‘Get Local’: connecting businesses to their neighbourhoods during COVID-19
Barclays and neighbourhood hub Nextdoor have teamed up to offer UK businesses a platform to connect with their local communities during the pandemic. We hear from Barclays’ Stephen Sangster and photography business owner Lauren McWilliams about how the ‘Get Local’ scheme is supporting businesses as they reopen – and why its features can make a “huge difference” to them.
Not all great ideas for business solutions begin in boardrooms. For Stephen Sangster, Vice President, Product and Propositions at Barclays, a walk around the neighbourhood proved to be the inspiration for the ‘Get Local’ partnership – an offer which has so far supported thousands of businesses.
“Right at the start of lockdown, I walked down my local high street to talk to some businesses about their concerns and problems – but of course they were shut,” he says. “What I did find were notices in their windows saying, 'I'm open for business – you can still get deliveries' or ‘You can order through the website' or 'We've had to close and furlough staff for a period but we'll be back'.
“There was a huge need for these local businesses to be able to communicate with their neighbourhoods, but they were struggling because not all high street businesses have built up a presence on social media. There seemed to be a big communication gap.”
Barclays had already been in contact with Nextdoor, a neighbourhood-focused social network that helps local communities connect – whether that’s to share safety tips, plan an event or find a babysitter. But, Sangster explains, it wasn’t until the crisis hit in March that the two organisations realised that a collaboration could make a real difference to businesses across the UK. They set about launching the ‘Get Local’ scheme at record speed.
Sangster says: “By working together, we thought we could create something that would help our customers survive this terrible time and that's when we started to really ramp up the conversations. In about three weeks, we had co-created a proposition and launched it to market.”
By working together, we thought we could create something that would help our customers survive this terrible time
Vice President, Product and Propositions at Barclays
‘Get Local’ to boost your business
The ‘Get Local’ partnership offered UK businesses impacted by the pandemic the chance to grow their presence through a new COVID-19 ‘Open for Business’ directory and through ‘Business Posts’, where they can share important information such as up-to-date opening times and their current set-up.
Businesses that bank with Barclays can also benefit from a free ‘Local Deal’ – a targeted ad that offers their potential customers using Nextdoor an added incentive, such as an offer or discount, to encourage sales.
The ‘Get Local’ scheme has already had a big impact on businesses such as Lauren McWilliams’. McWilliams, who runs business For You Photography in Newcastle upon Tyne, describes the uncertainty at the start of the crisis as “terrifying” but says ‘Get Local’ made a “huge difference”. Within two weeks of creating a ‘Local Deal’, 145,000 people had viewed her business advert.
“The exposure in my local community was so important,” she explains. “I’ve been fully booked for July and August, and I’ve got bookings for September, October and November.”
Chris Matthews, a Business Relationship Manager at Barclays, adds: “During a pandemic, promoting your business when you can’t physically do business face-to-face is crucial, particularly for businesses in the startup phase like Lauren’s. All of these local businesses can understand what each other is doing, support each other and talk to each other.”
The exposure in my local community was so important. I’ve been fully booked for July and August, and I’ve got bookings for September, October and November
Owner and Photographer, For You Photography
McWilliams is just one of the businesses now using Nextdoor – and Sangster hopes more and more will become aware of the platform.
“People are still a bit nervous about how to interact with their local shops,” says Sangster, “so a big challenge will be cashflow.”
The need for businesses to show customers they are operating safely to give customers confidence means the ‘Get Local’ scheme is just as relevant as when it was introduced in April – so the scheme, originally due to end in July, has been extended to the end of January 2021.
Asked about his guidance for local businesses who have recently reopened, Sangster suggests they should stay aware of government advice – and take an adaptable approach.
“Think about how this crisis has changed the way people operate and how you need to adapt to improve customer experience,” he says. “Depending what sector you're in, you might be facing a lot of competition to win consumers back. There are nearly six million small businesses in the UK today – the ones that make customers feel the most welcome and safe, and like they're getting a value-added experience, are going to win through. Businesses that think they can carry on as usual are going to struggle.”
How Barclays’ network can help businesses
Sangster is enthusiastic about providing innovative business support like the ‘Get Local’ scheme that moves beyond traditional banking services.
We can work with some of the best players in the market to create partnerships where there is shared value and introduce our customers to a partner who can help them
Vice President, Product and Propositions at Barclays
“Banks are becoming more integrated – more of a marketplace for wider solutions,” he says.
“Businesses have obviously got much wider problems and opportunities outside of banking, and Barclays has the capability to support customers whether that is through digital interactions or our extensive relationship manager network.
“We can work with some of the best players in the market to create partnerships where there is shared value and introduce our customers to a partner who can help them.”