DestinationCore | UNLOCKING VALUE FROM LOCAL DATA

UNLOCKING VALUE FROM LOCAL DATA

Picture 48 million rows of data...

Picture 48 million rows of data. Now take a team of writers and visual storytellers; a heavy metal fanatic with a PhD in data science; and, a couple of coders for good measure. That’s how it all began for Solomon.

Today, we offer a suite of intuitive software tools, designed for Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), Downtown Associations, Destination Management Organisations and other place making teams.

We help organisations to track and build better relationships; demonstrate and disseminate their positive impact to stakeholders; and be accountable and compliant.

I’d like to share a little about how we do it – using an example from our past. This is where it all started with Leeds City Council...

It Started with Bins!

Using funding we’d received from Innovate UK and with Leeds City Council as our partner, we began an 18-month research and development programme on experimenting with local data and finding ways to unlock value from it.

We started with bins; not very sexy, I know. But as we saw it, everyone has one and the data was easy to work with. Within a week we launched the “Find My Bin Day” web app. You could enter your address and get a list of collections for each domestic bin and set up notifications, so you didn’t forget to put your trash out. Hardly revolutionary but, as the council didn’t have an app at that time, it was something useful we could share.

Mock up hand 2811

Footfall data was our next target. Data Mill North had 15 years’ worth of data captured by Springboard cameras. We developed an interactive map that showed how footfall had changed over time. We also formed a partnership with a local university and with the help of one of their data science PhD students (the one who liked heavy metal, a lot!) we “trained an algorithm” and created a predictive model that could tell us how busy it was likely to be next week (for example) based on a variety of factors.

The 'devs' in our team felt strongly that we shouldn’t just create a tonne of “apps”. The primary success of our business had come from telling stories, and we didn’t want to lose sight of that. With that in mind, we threw a challenge to the storytellers and asked them to propose a theme that we could work on together. They came back with the concept of a series of videos / motion graphics exploring the impact of “air quality”.

Air Quality Kirkstall

Leeds is a really important place from a health data perspective, as the home of the NHS Digital. One of our colleagues had worked there, leading on an “open data” programme with the aim of making more data available to the public. He saw a link between air quality and health and got to work on exploring the data sets.

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We took 48 million rows of data about everything from life expectancy, heart disease, stroke, asthma, rates of obesity, general census data, transport, and air quality. We crunched them together and made some compelling discoveries. Firstly, and frighteningly, between the place with the best air and that with the worst, there was a ten-year difference in life expectancy. Secondly, we discovered that air quality improved by 20% on the day the Tour De France set off from the centre of Leeds, owing to the reduction in traffic. Finally, there was an obvious link between air quality and prescriptions for asthma, and the potential for a huge cost saving exercise (each year, £14m is spent on asthma prescriptions in Leeds alone.) Problem, solution, benefit. Simple.

There were many other experiments, and that was a problem. Every project required a pile of work to a) make people aware of it, and b) get people using it. We needed to find a way of pulling all these different utilities together and the concept of a “Solomon civic dashboard” was born. So too was a master plan that we believed would see us roll our dashboard out to every local authority in the UK, making it possible for any citizen, anywhere, to get easy access to important information about where they lived and worked. Bus times; bin collections; road closures; doctors and dentist surgery ratings; local takeaway hygiene ratings; school places; empty houses; crime; footfall; weather; flood warnings; air quality… all the data about a place, in one place.

We were excited and we had support from the UK Cabinet Office to make it happen. We built a version for Leeds and another for York, and things were looking up. The only thing we didn’t have was a deep enough understanding of just how inconsistent data would be from one authority to another. Each had their own way of maintaining and publishing data, with often wildly different structures and formats. The work required to overcome these inconsistencies made it impossible to scale up. It was time for a reality check, and to pivot in a new direction. And, so we did.

Andrew helps us make it consistent!

It was Andrew Cooper, the CEO of LeedsBID, who presented us with a way forward. He saw value in the Dashboard we had originally created in Leeds citizens, but for his levy paying businesses. He wanted to give each business a window into the BID area, and a way to see what LeedsBID did for them on a case-by-case basis. Andrew had managed several BIDs of different shapes and sizes before landing in Leeds. In his experience a common problem was the lack of a database that was designed specifically for BIDs, that enabled them to track their member businesses and day-to-day contacts, while empowering them to capture the value they created through the work they undertook.

Fast forward to today and Solomon aims to relieve these pains for our BID customers. We also offer a similar solution for DMOs that incorporates some sales and sponsorship tracking tools too.

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Crucially, what Solomon offers is a consistent way of recording data. This means that 50+ BIDs across the UK are capturing data in a way that is consistent and has “interoperability”, meaning we can compare and aggregate it easily. For example, when COVID-19 forced us into the first lockdown in March 2020, the UK Government asked BIDs to report on what proportion of their membership operated in the retail and hospitality sectors. For our customers, answering this question was as simple as running a report.

“That’s great Simon, thanks for sharing your story but what does it mean for me?” – I’m glad you asked!

The reason I wanted to share the story of Solomon with you is because I believe that every BID, DMO or Leisure & Retail destination can use our history to help them understand how to extract value from the data they hold. The key to it all is consistency and discipline.

You can only draw out key insights from your data if you go about collecting it diligently. When data sets are normalised and consistent in the way you collect them it will allow you to benchmark your performance year on year, against your peers – and most importantly of all against your business objectives.

Yes, of course there are tools like the one we offer – a CRM specifically for BIDs and DMOs – or what DestinationCore offer through their Insights Dashboard which do the hard work of collecting and making your data consistent (and I’d strongly recommend you work with experts who provide tools which can help you with the collection of data), but the collection of good data doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. It just needs to be consistent.

View some case studies

Epsom BID

Epsom BID

Epsom is an historic market town nestled between London and The Surrey Hills. Epsom is more than just home to The Derby. It’s famous for Epsom Salts and has an abundance of history and heritage. The challenge was to showcase everything that Epsom has to offer without blowing the budget - enter DC One!

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Uxbridge BID

Uxbridge BID

The team at Uxbridge BID wanted to upgrade their website in order to offer greater value to their levy payers. DC One was the ideal solution to meet their needs as the automation offered through the combination of Business Login and Automated Subscriber Emails gave them incredible value on a tight budget.

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Midsummer Place

Midsummer Place

With the shopping centre having moved away from the ownership of the intu Group the client was looking for outstanding value for money and lots of built-in automation in order to stretch marketing budget as far as possible. They love the simplicity of DC One, with the structure making it easy for users to find what they are looking for.

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Merry Hill Centre

Merry Hill Centre

With the break-up of the intu Group, the client was looking for a website they could get up-and-running in a short space of time and as a temporary solution, so they had a web presence to give them time to build out the website of their dreams. DC One was the perfect solution – offering all the functionality they needed with a quick turnaround.

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NewcastleGateshead

NewcastleGateshead

The NewcastleGateshead Initiative is the DMO representing Newcastle, Gateshead and the surrounding areas. They came to us frustrated with their existing website solution – feeling that their current provider was offering poor value for money. Our solution has helped transform their online presence by improving the user experience and offering greater value for their members.

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Visit Southampton

Visit Southampton

Southampton BID had just gone through a brand refresh and were looking to help bring that brand to life with a powerful online experience. They wanted visitsouthampton.co.uk to be the go-to website for users to find out about what to do and what's on in Southampton. They chose the Pro core package and The List Events Feed module to power their website.

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All About Ipswich

All About Ipswich

All About Ipswich is a DMO for Ipswich and the surrounding area. The website showcases events and offers, and also includes a business directory. It provides easy access to a huge range of content, with the Journey Planner and Itinerary Builder modules enriching the user experience. The Campaign Section module provides a hub for the client's numerous marketing initiatives.

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Visit Clapham Junction

Visit Clapham Junction

As a BID in their first term The Junction BID needed to make an impact. Attracting visitors to Clapham Junction by showcasing what’s on offer and demonstrating value to the businesses they represent was essential. They chose the Offers and Events progressive web app alongside the Pro core package to encourage people who work within the BID area to spend more time at The Junction.

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In Colchester

In Colchester

In Colchester is the consumer website for the Colchester BID. We helped them create a new consumer facing brand, and then applied that brand to the DestinationCore platform to create a stunning looking website. Launched in August 2019 the feedback for this site has been superb.

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Visit Melchester

Visit Melchester

We’ve created a demo site for our fantasy town of Melchester. It’s an idyllic location by the sea, with an abundance of independent retailers and fair number of local characters too. Be sure to check out the blog about a true local hero - Admiral Standfast. Go on. Take a trip to Melchester!

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