Imagine the scene at a conference. Tea and biscuits are out. People are mingling and chatting away. An interested, enthusiastic person makes an approach and asks me that great introducer, ‘so, what do you do?’
‘Data,’ I reply, ‘I manage town centre data.’ Cue panicked looks, searching for the exit. You can see it in their eyes. Oh good grief, I’m about to be bored to death by numbers. ‘Need to, err, go refill my cup,’ and so the conversation ends.
It is, of course, an exaggeration. Town centre folk are pleasant & friendly, and my inner geek avoids social gatherings anyway.
However, there is an echo of the truth here. Data really is quite boring. A few gain pleasure from it, but for the vast majority it’s a jumble of numbers and charts – intangible and meaningless.
The problem is that data is really starting to become rather important. Look at retail – the big chains live by data, diligently collecting and analysing it. Shopping centres are obsessed with footfall and measuring every square inch of floor space for profitability.
Data is also fast becoming the norm. Anyone under the age of 25 has grown up in a world where personal data is a valuable, trade-able commodity. So-called millennials are a rising proportion of our consumers, visitors and colleagues, and as they enter, so too are the expectations of data growing.
For those of us that work in communities, in BIDs and as TCMs, the rise of data has been hard to miss. For many years there have been ways to collect it, but only in the last few has it become more affordable and easier to gather. We can now gather data on an extraordinary, unprecedented scale.
For the smaller retailer, community-led data is a vital insight into business improvement: when to open the doors; how best to staff; when to run marketing campaigns. Their larger chain competitors already have access to this and are using it to great effect. It’s time for the small guy to level the playing field.
For town centre managers, the consequences of data are very real. Communities are not just places to shop. They are our workplaces, our social hubs, our leisure and tourism destinations. By using data, along with expertise and creativity, we can continue to improve the places we love.
The challenge, for people like me, is to take this vast sea of data and turn it into something useful for everybody. A form we can all look at, appreciate and learn from. In short – to make it attractive and relevant. And that’s what Noggin does…
If you’re not getting the data you need, or you’re not getting what you need from your data, let’s chat…
This article was first published in The Place in March 2016