Cheltenham has made a surprise appearance in the top 10 of a list of towns and cities with a strong online presence alongside major high streets like London, Nottingham and Manchester, according to recent statistics.

The Gloucestershire town landed at number eight on The UK Digital Influence Index, ahead of the UK’s second city, Birmingham (9), and Leeds (10). The index measures the digital output of over 1300 towns and cities based on the social media activity of 150,000 retailers.

‘Digital influence’ is the ability of any town or city to drive measurable outcomes from online channels to their high street.

Polly Barnfield OBE, CEO and Founder of Maybe* which compiled the index, said: “With the increasing culture of online shopping, reviews and research, retail is now a 24/7 experience. Social media influences 78 per cent of purchase decisions.  Embracing these channels can reap significant benefits for both individual retailers and their combined towns and cities.”

It is predicted that by 2020, 80 percent of retail purchases will still occur offline but close to 50 per ent of these sales will be influenced by a digital interaction prior to purchase.

Despite this, 74 percent of high street retailers are not currently active on social media while around 40 percent do not even have a website.

Maybe* heads up a collaborative group of businesses working on #WDYT (What Do You Think), a campaign which helps retailers increase their use of social media and digital channels to drive local footfall.

The campaign encourages retailers and shoppers to share a photo each day of something they love across their social media channels, using #[Town] and #WDYT. In the same post/tweet they are also asked to tag in the relevant retailer’s social account handle.

Cheltenham was part of the pilot #WDYT campaign, alongside Gloucester and Stroud, which launched in July 2016. Since then, all three locations have seen their rankings in The UK Digital Influence Index rise rapidly, with Cheltenham jumping from 22 to number eight, Gloucester from 50 to 20 and Stroud from 273 to 132.

Cheltenham BID Director Kevan Blackadder said: “#WDYT has given me a different way of engaging with businesses. It’s given the town a more joined up feel. It’s about closing the gap between shopping online and shopping on the high street.”

Polly added: “The pilot campaign was a huge success, engaging with over 300 retailers and over 50,000 consumers all using #WDYT – we are here to help all retailers across the UK drive local footfall through digital channels.”

Since February 2017, the campaign has gone live in another seven towns and cities throughout the country. The data collected is being linked with local footfall devices to reveal the impact of digital influence on local footfall.

To get involved with #WDYT both business owners and their customers can simply post pictures to Twitter or Instagram using #Town and #WDYT and, where possible, @mention the local business too.

The UK Digital Influence Index is available for all 1300 UK towns and cities. To see where your location ranks and for more information about the #WDYT campaign, see www.wdyt.org.uk