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Hosting firm supports local trader initiative

By Retail Technology | Wednesday June 12 2013

NuBlue backs first pilot of research project designed to help traders track customer buying habits in its local community

NuBlue has announced its support for a Lancaster trader-focused initiative that aims to get to the heart of local commerce.

The Lancaster-based web hosting company is providing free advanced hosting solutions for the duration of the 18-month BARTER research project, devised devised by tutors and a student at Lancaster University and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

In the wake of the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) predictions that 22% of High Street stores will close down within the next five years, BARTER seeks to buoy up local trading within a community, with the launch of a loyalty trading scheme in Lancaster. 

Market research benefits local trader

The loyalty trading system records and tracks trading patterns, using card-based market research technologies familiar to High Street stores. The special cards do not transmit personal data, but allow the trader to glean the customer’s first name and the amount spent.

The BARTER scheme offers local traders a smartphone app called ‘LocalTrader,’ which stores, uploads and tracks transactions from their customers. It tracks where and how much trading takes place in specific places within the local community, so that insights into consumer behaviour can be provided to participating traders. 

The BARTER cards can be swiped by a smartphone, or by a phone with a special attachment being developed by BARTER to gather data from the cards. Using NuBlue’s offer of free hosting, data can be stored in the cloud for later use and handover to the European Union, after the pilot project ends in November 2014.

The BARTER team is currently looking to recruit local businesses wishing to encourage local spend, whether they are grocers, pubs, milkmen, market traders or window cleaners. Any place or business providing local goods and services can take part.

Social networking capabilities 

Once involved, the scheme’s developers said traders would benefit from social networking between other traders and customers. Consumers can rate, recommend and review local businesses through the app well as keep tabs on their personal spending. 

The intention is to roll the BARTER project out nationwide after the Lancaster pilot. 

Tom Ashworth, NuBlue technical director, stated: “As a Lancaster-based web hosting provider, NuBlue has always championed the city, providing excellent IT job opportunities. It therefore makes perfect sense for us to support a research project which is all about assisting our local trading community and helping them use technology to their advantage.”

BARTER originally came out of a Catalyst Launchpad proposal at Lancaster University, initially supervised by Dr Paul Coulton of the exploratory lab ImaginationLancaster and his third year student, Adrian Gradinar, with support from Michael Hallam, Lancaster Ethical Small Trader Association (ESTA) founder. Mark Lochrie is developing the scheme, in conjunction with the University’s Dr Coulton and Professor Jon Whittle.

Lochrie added: “For BARTER to succeed, we need the support of local traders and hope to get as many on board as possible in the coming months. We are grateful to NuBlue for providing the free advanced hosting support that this project requires.”

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