advantages to other high streets throughout the UK.”
Jones added: “Digital technologies have transformed how people live, work and play. Digital is changing how consumers interact with businesses and services, and how high streets are used. We need to provide high-quality tools and training from reliable sources to help businesses in local communities to get online.”