DU’s Spring Online Amplified By Carphone&CrossCountry

Carphone Warehouse, sponsor of Digital Unite’s ‘Spring Online’ digital exclusion campaign aimed at helping older people use the web and digital technologies, launched its week-long campaign via an event at its Westfield store that saw tech savvy staff use their digital skills to help older members of the local community.


Live, in-person advice and support at the 2 April launch saw employees help people send their first emails, exploring social media platforms and outline the benefits of various operating systems, platforms and devices.


As well as the events run by sponsor Carphone Warehouse, supporter CrossCountry trains and partner StreetLife (a local community social network), the 2014 Spring Online programme – running from 31 March to 4 April – sees thousands of free pop-up taster sessions and free training events spanning computers, tablets and mobiles organised by local volunteers and organisations across the UK.


The organisation behind Spring Online, Digital Unite, is an independent company providing digital skills learning services and products that formed the Digital Unite Trust offshoot in 2011 to focus on charitable objectives in the form of grants and practical assistance such as the Spring Online programme.


Perhaps unsurprisingly considering recent economic belt tightening, recent years have seen a series of national and local government funding cuts which has made the contributions from commercials sponsors crucial to the initiative’s success.



Carphone Warehouse & Spring Online Synergies


Headline sponsor Carphone Warehouse returns to support the scheme for a second year and aims to amplify Digital Unite’s work and maximise campaign impact via a key set of company assets – its digitally savvy and web expert employees, its comprehensive range of new technologies and devices, plus its strong presence on the UK’s high streets.


In addition to its specific, local in-store Spring Online events, Carphone Warehouse is also encouraging all of its employees to spend the week focusing more on showing older people – both potential customers and community members – how to get online.


The retailer further supports Spring Online with fundraising activity throughout the year.


‘We’re always on the look-out for great ways to use our skills and experience to support our local communities and beat digital and social exclusion – Spring Online seemed like a perfect fit,’ outlines Carphone Warehouse CSR lead and communications specialist Kesah Trowell.


For Carphone Warehouse, Spring Online sits neatly at the other end of the age range from its other major ongoing CSR activity ‘Tablets for Schools’ and the charity ‘Get Connected’.


‘By helping both young people and older people we’re able to realise our mission to make more people’s lives better through connected technology,’ explains Trowell (who herself has been making the most of the events to learn how to use WhatsApp as part of an internal employee exercise initiave).


According to Carphone Warehouse CEO Andrew Harrison, the company supports Digital Unite’s Spring Online principally because it complements the company’s vision of helping to make people’s lives better through technology.


‘Digital exclusion is something we all should be addressing and with our presence on every high street coupled with friendly, knowledgeable store colleagues, we’re ideally placed to facilitate this leading initiative,’ says Harrison. ‘Furthermore, this campaign complements our other corporate responsibility activity, Tablets for Schools, and of course our own Geek Squad.’


In partnership with Spring Online’s partnership agency, Carphone Warehouse is measuring the success of its Spring Online initiative with a series of metrics and measurements matched against the sponsors objectives.


These include ‘Staff Engagement’, ‘Communicating The Vision To the General Public’, ‘Improving People’s Lives Through Technology, ‘Reaching New Audiences’ and ‘Awareness Of Carphone Warehouse And Its Product Offerings’.


Feedback from a survey distributed to Spring Online event holders across the UK shows that last year’s sponsorship resulted in an impressive 77% of event holders having a more positive perception of Carphone Warehouse following their sponsorship of Spring Online 2013


Furthermore, 70% of event holders said they’d be inclined to explore the Carphone Warehouse’s offerings further following their sponsorship of Spring Online 2013.


The Carphone Warehouse/Spring Online partnership is also driving internal change as well as external positive engagement – as illustrated by the 2013 winner of the sponsor’s own ‘Carphone Warehouse Best Event Award’ Suzanne Small.


‘We helped the entire town and made sure we spent quality time with our elderly attendees, which they loved! The event was a huge success and because of this, we are going to open one Sunday each month – when we’re usually closed – to help the people in great need with their smartphones/tablets,’ says Billericay store manager Small. ‘The community response has been amazing.’



CrossCountry & Customer Communication


Spring Online supporter Cross Country trains, which is partnering the event for the first time this year, is partly supporting the programme for practical reasons.


‘CrossCountry is delighted to be supporting Digital Unite in their campaign for digital inclusion.  Retailing is increasingly being driven online and through mobile so it’s important to us that as many people as possible are supported in getting online, using their smart phones and are familiar with new technology like ‘print your own’ tickets and mobile ticketing,’ says CrossCountry partnership manager Clare Shufflebotham.


‘As a train company who doesn’t operate any station ticket offices, often our only contact with customers before they board our trains is through our website, mobile site, Train Tickets app and social media.  The more people we can encourage online, the more people we’ll be able to help with our useful tools, travel information and destination guides.’


Part of the background to the partnership lies in the fact that CrossCountry don’t actually own any train stations, so its key communications channels to engage with and assist customers before travel are via its website, mobile platform and Train Tickets app.


‘CrossCountry is always looking at opportunities to work with likeminded brands to encourage customers to go somewhere new or try our digital retail channels,’ adds Shufflebotham.


‘We want to encourage as many people as possible to feel comfortable buying online and checking train travel information on their smartphones, so we were excited to join forces with Digital Unite to help make this happen.’


CrossCountry is committed to helping people become more familiar with technology and this partnership is a neat fit as a large section of its customer base falls into the ‘over 50s’ category.’


Its activation plan stretches from the classic logo placement rights within all externally facing marketing materials and the DU newsletter, to posting its own ‘How To Guide’ on DU’s website to help explain the process involved in purchasing a train ticket


The company is also running its own Spring Online event at its head office, plus an on-train PR event, a CRM e-newsletter promoting the DU campaign, social media posts and a web page dedicated to partnership.


Without fixed retail outlets or stations, CrossCountry faces an organisational challenge in terms of hosting events and activating PR – so it plan sees it turn to its owned media with events on its trains.


CrossCountry, part of the Deutsche Bahn owned Arriva group, will apply a set of success metrics to its involvement – including CRM open, click and transaction rates, views of the ‘How To’ guide and of the webpage, social interactions and reach, plus PR, AVE, sentiment tracking and OTS.


‘We are delighted to welcome CrossCountry as a partner for this year’s Spring Online campaign. In these digitally demanding times, Spring Online remains as relevant and as essential as ever in helping people across the UK to experience the significant benefits having access to the internet can bring, whether that’s booking tickets, contacting friends and family or saving money,’ adds Spring Online operations manager Judith Graham.


‘With CrossCountry’s involvement this year we are looking forward to getting even more people online for 2014,’ adds Graham, who personally benefitted from the 2014 Spring Online sessions by learning to use Android tablets.



The Programme, Partners & Supporters


In addition to sponsor Carphone Warehouse and supporter CrossCountry trains, Spring Online also has had a wide range of support from a variety of key organisations including Microsoft, Ofcom, IBM, Google, Age UK, BBC, UK Online Centres, NHS Choices and Wiltshire Farm Foods.


The programme also has support and endorsement from Government departments. Indeed, even Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions, hosts the Best Event Awards in Westminster.


The programme even sees support from its sponsorship agency Slingshot.


‘We have a strong commitment to Spring Online because of its enormous potential to make real change,’ says Slingshot Sponsorship MD Jackie Fast, who has been working with Digital Unite since 2011 when the agency launched.


‘Digital exclusion is a real problem, but the solutions are so easy,’ says Fast, who helps run Slingshot’s own Spring Online events. ‘You don’t need to be trained to show your grandmother how to open a bank account online and you don’t need special textbooks to show your elderly neighbour how to read a book on a tablet.  Everyone can get involved and make a real difference to people’s lives.’


‘In an ever increasingly interconnected world, it becomes harder to believe that there are individuals that do not know how to get online. Yet, we will all know someone that doesn’t know how to use the internet and this changes the way we communicate with them. I know this first-hand.  My Canadian grandmother doesn’t know how to use her answering machine, let alone the internet, so the only way we can communicate is via letters.  I have resorted to emailing the letters I write her via my mum who prints them out and posts them to my Granma for me.’


In tandem with these commercial sponsors, agencies,  government supporters and volunteer partners, ‘Spring Online’ sees organiser Digital Unite spend a week helping thousands of older people to take the first steps to enjoy the benefits we all take for granted about using the internet.


The programme itself provides a set of tools, resources, structural support and encouragement to hundreds of individuals and organisations who to run events providing older people and other non-users with an experience of the digital world.



From ‘Silver Surfer Day’ To ‘Spring Online Week’


Spring Online originally began life back in 2002 as ‘Silver Surfers’ Day’ and its objective was to open up new technologies and the internet to older demographics at a local level by supporting tech education events and taster sessions at libraries, community centres, schools, cafes, pubs and sheltered housing schemes across the UK.


That first year saw the programme consist of 40 individual events.


Over the years it has expanded and evolved: attracting celebrity support from stars such as Dame Vera Lynn and Terry Wogan championing its cause, benefitting from widespread media coverage and corporate sponsorship.


By its 10th anniversary in 2011, Silver Surfers’ Day had extended to become Spring Online Week.


Indeed, in August of that year it won the national ‘Nominet Internet Award’ – a ceremony championing UK companies, charities and individuals making a difference on or through the Internet – in the category ‘Building A Networked Nation’ category.


By 2013, the rebranded initiative drove more than 10,000 events throughout the UK and helped 20,000 older people get online and learn to use new technology devices and platforms.


Last year even saw journalist and broadcaster, Joan Bakewell front the initiative’s own ‘Spring Online Best Event Awards’


2013 Spring Online, which took place between 22 and 26 April, also support boosted by commercial partnerships – with the initiative held in association with Carphone Warehouse and supported by BMI Healthcare and Marks and Spencer.


‘We hope the campaign grows each year to help reach more and more people,’ adds Carphone’s Trowell. ‘There are currently over six million people affected by digital exclusion and so there is a lot of work for all of us to do!’


Despite this impressive expansion and the success of the campaign to date, substantial digital exclusion still exists.


A BBC Media Literacy Report in September 2013 estimated that 11 million people in the UK have poor ‘basic online skills (meaning they are unable to send an email or search the web).


This huge section of the population is typically excluded from a range of socio-cultural and economic spaces spanning professional recruitment, training and education, access to economical purchasing, welfare and health services, as well as adding to their sense of ‘loneliness’.


According to a Q4 2013 ONS Internet Access Quarterly Update, 6.4 million adults in the UK have never used the internet. Of those, 5.8 million are aged 55 years and over.


Within this over 55’s segment, according to a Digital Unite OnePoll survey, four out of five internet users say that having access to computers and the web has improved their lives – with 81% of them stating that being online makes them feel part of modern society.



Inspiring Stories & Last Words


‘I have never really had the confidence to ask about iPads and tablets, but today I realised that they do not bite and so now I will try one of my own and looking forward to purchasing one with the help of my teenage grandson!’

Bridgette Lenoa, attendee


‘Just being in front of a computer is something I never thought possible.’

William Reed, attendee


‘I didn’t know how much you could look up on the internet, how easy it is to check out holiday resort to see what they look like and to read books!

How easy it is to see someone so far away using Skype. Looking up their streets on Google maps.  This has changed my life.’

Jennifer Godson-Williams, attendee


‘One of the participants received assistance in setting up a Facebook account. He saw a picture of his new grandchild which he was delighted about. He had tears in his eyes and said “this is worth more to me than a million pound”’.

Roger Warner, Lewes event holder





While for Carphone Warehouse the Spring Online partnership falls within its CSR silo, it could just as easily been regarded as a longer term marketing strategy helping expand its demographic targeting and driving changes in consumer purchase behaviour.


As tech savvy younger generations approach ‘peak device’ ownership, more and more tech and telcos are looking towards older demographics for growth.


A strategy which looks set to become increasingly important on a grand scale as the global population ages.


Traditionally, consumers aged over 65 have had a tougher time adapting to new technologies and the demographic is unsurprisingly less likely than younger age groups to use mobile phones, tablets or computers in their everyday lives.


But now several big name hi-tech companies once largely associated with young, early technology adopters, are now beginning to seriously target the older generation.


Skype, for example, recently began marketing its webcam-enabled internet phone service as a way for older consumers to communicate with their loved ones over video.


Of course, much like Carphone Warehouse’s sponsorship of Spring Online, more techs and telcos will need to focus on education as well as products and services to successfully appeal to older consumers.





Spring Online Website



Digital Unite Website



Carphone Warehouse Spring Online Website



Cross Country Trains Spring Online Website



CrossCountry on Facebook



CrossCountry on Twitter



Slingshot Spring Online Website



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