St George’s Market traders sign up for Voice for Locals support

Voice for Locals, which received a £1.82 million grant from the UK government to boost the potential of small businesses, has digitized more than 200 local businesses in Northern Ireland in less than 30 days.

The initiative launched its latest drive, Times Are Changing, at St George’s Market last week to help merchants who typically rely on in-person visitors to expand their services online and tap into the world of e-commerce.

The Voice for Locals team met with traders to discuss how they can increase sales by trading online every day of the week. The initiative enables engagement with a wider audience on a more consistent basis beyond the boundaries of St George’s Market official trading days, thanks to the Voice for Locals digital directory of all rated businesses in Northern Ireland, ni.voiceforlocals.co.uk.

During the event, merchants at the iconic location used a mobile app to collect ratings and reviews, manage bookings and effortlessly drive loyalty. The traders, who typically trade on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, were seen proudly sharing the news of their online presence with customers.

The platform empowers merchants to go digital with mobile apps, market locally, get certified with e-learning courses endorsed by City and Guilds, and leverage personalized business and technology advice to create a ​​build a self-reliant economy in the wake of the pandemic.

The initiative, delivered by a consortium of organizations including Unloc Limited, TieTa and City & Guilds, has plans to extend this drive to other marketplaces and high streets.

“It was exciting to see 71 merchants sign up for online business in one day,” said Jay Thattai, founder and steering authority at Voice for Locals. “55% of merchants on board are female entrepreneurs with basic digital skills.

“Each merchant has their own landing page with their business description, photos and videos in the Voice for Locals NI directory. They will also be given tools to collect real customer ratings and market reviews that are automatically displayed online, to increase their credibility for online shoppers to shop locally with confidence.

“Each trader’s landing page also has a research button to generate leads for the traders during the non-trading days. The leads automatically go to their personalized mobile apps.

“The iconic St George’s Market has international appeal, attracting tourists from all over the world. With its expanded digital presence, traders can now tap into the rest of the UK, Europe and global markets that would otherwise have been unreachable, through the initiative’s expansion plans.”

The consortium’s tender for the project makes it the recipient of the fifth largest grant in the UK and the largest in Northern Ireland. Unloc will provide the technology, marketing and skills development element of the offering, while TieTa will provide business and technical support. The team works closely with City & Guilds to gain recognition for e-learning programs delivered to local businesses during the term of the program.

This project is funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.

For more information on the Voice for Locals Initiative, log on to voiceforlocals.co.uk

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