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Growing rural tourism and e-commerce with Digital Village ‘Virtual Farmer Markets’

Digital Villages offer local communities a platform for digital tourism marketing and e-commerce marketplaces.

Digital Scotland offers a particular strength in ‘Destination Marketing Platforms’ – Publishing regular and informative social media content about your town, with a particular emphasis on user generated content, video and key tie-ins like Instagram feeds, as a powerful way to engage potential new tourism visitors.

Previously this type of technology and approach has been out of the reach of smaller towns, but our SaaS (Software as a Service) model makes it accessible.

Furthermore it also includes powerful e-commerce facilities, so that not only can web site traffic be converted into bookings for tourism venues but the brand experience can also be extended to grow online sales for local artisans and vendors.

Destination Management System

The purpose and functionality of a DMS (Destination Management System) can be seen through the requirements of a recent RFP published by the team at visitwestlothian.co.uk.

The main requested features were stated as:

  • “Provides a more Inclusive digital information service by including detailed accessibility information relating to our venues and activities
  • Includes a more comprehensive and accessible What’s On section which encourages and enables all event organisers to upload their own event content.
  • Includes a Venues section which brings together details of all relevant meeting/conference venues across West Lothian and includes a search function
  • Includes a new section on Filming Locations which highlights some of the top filming sites across the county for both visitors and production teams.
  • Is replaced and updated using new branding and typeface, with existing functionality reviewed and other elements added.”

and also that

“As part of this project we would also like to create video, 360 and drone footage content for a number of our attractions/venues to help inspire visits. Videos would last a maximum of 1 and a half minutes and all content would be embedded into the relevant business listings/sections on the website.”

Digital Village Microsites

As well as defining the main features of a DMS, this RFP in particular highlighted the role our Digital Village sites platform provides:

Offers a microsite template which can be used to create additional, basic online platforms for some of our Villages & Towns (some of which would benefit from an enhanced online presence).

It’s fairly safe to say in this day and age all communities would benefit from an enhanced online presence, but this type of powerful marketing technology has previously been out of reach of the budget and skills of smaller towns and villages.

Digital Villages addresses that need through a ‘SaaS’ (Software as a Service) model, so that this type of software is made affordable and scalable for thousands of different sites.

In essence it’s an “app store” of different capabilities – Content marketing, e-commerce, social media marketing, that can be provisioned and fine-tuned for each community.

Biggar.online

Our first Digital Village site Biggar.online demonstrates these features in action.

The Biggar.online community portal shows how Smart Villages can be used for local event marketing, such as The Big Weekend, driving demand for local businesses like Accommodation.

With a site-wide event calendar and directory tool for listing all types of businesses, it’s quick and simple to build event campaigns that drive ticket sales and other local bookings.

Virtual Farmers Markets

The site is also equipped with powerful e-commerce capabilities, including “Social Commerce” features – This refers to the integration of e-commerce shopping with social media networks and technologies. For example offering loyalty incentives and rewards in exchange for sharing products across your Facebook contacts.

Importantly the site can aggregate multiple vendors into a single store, in essence what can be thought of as a ‘Virtual Farmers Market’.

Across rural communities are many artisan vendors, those who sell various hand made craft products, and of course much farming. As such there is an availability of fresh foods and also nice presents for the home, an ideal inventory for online shopping, where sales for each can be maximized through:

  • Common ordering and delivery – Ideally customers can place one order and receive one delivery, not one from each vendor.
  • Shared incentive and loyalty scheme – Buying from one vendor earns loyalty points redeemable at another.

Future innovations

We’ll be continually enhancing the capabilities of the platform, incorporating a variety of new digital innovations; for example Augmented Reality technologies.

Enhancing the experience with these types of exciting innovations will draw in even greater visitor numbers and continue the massive economic success of this industry. This Conversation article comments on the details of this economic success and the critical role immersive experiences can play in facilitating this boost.

Simple examples include AR tourism guides, such as this one for Inverness Castle, and for Loch Lomond they inserted ‘Zapcodes’ into the local guide magazine, to trigger AR links that enhance the printed word with a virtual experience.

You can discover Fife and discover the Highlands via AR: