Writing for Digital Marketing Magazine about a piece of research we commissioned at the end of 2015, we explained how consumer attitudes are reacting to and influencing the fast pace of change in technology as well as the ways that ‘buyer behaviour’ is transforming the purchase journey online.

This project also looked at the impact this has on financial service marketers, based on what consumers told us about how they use technology to manage their money.

In this article will look at the third area researched - the opinions and changes needed for local authorities when it comes to their digital services.

Following the latest spending review, our local councils are being challenged in multiple ways. The burdens of delivering more with fewer resources and money in addition to a requirement to join together more local bodies, are just two of those.

 

Key research findings:

- Nearly two thirds (63%) of those surveyed have visited their local authority’s website (representing a significant digital audience)
- 57% have used a local government site to look for information, such as bin collections, local schools and opening times to amenities
- This largely receptive audience remains consistent across age groups with over half all of all age groups (from 16 to 65+) looking for information on their local authority sites
- 86% of people have bought online in the past year, yet less than a quarter (21%) of online visitors have ordered or booked a product or service online (such as a new bin, a school place or a library book)
- When it comes to sharing and recommending via email or social media, just 10% have shared something from their local authority and again only 10% have recommended a local authority service.

The pressures on local authorities, that I mentioned earlier, go some way to
explaining why the interaction from users is currently low: our data shows that 37% of people do not interact online with their local authority in a year.

Socitm, the society for IT practitioners in the public sector, and its local CIO council met in December 2015 (just after the government’s latest spending review) to discuss just how little money is available for digital transformation.

Its recommendations in a draft paper are stark but clear, stating that “there has been a focus on "transactions not relationships", "websites not outcomes for the citizen", "channel shift as opposed to service re-design and digital transformation".

It also recommends that members should focus on improving digital platforms to support the big areas of council spend, for example health and social care.

We agree with the CIO council’s view that local governments have a leadership role to play, and must find ways to deliver better digital services to meet the increased demand on the physical services they dispense. In addition, IT consultancies and providers have a major role to play in advising and providing innovative, low-cost services which really improve the digital platforms available for residents and businesses of each authority. While there is merit in picking the services that can impact the most people, we believe it is possible to improve the full portfolio online and capitalise on the potential for offering self-service digital capabilities to users.

Yet there is good news. The Scottish Parliament recently announced that it has doubled and redefined its digital budget by consolidating various separate work streams. Furthermore, our work for Brighton & Hove City Council – to migrate and upgrade their various websites, using a single platform solution in 2013 in the form of open source software Drupal – shows that it can be done.

Starting from a situation where multiple designs, platforms and infrastructure were in place, we show that it’s possible to help a local authority to conceive and manage its digital operations more easily and provide improved digital experiences to local users.

 

By Sarah Knight, Marketing Manager at Acquia





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