Is Manchester Really as Digital as They Say?

Digital Manchester

In a series of articles we look at major tech cities across the UK and find out how digital their retailers are. In cities full of talented digital people we expected to see a large proportion of their retailers trading online. This report looks at how digital Manchester is.

Manchester is a real up and coming digital city. The transformation into a digital hub has happened in the last five years with companies such as the BBC moving around 2,000 jobs to the recently developed MediaCityUK in Salford Quays[1]. Manchester is also staking a claim to be Europe’s 3D centre with tech giant EON Reality opening up a base in the city[2].

The websites of retail businesses in and around Manchester were analysed to find out how well they are engaging with digital. Using data from Market Location, the analysis looked at whether retailers have websites that offer e-commerce functionality, whether the websites are designed to be viewed on mobile devices and how often the websites have been shared on social media.

Digital Manchester

Around a fifth of the sites that were analysed had e-commerce functionality. This shows that there is potential for 80% of the businesses who don’t currently sell online to look into adding e-commerce functionality to their sites. Despite high-street retailers having a tough time at the moment e-commerce revenue in the UK is growing quickly, with some months showing a year-on-year growth of over 20%[3].

Soundbase Megastore is a retailer located in the upbeat Northern Quarter of Manchester City Centre. They supply digital DJ equipment ranging from turntables for the bedroom DJ to full PA systems for large events. Having e-commerce functionality on their site enables them to offer their entire product range to anyone in the world. By listing all of their products on their website they are also likely to encourage more local DJs to visits their retail store.

The retailer websites were analysed to see if they were designed responsively so that they work on mobile and tablet devices. This test also looked at whether the retailers had a dedicated mobile website.

Digital Manchester

Around 22% of the Manchester retailer sites in our study are responsive or purpose built for mobile devices. This compares favourably to a recent study that showed that around 12.5% of all websites are responsive. This number is rising rapidly and retailers should look into ensuing that their websites work well on all devices to give their customers a better user experience.

Bakery retailer Kara specialise in frozen bakery products for the food service industry. Their site enables users to see their full product range on all devices, showing a collapsible menu to those with mobile phone sized screens. This gives them a clear advantage over competitors whose sites do not respond to different screensizes.

Finally, the websites were analysed to see how often they had been shared across social media. Sites were grouped by the number of Facebook Likes and Tweets on Twitter that they received.

Digital Manchester

While the websites of most Manchester retailer shops had less than 100 Likes or Tweets it is good to see some of the independent businesses have over 500 Likes or Tweets. Engaging with your customers through social media is a great way to increase your brand awareness and improve your customer service.

When combing some of this data we can see that website owners who have sites that work on mobile devices and offer e-commerce functionality tend to have more social shares. Around 6% of the sites in the sample had websites with both mobile and e-commerce capabilities with these sites having a much higher than average number of social shares.

The website of Faiths Florists has had an impressive 679 Likes on Facebook. This shows that they are popular with their customers and provides ‘social proof’ to others who are considering ordering flowers from them.

Manchester has seen a big increase in their digital sector and this is slowly being reflected by local retailers. While only around 20% of retailer sites offer e-commerce, around 22% of the sites are responsive, showing that retailers are aware of the increase in mobile device usage. With Manchester predicted to create 23,000 digital jobs[4] in the next decade local retailers have plenty of help with building a perfect e-commerce website!

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MediaCityUK
2. http://www.thebusinessdesk.com/northwest/news/445466-manchester-can-be-europe-s-3d-centre.html?news_section=54020
3. http://www.edirectlink.net/growthofecommercesales/
4. http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/business/business-news/digital-sector-hailed-business-leaders-5173133