How Cuparnow Is Leading the Digital Transformation


The award

The Good Retail Awards 2020’s Digital Impact Award recognised those using the digital space to create engaging and innovative marketing campaigns around the world of retail.

The winner

CuparNow is the UK’s first Digital Improvement District. Helping to demonstrate scaleable best practices for digital deployment in towns, CuparNow is creating new strategic collaborations, improving digital participation and skills.

CuparNow has created an engaged audience of more than 10,000, in a town with a population of only 9,000. Capturing the interest of multiple audiences and helping community groups to better engage on digital channels, the project continues to grow, inspire and help retailers and shoppers alike.

The award-winning strategy

Modern Retail spoke with Simon Baldwin of the CuparNow project, about the ways in which they have reinvigorated the high street through digital deployment, going from the start of the demonstration phase with five access points, to winning a ballot and creating a more encompassing free network throughout Cupar.

The beginning

Simon set out to create a project which would enable strategic collaborations between interested local parties, engaging them digitally instead of them working in silos. Beginning the process in 2017, the Cuparnow team began looking into how digital can best support towns.

Simon explained: “One of the reasons we chose Cupar is because it’s got a great community base and many community groups. It has that community spirit where people are proud of the town and want to work and support each other. We’re not reliant on funding. It’s a local project delivered for the benefit of the community and it’s being funded by businesses around the town.”

Introducing free Wi-Fi

The CuparNow team installed free Wi-Fi, prompting a great reception from those throughout Cupar. With data capture taking place when people log in, this enables access to learn more about demographics and usage patterns which can then be fed back to the businesses in the town.

Simon added: “The installation of our free public realm Wi-Fi has created the most engaged audience of young males. Our demonstration has proven that people do appreciate free Wi-Fi and not everybody does have free data roaming. There’s an element of social inclusion with what we’ve done and we’ve seen great feedback from locals and tourists who would otherwise pay for data roaming.”

Creating relevant content

CuparNow began by launching a blog as a platform to share the things that were going on in Cupar. Simon looked at numerous platforms and channels that were relevant, appealing to as broad of an audience as possible.

He said: “We launched on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We understood that unless you go and get great content, it won’t come to you. We tailor the content to each platform, whether it’s the blog or a specific social channel. We have what we call a brand ambassador, who visits businesses on a rotational basis and gathers content for us to share. Creating good, dynamic content means we can push it out, people become engaged and in turn, you create advocates to share more about what you’re doing. It’s all about sharing regular, good content which our audience interacts with, growing and tracking how you engage people. We’ve created bespoke Mailchimp campaigns to thank and engage with the people who sign up to the Wi-Fi, sending monthly e-shots and making sure we always send relevant content to that audience.”

Marketing and growing awareness

Explaining the various methods of growing awareness of the CuparNow project, Simon said: “We did promotional work on social media to build the numbers right at the beginning and spread awareness of the journey we were about to undertake. From when the Wi-Fi went live, we created CuparNow window stickers and asked businesses to display these where the Wi-Fi was present, sharing messaging on social media to promote the benefits of it. We were also keen from the outset to get cross-party support from MPs and the local community. There’s a youth cafe in the town and we’ve brought them on board too, helping us to engage with youngsters. We’ve launched TikTok as a creative channel, working with businesses to run promotions and encourage kids to shoot their videos of Cupar as well.”

Overcoming challenges

Simon concluded: “We knew we were doing the right thing from the start and there have been so many processes to get to where we are today. We have written a toolkit to share with other local authorities and towns to show how you do it, as we have the whole checklist from the conception of the idea, through to winning a ballot.”

On winning the Digital Impact Award

Simon commented on his experience: “It was a great piece of news because we’ve only just begun in what we’re doing, so to win such an accolade was very exciting. It is brilliant that the Good Retail Awards are judged by people who clearly know what they’re doing and it was presented on the stage at an internationally renowned event. There’s a lot of credence for what Modern Retail has done because many can’t afford to enter awards, and this doesn’t cost.”

To see the full list of Good Retail Awards winners, click here.

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