Case Study: The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
My Royal Borough: Welcome back to the high street
The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) (https://www.rbwm.gov.uk/) was faced with a problem: declining footfall brought about by the convenience of e-commerce, and exacerbated by Covid-19 and the national lockdowns. DigiKind (https://digikind.uk/) was engaged to address this challenge with a combination of creative communications, digital community building, and business support including free training. Results were impressive: an uplift in footfall of 315%, coverage in national and international media, and over 200 businesses trained in digital commerce.
The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is in the county of Berkshire, in South East England, covers 123 square miles, and has a population of over 150,000 people and nearly 9000 small to medium sized businesses. Popular with visitors and tourists, RBWM is home to attractions such as Windsor Castle, Eton College, Legoland Windsor, Ascot Racecourse and famous parkland.
The Royal Borough incorporates two historic market towns: Windsor and Maidenhead, which are renowned for their vibrant and eclectic mix of high street businesses, shops, restaurants, and bars.
In spite of this they were not immune to the high street demise which was affecting the whole nation, brought on predominantly by the ever growing convenience of internet shopping. In 2020 this drop in footfall was dramatically accelerated by the pandemic. With multiple lockdowns, restrictions on movement, and plummeting public confidence in face to face experiences, like most British high streets RBWM was pushed to breaking point.
In March 2020, DigiKind was engaged to help turn this around. The task was to instil public confidence in the safety of shopping on the high street and visiting local attractions following the first national lockdown.
But just how do you build public confidence in the safety of the high street? And how do you get people back to the town centres – safely – following the easing of lockdown restrictions to enjoying shopping, hospitality and attractions?
Using our previous experience with high street rejuvenation, DigiKind took a research-based approach to create our strategy, interviewing Business Improvement District (BID) managers and conducting extensive research into best practice and existing case studies.
Based on this research and our own experience, DigiKind designed a creative, multi-channel marketing and PR strategy which centred on community building, supporting businesses with digital transformation, and creative campaigns.
Our strategy used social media, web based platforms, and on-street tech tools, empowering the local community to create content – thus creating a digital ecosystem unique to the local area. This in turn would create loyal brand ambassadors and build a word of mouth economy supporting business owners to safely reopen and thrive in a time of unprecedented change.
Our strategy was adopted in its entirety and championed by RBWM.
“My Royal Borough helped businesses and locals to support their local and build a strong, sustainable community. We are seeing traders investing in the Borough and setting up businesses even in a pandemic, going digital and embracing new technologies to reach and serve their customers. And the local community was responding positively by sharing beautiful images of their favourite places to shop, eat and be around the Borough.
We feel we’ve really created an online and offline community that supports local. We have also empowered our business community with networking, training, grant support and one to one business advisory services – it has been a concerted effort to build resilience in our entire community.”
Service Lead for Economic Growth Place Directorate
Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead
How DigiKind rose to the occasion
Working in partnership with RBWM we combined a diverse range of research and insight from expert sources and identified that we would need to focus on three key areas:
The creative campaign was initially to help build confidence about safe shopping, and carried a strong public health message. Research showed that big corporate messages wouldn’t engage the public or build trust, so instead we created an accessible brand persona which the community connected with, opting for hand-drawn illustrated communications with a friendly tone of voice. The campaign was so successful that we were asked to extend this into linked campaigns as the pandemic progressed: ‘support local, shop online’ (during lockdown) and then ‘following government guidance.’ The friendly and less corporate imagery was well received by the local community and was shared widely online by brand ambassadors.
Based on our success RBWM asked us to extend the activity in March 2021. We used the same recognisable image style to create the ‘Don’t Let Your Guard Down’ campaign with on-street artwork. This highly recognisable campaign was picked up by national and international media.
Vital to the success of our strategy was creating communities around the high streets of RBWM, and providing the digital landscape to enable these communities to create and share content to support local business. DigiKind created an infrastructure of social media channels, a web hub, and branded hashtags, which we continued to populate with relevant content in the form of weekly blogs, interviews with successful local businesses, and our campaign messaging. We ran ‘placemaking’ activities to further engage the local community, and turn Instagrammers into true brand ambassadors. We also created an online directory of local businesses to remind locals what a wealth of services are on their doorstep.
Our strategy worked. Our content inspired the local community who got on board in droves, and thanks to our platforms we were able to share over 5000 pieces of user generated content creating a true digital ecosystem.
Supporting local businesses
We identified that campaigns and communities alone were not enough to give the high street businesses the boost they needed. For our strategy to be sustainable and resilient in the long term, the businesses themselves needed support via training, development and ways to network with one another.
We started by offering free digital training in the form of easily digestible ‘lunch and learn’ online courses: five hour-long sessions suitable for time-poor businesses. Following their success we supplemented this with inspiring Breakfast Briefings which showcase world-class entrepreneurs, and networking events to ensure businesses can share their solutions with each other. We delivered training to over 120 businesses in just four months (bringing our total trained to 200). We also provided one to one digital strategy expertise to those businesses who really needed help.
In 2021, RBWM asked DigiKind to partner with them on developing their ‘Additional Restrictions Grant Innovation grant scheme’, whereby local businesses who met the criteria could receive a grant to help them reinvigorate following the lockdown. Through the grant scheme we enabled over 50 businesses to receive £800,000 in grant funding.
Success for the Royal Borough
Results from the delivery of the campaign included:
- Over 5,000 UGC posts on Twitter and Instagram
- We connected with businesses, their customers, non-profits, leaders in the community, the media…and brought them together around one cause: to champion their high street
- We achieved national and international recognition from the media, to include Sky news, BBC, the Guardian, and the Times
- Footfall increased by 315% in Windsor over a year (2020-21) * Currently at 16% increase monthly
- During this time, 30 new shops opened in Windsor and five in Maidenhead
- Campaign email open rate of 55% – far exceeding the industry average
- 91-95% positive sentiment score on our branded hashtag #MyRoyalBorough
- Our organic engagement and impressions rose steadily month on month by 10%
- We delivered training to 150 businesses over a four month period
- We enabled over 50 business to access 800,000 in grant funding
* according to Footfall report (May 2021)
“Would just like to say what a breath of fresh air MyRoyalBorough is. Fun, informative and engaging. Building a great supportive local community, not just for businesses but also for those who visit, live and work in the borough. 1st class.”
Terri Watson, Store Manager at Paperchase
We work with central government, local authorities, non-profits, startups, BIDs, and companies large and small to reach more people, focus on building community and drive footfall back to the high street. We are award-winning experts who know what it takes to execute high street reopening and recovery campaigns. Learn more at DigiKind.uk.