Creators of a locally-developed app hope the technology will help throw a lifeline to struggling Perth high streets hard hit by a boom in online shopping and pandemic-related closures.
The free Streets of OurTowns app, which has now officially launched to investors, is designed to help users “think like a local” in their own backyard or when visiting new areas by merging an ever- updated business directory with a grassroots event guide.
“The decline of our cherished local high streets and the increase in commercial property vacancy rates in once-thriving suburbs is having a very real and negative impact on our communities,” said OurTowns managing director Marc Drexel.
“Many local businesses and events companies are struggling more than ever, with COVID-19 coming on the back of the existing challenge they face to cut through the noise on international search engines and let people know what they’re up to.
“The OurTowns app is like Gumtree for businesses and community groups, and is all about helping connect people with the places they want to spend time in, so we can enjoy bustling, vibrant communities.”
Trialled in the City of Vincent, the app, which works alongside local governments, can now be downloaded to find out what’s happening and what services are on offer in areas including Leederville, Mount Hawthorn, North Perth, West Perth and parts of Mount Lawley.
“The app makes use of a geo-pinning function which makes connecting with the space you’ve just arrived at super simple, and all local businesses and events are listed for free so if there’s a farmers market nearby, a school fete on, a restaurant offering a discount on takeaway that’s picked up directly, a skateboarding workshop, quiz night or comedy show about to start, you’ll know,” said Drexel.
Investors are being sought to roll out the technology across Western Australia, and eventually the nation.
Drexel said: “Keeping these high streets thriving is also about keeping local people in local jobs and we think investors will be keen to support the app as a contribution to community, as well as an investment.”
OurTowns also has a social impact aspect, offering businesses, community groups and event organisers education, research and tools to support their ventures.
An affordable premium listing function will be available for elevated exposure and access to the app’s push notifications function, which are opt-in for the user, to directly promote local specials and events.
Local governments can choose custom packages to showcase themselves to the community, addressing a gap in the market.
Drexel said: “While protecting users’ privacy, the app will also generate important information giving local businesses and groups insights into who their key markets are – and often this is the critical missing piece of the puzzle for success.”
“OurTowns will have a focus on sharing what’s unique in terms of the experience and feel of each area too – whether that be Claremont, Leederville, York or Albany – so it’s very exciting.”
Revelation Perth International Film Festival, general manager, Suzie Worner, said: “When we ran Revelation Film Festival in 2021, we really needed to utilise a platform that was going to help us get our message out to our local community and OurTowns was really able to help us do that.”
John Carey, WA Minister for Housing, Local Government, said: “It’s a great way to find out what’s happening in our neighbourhood and also highlights current offerings and deals from small businesses. The ultimate plan is for this app to be used in each local community across Perth and it’s brilliant to have it starting in the City of Vincent. Download it, check it out and give feedback – and of course support small business in our ‘hood!”
Click here to support OurTowns’ equity crowd funding campaign.