More than 120 businesses in the Chesterfield borough are now up to speed with the online revolution after receiving expert digital support via an innovative scheme.
Since being launched in June last year, the Chesterfield Digital High Street project has engaged 127 small and microbusinesses reliant on bricks and mortar to transition into the digital world by building their online offering for customers and improving their social media profile.
Of this cohort, 81 businesses worked with a digital high street adviser, 56 companies developed a digital action plan and 50 firms accessed grants worth £2,200.
Some 38 new websites are now either live or in development – many of these equipped with the latest payment systems such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as modern shopping concepts like “click and collect”.
Funded by Chesterfield Borough Council and delivered in partnership by East Midlands Chamber and its strategic partner Purpose Media, the year-long project aimed to support small outfits in sectors such as retail, hospitality and leisure, which were hit hardest by Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, to become more resilient.
Diane Beresford, deputy chief executive of Chesterfield-headquartered East Midlands Chamber, said: “We’ve been delighted with the level of engagement with the Chesterfield Digital High Street project among businesses, which are now well-placed to embrace current and future digital trends.
“This will go some way to ensuring the much-loved independent businesses on our high street continue to thrive in a sustainable fashion for a long time to come.”
Chesterfield Digital High Street case studies
Among the businesses that have benefited from support is Café Nellie, a recently-opened independent coffee shop in Chatsworth Road, Chesterfield.
Owner Tracey Wallis said she was aware the business needed a marketing strategy to quickly become visible to a wide and varied audience.
But as none of the six-strong team had much experience of using social media, the Chamber’s support came at “exactly the right time”, with digital high street advisers Steve Phillips and Alex Gardner helping to build a website and Facebook page.
“Since our Facebook page went ‘live’, we have seen a marked increase in in table bookings,” said Tracey. “Despite the recent heatwave, our sales have increased by about 30%, which our own research suggests is a direct result of our social media presence.
“Having a website is just as important in enabling non-social media users to access attractive, up-to-date information about Café Nellie. In the future, we hope to develop the site to enable our customers to purchase gift vouchers, our own brand of coffee and to make table bookings online.”
While Ibrahim Assaf was literate in using Facebook to promote his business Ibzy Salon, located in Chesterfield’s Jawbones Hill, he noticed it couldn’t be found very easily on Google – with the barbershop, tattoo studio and shisha bar’s location on Google Maps in the wrong place.
“I struggled with the process of updating Google but after experiencing frustration, I left it,” he said.
He signed up to the Chesterfield Digital High Street project and received one-to-one support from Steve, who talked him through the problems he had encountered and came up with a digital action plan.
Ibrahim, who also took up the offer of creating a website, added: “I didn’t have a Google Business Profile at the time, which meant we weren’t listed and new customers couldn’t find me. Steve helped me to set up my page and download the app, so I can easily make changes to opening times and prices.
“I have noticed an increase in new customers who have come to us by finding us on Google and through our new website. In one week last month, we had a 300% increase in visitors to the shop compared to the previous week.
“The website has given me credibility and with setting up the Google Business Profile, customers can leave reviews, which will help boost my visibility and attract new customers.
“With the bigger customer base, I have now recruited another two barbers so we can offer more services and shorter waiting times. We are very much looking forward to the future – with the help from my advisor Steve, we have the tools to grow the business.”
Chesterfield Digital High Street helps businesses grow after Covid-19
Councillor Dean Collins, Chesterfield Borough Council’s cabinet member for economic growth, added: “The Digital High Street project has been very successful in helping many organisations that were affected by the pandemic to get online and increase their interaction with customers in a new way.
“We have been able to review current marketing and social media activities, and support businesses on any recommended actions, set up Google listings if needed and offer each organisation a one-year membership to East Midlands Chamber.
“We have received excellent feedback from those who have taken part in the project, with many increasing their online profile so they can expand their business presence.”
The Chesterfield Digital High Street project has now ended but the Chamber continues to offer support to businesses across the region via a digital high street adviser. To find out what support is available, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0333 320 0333.