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Leeds city report: Power in community

Discover the top business trends in the city where everyone pulls together

14 April, 2021
 ·  5 minutes
Illustration of Leeds Town Hall

On 4 November 2015, Maddie Julian got a terrible shock. Her young son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. She and her partner spent the following week learning how to manage this complex condition. The training was excellent, but it left them feeling isolated; they were now the only ones in their network of family and friends qualified to look after their son. To address this issue and help other families, they created DigiBete, an education platform about Type 1 Diabetes.

DigiBete is a great example of a Leeds success-story. To get started, Maddie partnered with the Diabetes Team at Leeds Children’s Hospital and Academic Health Science Network (AHSN). This gave her access to the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN’s digital health innovation support initiative. She received business support from Leeds Council and local accelerator programmes and made use of community networks such as Bruntwood SciTech and events like the Leeds Digital Festival. She then worked with a local video production company to produce resources for the platform.

The success of DigiBete highlights the unique strengths of Leeds as a business hub and start-up incubator. To learn more about the key opportunities and challenges faced by businesses in Yorkshire’s biggest city, we created theLeeds city report: Power in the community. We surveyed over 100 Leeds businesses and spoke with 12 leaders and experts and uncovered four key challenges:

Download Leeds city report

Don’t miss the full story, actionable advice, and access to our Leeds directory.

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Challenge 1: I’m a manufacturing business that needs help to sell direct-to-consumer

Illustration representing direct-to-consumer

The rise of ecommerce provides brands with a direct channel to their consumers. This is particularly relevant for Yorkshire, given its manufacturing heritage. 98% of Leeds businesses have invested significantly in ecommerce in the last 12 months, including many manufacturers.

“We've seen a lot of our manufacturing clients embrace going direct to their consumers. Nobody's been on holiday, they've been sitting looking at the house going: 'Right! Let's spend the money we would have spent going on holiday on a new kitchen or a new bathroom.' There’s a load of demand there.”

John ReadmanFounder and CEO, Modo25

Going D2C: Advice from digital agency AYKO

AYKO is a full-service digital agency headquartered in the Headrow in Leeds City Centre. It’s one of the largest Magento solution partners in Europe, and has helped build ecommerce sites for hundreds of businesses. Here are AYKO’s four tips for businesses wanting to sell direct-to-consumer (D2C).

  • Set clear objectives: Establishing from the outset what you’re doing and why will avoid unnecessary complications.
  • Assign a project champion: Sell the dream and ensure buy-in from every stakeholder.
  • Start small: Dipping your toe in the water can be a good way of gauging your potential.
  • Get to know your new audience: Create buyer personas and break down their journeys to create an experience that works for them.

Challenge 2: I’m a hospitality business. How can I improve my resilience?

Illustration representing online food delivery

Before 2020, Leeds’ hospitality industry was booming. What follows is only too familiar. Lockdowns brought the industry to a standstill. According to our recent research report, 81% of respondents in Yorkshire said they’d avoided dining out or visiting bars and cafes during the pandemic.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. We’ve encountered some impressive ingenuity from hospitality businesses as they adapted to survive. In fact, measures born from necessity will likely improve the customer experience way beyond the pandemic.

North Brewing Co.: Weathering the pandemic

Like everyone else, North Brewing Co. has been on a rollercoaster ride during the past year. With its primary source of income closed, the team had to come up with ways to maintain revenue and cash flow.

It decided to digitise its customer journey while retaining complete control of the experience. It brought its webshop in-house, and it turned its brewery into a makeshift distribution centre, bringing furloughed bar staff back to work as delivery drivers. In preparation for opening again, the team rolled out an app-based table ordering platform to facilitate contact-free ordering. It also implemented click and collect.

“Before lockdown, our online sales were less than 1%. Now it’s grown to about 30% overall.”

Sarah HardyMarketing Manager, North Brewing Co.

QTap: Contactless ordering software

Even as hospitality businesses open again, no one knows for how long social distancing measures will remain in place. This is where technology like QTap comes in.

QTap is a Yorkshire-based company that's produce an app for pubs, bars, restaurants, and hotels to let customers order and pay in-app from their table. It can also be used to incentivise visits with special offers and manage footfall digitally.

“After the hospitality industry was put on hold in March 2020, we were inundated with requests for QTap technology. We saw the opportunity to help venues get back up and running as quickly and safely as possible, so we jumped to it.”

Craig PollockCo-Founder, QTap

Challenge 3: How do I stay agile to keep up with new challenges?

Illustration representing business agility

McKinsey’s ‘The Quickening’ report said it best: “If you’re feeling whiplash, it might be the ten years forward we just jumped in 90 days’ time.” Ecommerce’s share of sales went up by over 130% in a matter of weeks and many businesses struggled to keep up.

The biggest barrier to innovation that Leeds businesses identified was outdated technology systems. Which is why, over the past 12 months, many of them have implemented new technologies, capabilities, and procedures to stay on top of consumer needs. This includes digital loyalty programmes, app-based ordering platforms, contactless payments, and click and collect.

Working with technology partners

Leeds-based businesses cited a variety of barriers to updating their technology systems. For many, it was the risk of potential disruption, followed by the lack of internal expertise, the need for speed, and cost. The right technology partners will help ease the transition for you. They’ll simplify the process of integration and ensure your customers get the best experience while minimising the disruption.

“Get online as quickly as possible and just choose good partners. You will make mistakes, but don’t let that get you down. A good partner will help you make less of those mistakes.”

Lewis SellersManaging Director, Pinpoint

Challenge 4: How do I find support communities and networking opportunities?

Illustration representing online communities

When it comes to doing business in Leeds, the community really benefits from the Northern Powerhouse spirit. Every Leeds business we spoke to talked about the fantastic support you can find in the city. There’s a real spirit of pulling together. Here are some examples of business support communities in Leeds:

  • Bruntwood SciTech
  • Leeds Digital Festival
  • Yorkshire Mafia
  • All in. Leeds
  • FutureLabs
  • Leeds Digital Drinks
  • MHabitat

Directory of local experts

As part of the report, we’ve pulled together a directory of local experts that would love to support businesses in Leeds. You can find the full list, complete with contact details, in the full report.

Download Leeds city report

Don’t miss the full story, actionable advice, and access to our Leeds directory.

Get report

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