Maybe* and the #WDYT campaign are part of a global fraternity of tech companies that are testing their products on the streets of Gloucester.
Size, demographics and digital infrastructure are all factors that have made Gloucester an attractive test bed, but most importantly the trend towards innovation has come from the top and has been embraced by both the private and public sectors in the region.
Jason Smith, CEO of Marketing Gloucester comments: “Gloucester is ideally suited to solution providers test bedding new technologies. It is a relatively compact city, with a representative demographic and a high degree of innovation and good digital infrastructure... By working with a wide range of partners we are rapidly building the jigsaw that will lead to digital solutions to support town and city centres and produce a seamless journey which will lead consumers from online to bricks and mortar”
Polly Barnfield OBE of Maybe* backed this up saying: “Gloucester has proven to be the perfect place for us to test our digital high street solution #WDYT, and the help from Marketing Gloucester, GFirst Local Enterprise Partnership and Gloucester City Council was instrumental in enabling us to successfully roll out our pathfinder project across the other conurbations in the county and now further across the country.”
Gloucester is rapidly developing an international reputation as a pathfinder for UK and global companies testing Digital High Street and smart city initiatives. So what’s leading to the spotlight being shone on this small city, nestled at the foot of the Cotswolds?
No one can deny that there is a wind of change blowing across the retail environment, with national trends in the UK showing a steady decline in footfall for many of the countries towns and cities. Following hot on the movement towards out of town developments, the impact of Internet shopping through giants such as Amazon has left many traditional shopping areas struggling to fill voids and on a downward spiral of lower footfall.
Local and national governmental organisations around the world have recognised the challenge and are attempting to address this with reports such as those produced by Mary Portas.
However with every challenge there comes opportunity, and it is an opportunity that those involved with managing the city of Gloucester were determined to grasp and to do so in such a way as to put the small city at the forefront of the development of technologies that potentially could have a transformative effect on how residents and visitors will use their town and city centres in the future.
In 2014, Marketing Gloucester, the place making organisation for the city of Gloucester set out its aims to make the city the go to place for technology providers looking to develop smart city and digital high street solutions.
Jason Smith talking about Digital High Street at University of Oxford in February 2017 @jasonijsmith
Jason Smith, CEO of Marketing Gloucester told us: “Gloucester is ideally suited to solution providers test bedding new technologies. It is a relatively compact city, with a representative demographic and a high degree of innovation and good digital infrastructure. It is a city that confirms with many of the norm baselines and so can provide an excellent modelling opportunity. Most importantly there is a team of people here who have built up a huge group of partners, including the University, private sector, and the local authority, who are happy to speedily adopt innovative products. By working with a wide range of partners we are rapidly building the jigsaw that will lead to digital solutions to support town and city centres and produce a seamless journey which will lead consumers from online to bricks and mortar”