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Empowering local retail through technology


4 comerçImproving the competitiveness of small local retail businesses by increasing their online visibility.




Local retail is a key element for the City of Barcelona, fundamental in terms of employment, GDP, and as a model of coexistence and urban structure. The definition includes small food shops, household goods and clothes stores and other local retailers in any district in the city as well as larger businesses on the main streets of each neighbourhood.

The weight of this commerce in Barcelona is far higher than in other cities where large commercial centres have grown over many years. The consumer crisis and new consumer habits mean that this sector has been suffering in recent years and many small shops have closed down, which has the secondary effect of blighting the urban landscape.

Currently, these small, local retailers take very little advantage of the benefits of ICT and there are various obstacles to their uptake. The strengths that local shops have to offer – variety, convenience, quality customer service and expert advice – are not necessarily key to internet shopping. Additionally, smaller businesses often don’t have the margin needed for discounts (coupons, aggregated purchasing, etc.) or the turnover or logistical infrastructure to offer online sales. Technological knowledge and internet-use are usually lower than for customers and premises in large retail centres.

Barcelona is currently running the programme Obert al Futur (Open to the Future) which provides specialist training to small shop owners. It includes options on business strategy and management, ICT knowledge and use of Social Media.

The aim of this challenge is to discover innovative solutions to improve the competitiveness of small, local retail with technology. These solutions should include measures to increase footfall, expenditure and loyalty, plus the ability to attract tourists. Facilitating a significant increase in the visibility of local retail outlets on the internet is a priority as well improving their presence on the main search engines, social networks, and other applications used by consumers when searching for establishments.

The winning solution will ideally include a broad strategy of implementation and development rather than one technological solution alone so that it has a real impact for small retail outlets and their local communities.

The winning solution should also be easily scalable. The initial stage of implementation might be limited to one neighbourhood or shopping area, but the aim is to scale up to other commercial districts across Barcelona to support and strengthen the city’s unique model of local commerce based on proximity, professionalism, dynamism and innovation.

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