St George’s Market traders sign up to ‘Voice for Locals’ to level up  their business and trade online

The Voice for Locals Initiative offers digital tools, marketing 
techniques and customer experience training for small firms, and it is 
set to digitise NI marketplaces and high streets.

Voice for Locals, which received a £1.82m grant from the UK Government 
to bolster small businesses’ potential, has digitised over 200 local 
businesses across Northern Ireland in less than 30 days.

The initiative launched its latest drive ‘Times Are Changing’ at St 
George’s Market last week to help traders, who typically rely on in-
person footfall, to extend their services online and tap into the 
world of e-commerce.

The Voice for Locals team met traders to introduce them to their 
tagline “Times Are Changing”, to illustrate that their trading times 
are changing. They can now expand sales, trading online every day of 
the week. It also signifies the fact that it is an opportune time for 
traders to take their business to a digital platform.

The initiative allows engagement with a broader audience, on a more 
consistent basis, beyond the confines of St George’s Market official 
trading days, thanks to the Voice for Locals digital directory of all 
rated businesses across Northern Ireland, ni.voiceforlocals.co.uk.

The momentous event saw traders at the iconic venue use a mobile app 
to collect ratings, reviews, manage bookings and drive loyalty 
effortlessly. The traders, who typically trade on Fridays, Saturdays 
and Sundays were seen proudly sharing the news of their online 
presence with their customers.

The platform allows traders to go digital with mobile apps, get 
marketed locally, get certified with e-learning courses endorsed by 
City & Guilds, and avail of personalised business and technology 
advice, to build a self-reliant economy in the wake of the pandemic.

The initiative, delivered by a consortium of organisations including 
Unloc Limited, TieTa and City & Guilds, has plans to extend this drive 
to other marketplaces and high streets.

Jay Thattai, Founder and Steering Authority at Voice for Locals, said 
the campaign would help businesses “recover, rebuild and rebound.”

He said: “It was gratifying to see 71 traders signing up for online 
business in a single day. 55% of traders onboarded are women 
entrepreneurs with basic digital skills. Every trader will have their 
own landing page with their business description, pictures and videos 
featured in the Voice for Locals NI directory. They are also given 
tools to collect genuine customer ratings and reviews in the market 
which will reflect online automatically, to boost their credibility 
for online shoppers to shop locally with confidence.

“Every trader’s landing page also has an enquiry button to generate 
leads for the traders during the non-trading days. The leads 
automatically go to their personalised mobile apps.

“The iconic St George’s Market has an international appeal and 
attracts tourists from all over the globe. With the expanded digital 
presence, traders can now tap into rest of the UK, Europe and world 
markets that would have otherwise been unattainable, via the 
initiative’s extension plans.”

One trader who availed of the initiative is Cathy McLaverty from 
Randalstown. Cathy is Chair of St George’s Market Traders Association 
and sells a range of women’s accessories. Her business is Cathy 
McLaverty Accessories.

She said: “All we have is a few hours in a day to make something, 
market and sell it. We have always looked forward to Fridays, 
Saturdays and Sundays at St George’s market to sell our products. We 
do not have the team, the skillset, or the time to digitise and market 
our business. Until this point, we did not have an opportunity to own 
the database of customers that shopped from us.

“Most importantly, we could not reach out to them when we introduced 
new designs. We did not know if we had a happy customer and if that 
individual would recommend us on social media and refer us to friends 
and families. With Voice for Locals, we have this information at our 
fingertips. We have the tools to personalise rewards and promotions 
and ensure we are continuously engaging with our customers, and we 
truly feel empowered.

“The NI directory will also help generate leads for the traders from 
Monday to Thursday, when the market is closed. We are looking forward 
to pinpointing new business opportunities.”

The consortium’s tender win for the project makes it the recipient of 
the fifth largest grant in the UK and the largest in Northern Ireland. 
Unloc will provide the technology, marketing and skills development 
element of the offering while TieTa will offer business and technical 
support. The team is working closely with City & Guilds to gain 
recognition for e-learning programmes delivered to local businesses 
throughout the scheme’s duration.

This project is funded by the UK Government through the UK Community 
Renewal Fund. For further information about the Voice for Locals 
Initiative, log on to voiceforlocals.co.uk

Love Belfast
Love Belfast
Belfast guide to restaurants, bars, nightclubs, concerts, events, hotels, entertainment, special offers, news, gossip, travel, festivals and culture. https://lovebelfast.co.uk

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