14 tips for creating an unbeatable consumer offer with your local gift card

If you look at some of the biggest and best Town & City Gift Card programs in the UK and Ireland, you’ll notice that they all have one thing in common- an

If you look at some of the biggest and best Town & City Gift Card programs in the UK and Ireland, you’ll notice that they all have one thing in common- an unbeatable local consumer offer. But achieving that unbeatable local consumer offer means one thing, getting a good number and range of businesses on board. Today, our places reveal the tips and tricks they used that were a sure fire route to creating a local gift card that people want to buy.

1. Get your businesses on board early. You’re introducing a local gift card for the benefit of your businesses, so get them on board with the project from the outset. Trevor Connolly is Chief Executive Officer at Drogheda Business Improvement District (BID). There was a level of excitement from our businesses when we announced the new Love Drogheda Gift Card would be launching. Each BID board member was allocated a street of businesses to contact. A general announcement came first, then an email and a follow up call.”

2. Showcase your town or city. Make it your mission that customers can experience the very best of your town or city through your local gift card. Carl Alsop is the Operations Manager at York BID: “York is a vibrant city with many independent businesses, and lots of variety. Our focus was bringing as many of these businesses on board as possible, everything from the York Dungeon, York Minster and artisan chocolate shops on our famous Shambles to car parks and opticians, so we could give recipients a true taste of York and make it an enticing, exciting proposition.”

3. Make businesses aware how easy it is to take part. The main thing that businesses want to know is that being a part of their local gift card won’t cost them either time or money. Shona Byrne is a senior project manager at Aberdeen Inspired: “Merchants welcomed the Aberdeen Gift Card with open arms. When we told them that it was free and as easy as taking a swiped Visa or Mastercard transaction they were sold.”

4. Use existing relationships. Communications with merchants will be easier when you tap into existing, trusted networks. Pat Donnellan is the chairperson of Ballinrobe CDC: “We were fortunate in that the CDC and BEO have really good connections with the business community, with some business owners being part of one organisation or the other, so we were able to communicate how important the gift card scheme was for businesses and encourage a wide variety of merchants to come on board.”

5. Approach a range of sectors. Key to creating a gift card that people want to buy is the range of sectors they can spend it with. Gemma Slight works in business development at East Lothian Investments (ELI). “Some of our most popular businesses for redemption are our garden centres, but a wide variety of businesses benefit, including gift shops, restaurants, food and drink sellers such as butchers, and health and beauty merchants. It is particularly heartening to see those businesses that have really struggled during the pandemic do well.”

6. Use a variety of methods to engage with businesses. We all have a preferred way of communicating, and businesses are no different. Evaluate your existing channels, and develop a contact strategy that lists the channels you will use, the message and the timing. Tracy Murray, Town Centre Regeneration Officer for East Ayrshire Council said: “We used the Granicus direct mail service, alongside calls and Facebook to let businesses know about the scheme and get them signed up. We were able to bring businesses on board quite quickly, launching with 80 businesses in August 2020.”

7. Explain the benefits. From attracting new customers and more money in the till to zero participation costs and extra spend on redemption, let businesses know how your local gift card can benefit them. Elaine Grant is the BID manager for Falkirk Delivers: “Our focus was on explaining the features and the benefits of the District Towns Gift Card to the businesses; that it’s a free tool, an additional revenue source and that customers spend up to 65% more when they redeem. It also helped to mention that their competitors would be receiving the card, making the point that it is a community initiative.”

8. Enable businesses to take ownership of your gift card. When your businesses take ownership of your local gift card, it becomes embedded in the community. Noelle McAloon is Enniskillen’s BID Manager: “We’ve had the card since 2017 and have been able to build the gift card into the community. It’s not only us though that markets the gift card, as our businesses do that too. We encourage merchants to use the gift card as part of their marketing strategy, and give them the tools to do that, for example by encouraging their customers to redeem their card with them with spend inspiration.”

9. Visit businesses in person. Some businesses might sign up from a call or email, but many will prefer a face to face visit, giving them the opportunity to ask any questions, and ideally, to sign up there and then. Sharon Appleby is Chief Executive of Sunderland BID: “Getting the businesses on board took a concerted effort from the team. We were pinging all over the city. As the fund is for the whole of Sunderland, we were able to roll it out to city neighbourhoods too, helping them to feel more connected to the city centre and to Sunderland overall.”

10. Consider a range of potential customers and their needs. As a local currency, your local gift card can be used in a variety of ways, and so, it needs to be accessible to a variety of customers. Tracy Murray, Town Centre Regeneration Officer at East Ayrshire Council said: “Building a gift card with a good number and variety of businesses was a priority for us and enabled projects like the Christmas food boxes to be a success and people could spend locally. The beauty of using the East Ayrshire Gift Card was that it removed any potential stigma. Families had the choice of where to spend the gift card, rather than just a single shop or a few shops, and there was nothing to mark them out for using the gift card.”

11. Think about the corporates. When building an unbeatable consumer offer for your gift card, it’s useful to think about the corporate audience too, what will employers want from your local gift card? Helen Hames is the Marketing and Commercial Manager at Cambridge BID: “I think having a broad range of participating businesses has helped us to secure an increase in corporate sales since we launched in 2018 – our aim is to ensure the Love Cambridge Gift card offers something for everyone. We have been delighted that more companies now are wanting to reward their staff in a way that supports the local economy, and that’s what the Love Cambridge Gift Card offers.”

12. A community initiative. Being really clear that the gift card is an initiative that will benefit businesses in the community can help with engagement. Emily Cotterill is Projects Manager at FOR Cardiff BID. “The FOR Cardiff Gift Card is a tangible return on investment for our BID members. They may pay a £200 BID levy, but might receive back £350 in gift card sales. Once businesses realise that we are running the scheme to support them and are not out to make money for ourselves, they tend to be very receptive.”

13. Target specific businesses. The business community is often a close knit group, regularly communicating about issues of interest to business owners in your area. Harness the power of word of mouth by targeting influential business owners early on. This technique worked well in Elgin, BID Manager Gemma Cruickshank said: “Signing up influential local business owners had a positive impact for us, as it made the Elgin Gift Card part of their conversations. This meant that when we approached businesses, they’d often already heard of the gift card.”

14. Don’t forget the nationals. Alongside your independents, include national brands in your on-boarding activities. Shona Byrne from Aberdeen Inspired said: “People often see local as small independents but the M&S in Aberdeen is as local as the greengrocers, both supporting local jobs and therefore local livelihoods. National brands attract customers to the city, and that benefits the small independent businesses.” Miconex can also advise and support if there are nationals in your town/city that are part of other Town & City Gift Card programs.


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