UK Government launch new Initiative to support Britain’s High Street

Good to see the Government’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board launch a new  project by announcing an £8 million initiative designed to “re-invigorate UK high streets” . The premise of the competition is to explore new ideas and concepts to help revitalise Britain’s high streets by embracing new technologies to assist with driving footfall back onto high streets.

According to Innovate UK, the competition is looking for creative and collaborative ideas to explore new approaches to retailing, service provision, logistics and travel management such as:

  • new technologies that combine both physical and virtual shopping to create a hybrid ‘clicks and bricks’ high street 
  • a ‘networked’ high street that matches people’s time and skills against local needs 
  • applications that connect a system’s users (consumers, tourists, businesses, local authorities) in ways that are simple to use, secure and sustainable 
  • new kinds of data use – methods for capturing intelligence about a city’s high street (for example travel, parking, footfall, spend patterns, geographic distribution of business types, socio- economic analysis of consumers) 
  • new or improved methods of retailing and service provision that enhance consumer experience through targeted deals, easier travel options and streamlined/integrated information provision and social media. 

There are a number of opportunities where technology could easily be  integrated within the high street and a number of initiatives have successfully launched such as Amazon’s Click & Collect. Usability or multivariate testing is another well known digital activity that should be explored utilising the high street.

At a time when the rise in digital continues to accelerate through multiple platforms in order to reach your audience (Website, Mobile, Apps). According to a recent Econsultancy report on usability, this activity has been stalling:

  • Only 55% of companies are currently conducting any user experience testing
  • 73% of companies “plan” to carry out user experience testing within the next 12 months with 49% planning to invest more in UX testing over the next year
  • Assumptions are the killer – too many companies are still relying on personal opinions within the organisation rather than investing in UX 
  • Lack of budget and resource time are the main reasons given for poor take-up of user experience testing
  • Companies see improving mobile user experience as a high priority – but few are conducting testing
  • 61% of companies with a turnover of less than £10mn have no dedicated in-house user experience staff



UX testing is involving your end customer to trial, test-out and feedback concerns or problems encountered when using your digital product/service – this could be anything from completing a task e.g. complete purchase or navigating a website.  It has been reported that 45% of companies are not completing any UX testing of their digital projects.

It’s a concerning trend that UX is still not recognised as one of the foundations for any successful digital organisation needing to build their digital reputation and wanting to engage and build a connection with a user audience. It seems as though resource, accessibility and Industry knowledge seem to be the fundamental issues that entwine the 6 factors from this UX report together.

Can the High Street assist UX roll-out?

Britain’s high street has been at the centre of the doom merchants attention throughout the recession and I blogged about how digital marketing could support Britain’s high streets focusing on a mix of different digital tactics, to be used as a stimulus to inject revenue opportunities into our high street shops.  You can find more of the same thoughts here and here.

With this in mind, here are 6 reasons why Opticians could provide the perfect opportunity to provide user testing within their stores:

1) Audience – Opticians are attracting a captive audience that is in their store for issues around eyesight, perhaps offering an incentive whilst waiting for their appointment to complete a User Experience project 

2) Equipment – Opticians provide a specific service to their audience with specific equipment and facilities already in place that would provide the opportunity to include UX facilities

3) Footfall – Recruiting members of the public to partake in user testing can prove to be an obstacle – by expanding UX onto the high street provides an opportunity to make use of existing footfall being driven into Opticians by offering an incentive to complete UX activity

4) Lack of budget and resource was a key reason for poor take up within digital organisations. This opportunity provides opticians with a unique selling point and to help facilitate the opportunity to expand in user testing

5)  Monetise Collaboration – strategic and commercial opportunities to collaborate with digital marketing organisations to sponsor the roll out of user testing environments within stores.

 6) Demographic by footfall – The mix of clientele through  an opticians door provides the opportunity for a variety of different UX projects to be rolled out for different audience profiles based on personas.

This could be a perfect opportunity for a nationwide opticians chain to capitalise on a first mover advantage and diversify in providing user experience facilities within their nationwide chain? How about it?