How digital community spirit can help keep Cowbridge bustling

Last April, we wrote a short report* on digital retailing in Cowbridge, to assess how independent stores used websites and social media to promote their businesses. We now follow with an update, covering retailer activity until December 2014; plus some thoughts on how the independent community can work together to safeguard its future.


17% of all independent retailers in Cowbridge have a website with an online store. 44% have websites which are regularly updated to encourage new customers to visit their shops. 16% have a dormant or outdated website which, if updated, could make a significant difference to their online presence and customer interaction.

23% have no website or social media.

The number of retailers with social media accounts are shown below but these do not reflect the level of activity, which can range from daily to none.

Social media usage by independent retailers

Top of the class

Digitally engaged retailers in Cowbridge try to reach and inspire as wide an audience as possible by using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. They also encourage customer loyalty with ideas such as “VIP” listings and newsletters, to highlight new stock and promotions.

Facebook interaction

The image above shows children’s clothes store Daisy and Jack chatting with customers on Facebook about current offers. In this case, their post was liked and shared by one customer, shared by another and commented on by a third.

Let’s assume that each of the three ‘friends’ mentioned above has 300 Facebook friends, 20% of whom see the Daisy and Jack interaction in their Newsfeed. This means a reach of 60 new people per interaction; so in the case of this update, 180 total. Imagine the exposure for a shop owner conversing on Facebook with 20 people, three times a day.

This digital grapevine enables users to immediately pass on a message to others and creates a potentially exponential growth in market visibility and effect. Retailers need to be on the grapevine.

A website’s for life…

16% of retailers have a dormant or outdated website, with no social media activity.

In some cases, the main site content hasn’t changed since the website was set up. This may be because the retailer doesn’t have sufficient tech knowledge, or the site has no user-friendly platform for updating content. Often, a shop will have social media accounts, but not update them regularly or use them to interact with customers.

Large online outlets often provide “store locators” on their websites, and are more likely to support retailers who are actively engaging with customers online

It’s important to note that, in today’s digital-centric environment, this could give the wrong signals to a potential visitor or supplier, raising the question “Are they still in business?” Large online outlets often provide “store locators” on their websites, and are more likely to support retailers who are actively engaging with customers online.

Many of these websites are simply in a transitional phase, and could easily be updated with contemporary themes in easy-to-use Content Management Systems such as WordPress. If a lack of digital skills is holding staff back, this can easily remedied with some basic training.

Up for persuasion

23% of retailers do not have an internet or social media presence of any kind.

In some cases, this could be explained by the nature of the business, such as selling local fresh produce. For others, it may be that the task of setting up a website and social media appears a little too daunting, in terms of technology and cost.

Lack of digital experience can be overcome with basic training—often available free of charge. Website cost is no longer an obstacle, thanks to a new generation of user-friendly and intuitive Content Management Systems. And social media is of course free.

A key factor is the time commitment needed to keep content fresh; a commitment no different from refreshing interior and window displays

In actual fact, the main hurdle is the time commitment needed to keep content fresh; a commitment no different from refreshing interior and window displays. Updating a site or social media does take time, but the potential reach in terms of new customers is well worth the effort, and an increasing number of retailers are recognising this.


Experience is the new convenience

Purchasing habits are changing. With more and more daily activities carried out in front of a screen, shoppers are beginning to switch from out-of-town retail parks to environments that offer a more enjoyable, intimate experience.

Cowbridge scenes

Luckily Cowbridge has just such an environment, which can and should be highlighted on retailers’ websites to encourage collection of goods in person— especially important for those using websites primarily for price comparison. This selling of “community”, together with a strong internet presence, creates a solid marketing platform for the retailer.

Stores with complimentary ranges can recommend each other’s products and services, encouraging visitors to see the town as a one-stop-shop

Incentives can also be used, perhaps in conjunction with partnerships. For example, Cowbridge retailers could, through an arrangement with a local café or restaurant, give coffee vouchers with an online purchase. (Waitrose are changing their “free tea and coffee” terms from 9 February **, so there may be an opportunity here.)

Retail partnerships: a great way to boost local shopping
Stores with complimentary ranges can recommend each other’s products and services, encouraging visitors to see the town as a one-stop-shop for weddings, gourmet food, gift shopping and so on.

For example:

• wedding dress boutique
• jewelers
• cake maker
• florist
• gift shop

There are plenty of interesting ways to “package” and market the shopping experience. For example, Cowbridge Fashion advertises a click-and-collect list featuring retailers offering this service.

Cowbridge fashion tweet

Point-of-sale should advertise online presence

To complete the cycle, retailers can tell customers about their website and social media by advertising them at point-of-sale.

Printing on receipts—or popping a business card or flyer in a carrier bag—is a great way to do this: “Thank you! Follow us on Twitter to hear about offers and new products”.

Follow the Google clicks

Cowbridge Fashion is one of a number of sites promoting Cowbridge and its businesses with free product listings, and links to stores’ sites. This gives retailers a free opportunity to interact with potential customers who are searching online for a product or service. Because listings sites are likely to have good Google rankings, people searching for “Cowbridge fashion shops” may well see (and click on) them first.

Google search screensho

For this reason alone, it makes sense for stores to list their details on these sites. After all, they’ve already navigated the murky world of Google rankings. However, a store maintaining a regularly updated site of their own means that a user can then continue and refine their journey, hopefully right through to purchase.

‘Support Your High Street’ needs the high street’s support

The Welsh Government launched their ‘Support Your High Street’ campaign last autumn, culminating in High Street Week during late September. It made much use of the internet and social media to encourage customers to shop locally in support of independent retailers. On day 1 of High Street Week, their social media campaign was seen simultaneously by more than 274,000 people.

Support your High Street

To take full advantage of schemes like these, retailers need an online presence. They need to make it as easy as possible for customers to find them, and get information about products stocked.


Over the past few years, Cowbridge has witnessed the arrival of a growing number of big brands, including Waitrose, Costa, WH Smith and Caffè Nero. Each new arrival has the potential to make life difficult for independents. At the same time they help increase the number of visitors to the town and therefore create opportunities for spin off trade.

Community synergy can play a crucial part in a strong defence against retail-chain takeover

Community synergy can play a crucial part in a strong defence against retail-chain takeover. It’s a great reason to encourage and help retailers without an internet presence to get online, and those with dormant sites to dust off the cobwebs.

Current figures show that the majority of independents in Cowbridge have already responded positively to the challenges and opportunities presented by the web. If the outdated websites gradually get upgraded, Cowbridge will soon be able to claim that over 75% of its 111 independent retailers have introduced digital as an integral part of their marketing strategy.

For those needing a helping hand, advice can be offered through individual presentations and/or workshops, highlighting examples of how neighbouring retailers have benefitted from adopting digital as part of their marketing strategy. Such an initiative would have clear benefits: both for individual retailers, and the future of Cowbridge High Street.

Richard Edwards MA
Scott Manning Associates

Scott Manning Associates sponsors, an online platform dedicated to promoting Cowbridge as a centre for fashion, food and culture. Since 2010, Cowbridge Fashion has promoted retailers free of charge via a website, mobile app, TV channel and social media.

We offer free digital marketing appraisals to independent retailers in Cowbridge (more info). We are also planning to approach business support organisations and local Government to measure interest in targeted workshops.


* Link to the ‘Digital retailing in Cowbridge’ report

** Link to Waitrose webpage regarding changes to Free tea or coffee


From 1 May to 31 December 2014, there were some openings and closures on the high street. However, this hasn’t changed the overall picture.

Businesses closures and additions from 01.05.14 – 01.02.15

Independents closed:
Sweet Occasions
Café Nia
Stitching Boutique (Relocated to Cardiff)
All Pets

Independents opened:
Norma Davies Opticians
GW of St Clears
Roma Café

Brand retailers closed:

Brand retailers opened:
Coop (replaced Spar)
Broadleaf Flooring

The following chain outlets have not been included, as it would be unrealistic to compare their marketing resources with those of independent retailers.

W H Smith
Thomson Travel
Fat Face
CC (Country Casuals)
Red Cross
The Dog Trust
Costa Coffee
Caffè Nero
Broadleaf Flooring

Cowbridge fashion TV

Cowbridge fashion TV
Scott Manning Associates has launched a Web TV channel as part of the project which it sponsors and manages. Cowbridge Fashion TV will be showcasing products and retail services available in Cowbridge together with relevant media from other sources. This mix of local produced media content with that from the fashion industry and other sectors will help raise awareness of the designer brands, local produce and creative services available close to home.

There is clear evidence over the last twelve months that an increasing number of retail outlets in Cowbridge are beginning to use digital marketing techniques to keep existing customers informed as well as to reach, and supply, new customers. Cowbridge fashion TV aims to facilitate this positive drive by independent retailers to reach a wider audience.

Another objective is to utilise local creative talent and technical expertise to produce media content for Cowbridge fashion TV. If anyone is interested in becoming involved in the provision and presentation of original content please call 01446 771220.

To view Cowbridge fashion TV click here

Digital signage for the educational sector

There is an unlimited source of visual material in every school to help promote its image to the market place. This material can also help to create inspirational environments within school spaces that reflect individual and team acheivements of its pupils.

Extra curricula activities such as sport, music, drama, arts and community projects generate volumes of media rich content on a regular basis. A media library of photographs, images, videos and audio can be easily assembled for use in a school’s communication channels. Indeed the process of producing, managing and using this media provides a very valuable range of additional skills.

It is clearly evident that an innovative learning environment is a key factor in helping to encourage pupils to participate in the ‘community’ aspects of school life. It is certainly receiving higher priority during school inspection visitors.

Basic screen layout showing panels for videos or slideshows, information and ticker tape style messaging. Single or multi panel layout is possible with each panel’s content changing according to a scheduled loop and real time updates.

Internal graphic displays are therefore becoming just as important as the prospectus and websites to create the right impression both within and beyond the school walls. More and more schools are using large flat screen displays in their public areas such as the reception, corridors and halls to display announcements, school news and websites etc.

Possible income stream through discreet sponsorship and advertising with suitable organisations

Today’s prices of display screens makes a digital signage system a realistic proposition with a 40 inch wall screen and content management software costing less than £ 1000 (even less if the school already has a compatible screen). Additional screens can then be added to display different content according to the location and organised from a single pc with internet access. Once the design layout is in place it is just a question of adding relevant media and text, similar to creating a powerpoint presentation.

Environmental and costs benefits with the reduction of printed material and photo copies

Still at School can provide an onsite demonstration to show how such a system works and how the content management software can accommodate the user’s skill, from the most basic of layouts to more complex for multimedia and message distribution. It is even possible to prepare content in advance and schedule its display whenever required, whether it is the next hour, day or week and to switch off power to save energy.

A digital signage system offers an extremely effective means of maximising the potential of the rich media content generated each school day. Individual and team achievements in sports, drama, music, arts and the community can be highlighted to help celebrate and encourage participation by pupils and staff and to project a very effective ‘brand’ image to visitors, parents and the school inspectorate.

To arrange a demonstration without obligation please telephone 01446 771220.

Responsive web design

Responsive Web Design

With increasing use of tablets and mobiles to access web information there are debates regarding the need to design a website that enables its layout to respond to the device being used. Not only does this present a challenge to web page layout and content but raises the question of whether it is more practical to provide webpages specifically for mobile use.

If one considers the reason for a customer to access a company’s website on a mobile it is more likely to be for product updates or latest offers. All this type of information can easily be provided on a limited number of pages that can respond to the device being used.

The key factor is understanding the profiles of site visitors and providing a limited number of responsive pages suitable for mobiles for day to day information updates rather than the whole website. In many in many instances the controlled use of facebook, twitter or a blog page can provide an adequate solution.

Free marketing session for Cowbridge retailers

Marketing for Cowbridge Retailers
With increasing competition from all angles, the independent retailer like any other business needs to be aware of the threats and opportunities that exist now and in the near future, and also how to respond. Whether it is competition from online businesses, a new retail outlet or existing outlets beginning to add similar products and services, a well thought out plan of action is essential to maintain competitive advantage.

As part of its sponsorship of and its objectives, Scott Manning Associates is offering a free one to one marketing session to independent retailers located in Cowbridge. The session will take place on their premises, last up to a maximum of 2 hours and provide a general overview of their current marketing objectives and plans. There is no obligation after the session.

Scott Manning Associates has over 25 years experience of providing marketing advice, from start up to well established companies, including the development and management of online businesses.

These sessions are limited to 6 and will be allocated on a first come basis. For more information or to book a session please telephone 01446 771220.

Digital Retailing in Cowbridge

Why independent retailers should be optimised for mobile
A recent Ofcom report showed that the number of adults using tablets to go online has almost doubled, from 16% in 2012 to 30% in 2013. And the trend isn’t confined to younger users: 17% of 65-74-year-olds are using tablets to browse the internet.

The town of Cowbridge in the Vale of Glamorgan is home to 130 retail outlets, 116 of which are independent and include a variety of shops, eating places, hair and beauty salons. Of these 116 independent outlets, 54 have decided not to use a website to support their day-to-day business. In some cases, this appears to be because the outlet is long established and has (at present) a loyal local customer base. Increased competition – and a new generation of customers – will of course dictate the future of the longer-established outlets. With others, it seems to be a matter of apprehensiveness around set-up costs and content management.
Cowbridge retailers websites
Major brand outlets* have not been included in the analysis below; it would be unrealistic to compare their marketing resources with those of independent retailers.

Independent retailers in Cowbridge are also slightly lagging in their social media uptake, with under half owning Facebook and Twitter accounts – and some of these leaving silences of up to three months between updates.
Cowbridge retailers: Social media barchart
A Friday evening tweet telling customers about a weekend handbag sale; a Saturday tweet with a last-minute offer on free range organic chicken; a Thursday evening Facebook update hailing a new cocktail menu. All great ways to strengthen a personal connection with customers and drive sales. Someone sat on the sofa browsing on their iPad can keep up-to-date with products and offers, even plan their shopping in advance.

Ofcom’s 2014 Report on Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes shows that the number of people aged 65 and over accessing the internet has risen by more than a quarter in the past year. The proportion of people aged over 65 that are accessing the web reached 42% in 2013, up nine percentage points from 33% in 2012. One reason for this is an increase in the use of tablet computers by older people aged 65-74 to go online, up from 5% in 2012 to 17% in 2013. This has helped to drive overall internet use up from 79% of all adults in 2012 to 83% in 2013. Source: Ofcom April 2014

For those wishing to take advantage of the growing mobile and iPad sector, it’s essential to demonstrate how easy and cost-effective mobile optimisation really is. We have recently started offering free advice to Cowbridge independent retailers: how to set up a Twitter account and engage directly with existing and potential customers, and how to minimise the cost of setting up a manageable website – using WordPress, for example.

We are also sponsoring the management of and its social media, to help demonstrate the effectiveness of a proactive online presence.

Cowbridge Fashion

Continuing to monitor the community’s adoption of digital marketing, we plan to conduct a survey of Cowbridge visitors to find out how they use social media as part of their shopping experience.

Richard Edwards MA
Scott Manning Associates

* Branded outlets not included in the above analysis:

W H Smith
Thomson Travel
Fat Face
CC (Country Casuals)
Red Cross
The Dog Trust
Costa Coffee
Caffe Nero

Free twitter classes for Cowbridge retailers

Twitter for Retailers
With an increasing number of potential customers, of all ages, using twitter as a digital grapevine it has to be recognised as a marketing medium with considerable benefits to retailers. It requires no website, is as easy to use as sending emails or text messages and costs virtually nothing.

However, there is a reluctance by some retailers to adopt this medium through a lack of understanding of the process involved or because the mobile phone is not yet accepted as a promotional tool for the business. At the moment (March 2014) only 33% of retail shops in the town of Cowbridge have a twitter account to help communicate with potential and existing customers.

To help retailers understand the benefits of using twitter, how to set up an account and send their first promotional tweets out to customers, Scott Manning Associates is providing free one to one instruction classes to shop retailers located in Cowbridge. Continue reading

Web TV

Local WebTV Network for Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan
While the Government and TV Broadcasters consider the development and funding of a Local TV Network following the Ofcom and Shott reports, the ‘Broadband Wagon’ continues to pick up more and more passengers seeking alternative sources of customised information, localised news and original entertainment. The culture secretary’s recent speech emphasised the need for a TV Network that takes into consideration more localised news and content. It is hoped that Local TV Networks will begin to materialise in 2013.

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Town Centre Regeneration

Town Centre Regeneration and the ‘Virtual Shop Tour’
Increased competition from out-of-town retail parks and branded mini stores has made a significant impact on the traditional high street with many smaller outlets forced to shut up shop. Add to this the acceptance of online shopping by consumers of all ages and one begins to appreciate the challenge for owners of traditional retail businesses. However, whilst little can be done to stave off the onslaught of the retail park, it can be argued that the internet offers the small retailer an excellent opportunity to win back valuable customers, real and virtual.

Continue reading