Digital technologies play key roles in the ways that most people in the UK connect to the world around them, whether planning a holiday, travelling to the high street or resting in a park.
For placemakers and place marketing professionals, whose job it is to develop marketing strategies for, and attract visitors (and investors) to a particular location, digital tech has become an increasingly important part of their marketing toolkit.
Place professionals are passionate about fostering vibrant destinations and welcoming public spaces, and digital technologies are supporting them to do this in a variety of new and innovative ways.
Wanting to support and empower professionals in this space, to increase engagement with their locations and boost local economies, last year we launched a unique digital placemaking platform to put the power of digital placemaking directly into the hands of place marketers.
The Place Experience Platform (PEP) is already being used in 10 cities across Europe and recently saw Calvium become a finalist for ‘Innovation’ in the 2022 UK Digital Growth Awards, as well as be recognised as one of CreaTech Ones to Watch 2021.
With PEP gearing up to launch in five new locations, we wanted to give some insight into how PEP is helping to create distinct and memorable identities for destinations, deepen the connections between visitors and places, and foster ground-breaking changes in public spaces.
Features and functionality
On a top level, PEP combines the ability to create, deliver, update and analyse bespoke digital visitor experiences. Its USP is that it is an integrated system that gives clients the power of three digital place marketing and experience tools in one: an app for the public, content management system for place marketers, and an analytics dashboard to measure impact.
In order to ensure it would be easy to use for both place marketers in charge of the experiences and for the visitors, user-centred design informed all stages of the design and development of the platform.
The app attracts people to a destination, provides a unique experience when there and encourages repeat visits by:
- Providing unique geolocated content about a destination, combining wayfinding, storytelling and up-to-date information.
- Offering a responsive and personalised visitor experience, 24/7.
- Acting as a place assurance companion.
Content Management System
The CMS is an easy-to-use, flexible and scalable tool that gives place marketers complete control of all the content seen in the visitor app. This is achieved by:
- Enabling visitor experiences to be changed easily and quickly.
- Allowing the co-creation of stories with communities or by professional practitioners.
- Providing the ability to design and map place trails, which can help to draw visitors away from busy thoroughfares and bottlenecks that cause poor experiences.
- Supporting the economies of less visited areas by encouraging visitors to move around the location in a guided way.
- Allowing for real-time responsiveness.
The analytics dashboard provides clear data visualisations of use by:
- Tracking usage of key features to reveal visitor preferences.
- Enhancing data-driven decision making.
How the Place Experience Platform solves key challenges
Today’s place marketers and placemaking specialists face a number of significant challenges around time, cost and resource, which PEP’s robust and flexible technology seeks to address.
Challenge: Town and city high streets have declining footfall and spend.
- PEP benefit: Place marketers are tasked with supporting the local economy. PEP enables them to create visitor experiences that distribute footfall around a location – increasing dwell time and spend.
Challenge: Traditional marketing resources are static; including printed guidebooks, maps and posters.
- PEP benefit: PEP enables marketers to easily change content, such as access routes in line with road closures, pop-up activities and stories. It delivers multiple types of geolocated content direct to users’ smartphones through a destination’s branded app.
Challenge: Traditional marketing materials are not customisable for individual preferences.
- PEP benefit: The accessible app has personalisation at its heart, including language selection and customisable assets. It is also compliant with the most up-to-date Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Challenge: To create and update geolocated apps, the cost and time needed to commission third-party developers is significant.
- PEP benefit: PEP empowers clients to create and publish their own app content, therefore streamlining workflow and saving budget.
Challenge: Local creative input fails to be sourced and applied to place marketing materials.
- PEP benefit: Clients can help the regeneration of their places by co-designing diverse tours with and for their local communities, fostering a sense of inclusion and belonging.
Challenge: Most destinations do not have smartphone enabled geolocated experiences that visitors now expect 24/7.
- PEP benefit: Marketers can quickly provide an always-on visitor experience. PEP was designed offline first and optimised for mobile use, meaning visitors always have access to a great experience, even without a mobile signal.
Place Experience Platform in action
Hidden Cities is a suite of apps that take users on guided tours of seven different European cities, combining augmented reality, digital placemaking and multi-language support to create an immersive experience that allows visitors to view each place through the lens of the past.
Users are led round the streets of Exeter, Valencia, Hamburg and more, by a fictional guide, who links the places they visit to stories from their own life and times. When the user arrives at each location, the app triggers the audio and site-specific content to display on the device, relaying each location’s narrative in the user’s language of choice – made possible by the multiple language capability of the app.
Salisbury Trails is a prime example of how the Place Experience Platform can be used to support the economic recovery of a place. Following the deadly Novichok poisoning in the city centre in 2018, Salisbury was struggling to attract visitors and urgently needed to support businesses and boost tourism.
Calvium collaborated with Wiltshire Council to deliver a digital service that would enable visitors to discover the city’s unique heritage and points of interest and, hopefully, change tarnished perceptions of Salisbury in the process.
In addition to suggesting places to explore off the beaten track, shopping routes and places to eat and drink, the app also gives people the option to choose to follow defined trails and hear stories about particular attractions.
City of London
The City of London’s City Visitor Trail app launched in 2014, allowing visitors to explore London’s famous square mile on foot through a series of routes. Like many organisations, however, the busy visitor team reached a point where finding the time to add new audio stories and keep the information up to date had become a challenge.
Moving the app to the Place Experience Platform meant the visitor team could update its content in real-time, whenever they pleased, while keeping it in line with other campaigns and marketing materials – ultimately ensuring the app remains a key part of the visitor experience.
PEP’s success metrics relate to the empowerment of our client, the place marketer, in a number of ways.
In addition to reducing ongoing production costs, streamlining production workflow and increasing audience reach, PEP allows place marketers to save time in contractor management, and increase flexibility and opportunities for collaborative production.
The analytics dashboard enhances decision-making by allowing clients to track the usage of key features to reveal visitor preferences, contributing evidence for data-driven analysis of visitor experiences and wider marketing collateral.
For example, when students at the University of Exeter worked with St Nicholas Priory and RAMM museum to create content for the Hidden Exeter app, PEP enabled them to coordinate, produce and present their collaborative work to their community in a widely accessible and engaging format.
The future of the Place Experience Platform
The flexible nature of the platform means it is well-positioned to adapt to new technologies, policies and regulations, as well as changing consumer behaviours. It has an ambitious roadmap and will evolve over time as the requirements of people and places evolve.