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Revolutionising town centre decision-making with big data

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‘Bringing Big Data to Small Users’ is both an ambitious aspiration as well as a significant new project uniting a multitude of businesses, organisations, public bodies, and communities in town centres across the UK. The project is co-funded by Innovate UK, as part of the Enhancing User Experience in Retail funding competition.

Springboard Research Limited is leading this project, but we have 16 other partners, including:

  • 7 towns
  • 2 universities
  • 4 leading trade associations
  • a plc property company
  • place activation specialists
  • technology developers

Together we are developing new data-driven tools designed to help the constituents of town and city centres align their offer to the expectations of their catchment, making them more successful and better places to visit.

The new technology we are developing will be available to retailers, the property industry, policy makers and local initiatives and partnerships.

How data can help improve city centres

Bringing Big Data to Small Users infographic

Much of the information for this project comes from our exclusive databank here at Springboard. For 14 years we have been using technology to count the number of people in town and city centres and other retail areas.

Measuring footfall, or pedestrian flows, twenty fours a day, seven days a week, our data has helped retailers, investors, local authorities and local partnerships to monitor change and gain insight into the success or otherwise of initiatives, such as fascia/public space improvements or simply putting on an event.

We also work with retailers to track sales data in locations and with local authorities to monitor retail vacancy.

Stage 1: identified actions that influence town centre performance

Three years ago, Springboard supplied footfall data for 50 towns (totaling half a billion shopper movements) to researchers at the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University as part of High Street UK2020.

This ESRC project identified the collective actions that have the most influence upon town centre performance. The researchers also identified new ways the footfall data could be used, and in particular, saw patterns in the annual data that differentiated towns into four broad types depending on their patterns of usage.

These town types were:

  1. comparison shopping towns
  2. speciality towns
  3. holiday towns
  4. convenience/community towns

This differentiation suggested more nuanced approaches towards both retail strategy and place management were required in individual locations. We immediately saw the opportunities to offering our clients this added insight and the commercial benefits that could accrue by working more closely with academics.

Stage 2: developing a tool to enhance decision-making in city centres

The university researchers have now independently scrutinized the footfall data from 421 of our counters across the UK.  This has confirmed the validity of the four town types, as well as generating an overall coverage statistic of 97.31%, which demonstrates that our data is continuous, reliable and statistically valid.

At the same time, work has started on developing concepts for the new tools which will probably take the form of tailored dashboards for the different end users.

Initial feedback has been exceptionally positive. Our partners believe the new tools will significantly enhance decision making in town and city centres around the world. This is essential as online retailing continues to have more impact everywhere.

So, the work we are doing with Innovate UK funding can have a dramatic impact on the future of town and city centres.

Find out more

You can find out a little more about the project from the attached infographic and much more at Place Management's website.

As well as Springboard Research Limited, the partners include:

  • the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Cardiff University
  • Myknowledgemap
  • ATCM
  • Revo
  • NMTF
  • PinPointer
  • NewRiver
  • South Ayrshire Council
  • Mid & East Antrim Council
  • Bristol City Council
  • Congleton Town Council
  • Keep Holmfirth Special
  • Morley Town Centre Management
  • Wrexham County Borough Council

Or you can email Project Manager Simon Quin or Project Lead Diane Wehrle

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Susan Miles posted on

    Thanks for sharing. Please allow me to add share something as well. Do you know what Binfer is? It is a great way to transfer big data files.