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Time to Prioritise Joy Over Footfall Dwell and Spend

19 February 2019

High streets and retail destinations are bleeding out. Over 30,000 retailers are in ‘significant’ financial distress, according to insolvency firm Begbies Traynor.

We think that an over-reliance on the metric for visitor Footfall, Dwell and Spend (FDS) as the go-to success indicator for destinations is contributing to the malaise. Instead, destinations should be making visitor ‘joy’ the go-to success metric.

This is why:

Knowing the number of people who visit, how much time they are onsite, and how much money they spend is vital for destinations. It is not the Footfall, Dwell and Spend metric that is the problem - but the way it is used.

FDS is often the only metric used by destinations to judge success and plan for the future. This is a problem because FDS focuses on just the economic data that is important to the landlord. It disregards the most important aspect of a destination – the experiential pleasure or ‘joy’ it brings to the visitor. 

Over focus on FDS commodifies the visitor experience down to is simplest economic denominators. It breeds uniformity across destinations because the same familiar brands are selected to deliver known FDS for the site. It also breeds uniformity in destination marketing because the drive to increase FDS often delivers short term marketing solutions that focus on products, brands and offers, not long-term place-shaping initiatives. This overlooks a place’s authenticity and differentiation, and leads to homogenous places promoting themselves in homogenous ways.   

Retail destinations should act more like successful brands: work out what distinguishes them from others and then maximise this differentiation in a way that is meaningful and attractively appealing to their target audience. 

Measuring destination success against a ‘Joy Index’ of visitor experience would encourage developers to deliver an appealing range of established and specialist brands, quality placemaking initiatives that celebrate the destination’s point of difference and increase its desirability to the consumer as a place.

This approach also requires a destination’s messages to be truly genuine, of quality and aspirational.  So often they are not. Or, if they are, they fail because they are not brought to life through effective placemaking that backs up their claim. Marketing teams would have scope to be more creative and long term if they had their success measured against this index.  

This ‘joy first’ approach would help create genuinely different, culturally rich, appealing destinations - which benefits everyone. 

As many high streets and other retail-led destinations figure how they can thrive, it is time to shake up the reliance on FDS and create ‘Joy Indexes’ to grow and track a destination’s differentiation, desirability and the joy it delivers to visitors. Get this right and Footfall, Dwell and Spend will follow.

Keen to increase your destination’s differentiation and visitor desirability? Get in touch with Will Kallaway or Katie Blake at hello@kallaway.com or call + 44 (0)20 7221 7883