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Updated: Sep 30, 2020

Jackie Mulligan is on a mission to stop communities from becoming ghost towns. She talks to BQ about her business, ShopAppy and why she recommends Digital Enterprise to other business owners.

What is it the company does? is a mobile-friendly website and mobile app designed to encourage customers (both residents and visitors) to use local shops and businesses directly and more frequently and to help shops and businesses reach local customers who are shopping online.  

The initiative is growing fast as a shop local movement (now in 25 towns) to support retailers and independent and small businesses in increasingly turbulent times. The aim is to help build sustainable local economies, town, city centres and markets and strengthen communities and businesses. To do this we need to change behaviours – retailers need to engage more online and collaborate and customers need to consider local alternatives in their online shopping and browsing. 

ShopAppy provides a collective shop window and a campaign that promotes shopping local. It is an advertising window and collective eCommerce site for businesses to promote and sell their products or services together online with an easy bookings and click and collect service to increase footfall and most importantly spend.  

Our research has shown that 91% of people say ShopAppy encourages them to shop local more and there are three key reasons: 

*It makes it easier for people to see what the local shops and services sell in one place

*It makes it more convenient for time-pressed people to shop local

*It is supported with a shop local campaign specific to the town which prompts people to think local first

Featured on BBC The One Show, BBC Look North, BBC Look East and ITV Calendar, ShopAppy enables people who live, work or are visiting the location to easily browse products and services in the area with the added benefit of enabling them to collect their shopping at a convenient time during the day or after the shops have closed from a central collection point like a pub, café, town hall or late night opening store. ShopAppy promises customers “convenience with a local conscience”. 

Describe your role in no more than 100 words 

I founded ShopAppy and now run the company overseeing growth and technological development. The site now has over 500 businesses registered across 25 areas in five counties. My work is different every day, from holding team meetings, talking to small businesses, liaising with tech and marketing teams, speaking at conferences, to MPs, media and local authorities and BIDs and travelling up and down the country. 

How did you come to do the work that you do? 

I followed my passion for places. I spent a lot of time travelling internationally and commuting and got increasingly concerned that when I returned home my local area was losing businesses who could not compete with the online giants.

I was studying for my PhD which looked at the importance of people and environment on wellbeing and I could see what a detrimental effect ghost towns were having on communities. I felt compelled to act to support my own locality. I knew myself and neighbours were spending online, but like most people, we wanted to shop local.

The problem was that shops were closed when we got home from work. I felt there was a solution to enable people to shop local online so that online spending and browsing could be diverted to local spending and footfall, either bringing people in to click and collect, or influencing people to visit the shops in person. 

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position? 

We are on a mission to change behaviours and this takes time, so getting people to see online as friend not foe, and that there is a better future available through collaboration is a constant challenge. However, as we grow, it is becoming easier to establish the scheme and to get people on board. It has never been more important for us to act at this most challenging time for our cities and towns, and small businesses. 

Where do you see the company in five years’ time? 

International, making a positive impact on communities, economies and the planet with more people able to support local and more thriving communities, cities, markets and towns. 

Why did you take part in Digital Enterprise or Digital Knowledge Exchange? 

It was an opportunity to innovate and as a company, we continue to innovate as we stay close and spend more time with our partners, businesses and customers. 

What has the Digital Enterprise or Digital Knowledge Exchange done for your business? 

Helped to refine the site, build new intellectual property and improve our service, which is now supporting 25 areas in Yorkshire, Wiltshire, Hertfordshire and Norfolk. We have been recognised for Digital Innovation by the Federation of Small Businesses (Yorkshire and the Humber) and won NATWEST GB Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the North (Service Industries Category). 

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?  Take time identifying those that can help you deliver and stay focused on your vision. 

What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?  Business plans are never realistic at the start, but that’s fine, because without the belief that you can achieve the impossible at break-neck speed, you would never take the leap. 

Why would you recommend Digital Enterprise or the Digital Knowledge Exchange  It will support your company to grow. 

If you liked this post, please share with your friends and followers. If you are interested in digital, why not check out the Digital Enterprise Top 100, a major initiative to identify those companies that are setting an example for others to follow within the world of digital transformation.

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