10 tips for a successful gift card program The gift card market in the UK was valued at £6.9 billion in 2019, and is projected to keep on rising....
Every £1 that we sell with the gift card is £1 that is going towards our levy paying businesses.
The Watford Gift Card launched in 2020. Over 150 businesses are part of the Watford Gift Card. Glen Hempenstall is Marketing and Communications Manager at
The Watford Gift Card launched in 2020. Over 150 businesses are part of the Watford Gift Card. Glen Hempenstall is Marketing and Communications Manager at Watford BID and said:
Why did you introduce the Watford Gift Card?
“The BID board decided it would be good for Watford town centre, as a means to bring money into the town centre. We did have a shopping centre gift card at the time but knew that was about to be discontinued so we saw the card as a good opportunity to replace the shopping centre card but with the addition of high street businesses. It was a no-brainer for us. We saw it as a really good thing, and a way to help our smaller businesses, and that has been the case.”
How did you go about building the consumer proposition?
“We’re quite fortunate in Watford with a lot of different sectors represented. We perhaps don’t have as many independents as you would find in many town centres but when it came to onboarding businesses, we prioritised independents as it was a great opportunity for them to be listed alongside national retailers. Gift card businesses are listed by sector on the ecommerce site, so if we see there is one sector that needs a boost we can focus on that sector and build up the offering. It’s important that you have a wide range of businesses on the card to appeal to a wide variety of people and organisations, and boost sales.
“Many of our nationals are very popular places for redemption but some of our independent pubs have done really well too. Gift cards are often seen as a retail initiative, so to see that it’s working in the hospitality sector is really good.”
How does the Watford Gift Card compare to a generic multi-store or single retailer gift card?
“The Watford Gift Card has much more to offer than a generic multi-store or single retailer gift card. When we’re doing our gift card sales point in the shopping centre, customers will ask what businesses are part of it and will look out for the flagship stores like M&S and Primark, but as soon as they see that we have 2-3 of those on it plus lots of others, they see as a more thoughtful present than an M&S Gift Card or a gift card just for high street stores. It’s giving the recipient lots more choice and makes sure that money is spent in the local area too.”
What has been the reaction to the Watford Gift Card?
“It has been positive. When we were doing our gift card sales point at Christmas, we had people coming up to us that had seen the card on social media and wanted to find out more about it. One of the key selling points of the Watford Gift Card and one of the main things we use in our marketing is that it supports town centre businesses. Everyone in Watford will also know someone that works in Watford town centre, so if you sell the gift card as something that is helping your employees, your friends, your family to make sure they are in a business that is thriving, it is such an important factor for people and they see it as a big advantage to other gift cards.
What was the reaction from your businesses when you announced you would be launching the Watford Gift Card?
“As we’d had the shopping centre gift card in the past, when we told our shopping centre retailers about the new Watford Gift Card, they got it immediately and saw how successful it could be. Town centre retailers had a few more questions but still saw the potential. It comes at no cost to our businesses so the reaction has been really positive, no-one wants to miss out.”
Do you have any implementation tips?
“It’s all about persistence really. If a business is a little bit inquisitive about it and says they’ll get back to you, often they won’t unless you keep going back to them, reiterating the benefits. And you have to simplify it, explaining that it comes at no cost with no downside. We encourage them to give it a go and see if they get more customers from it. They undoubtedly will but if they don’t, they haven’t lost anything and are still getting brand awareness. In person visits are best, where you can very simply explain things to the business and help them to visualise it.”
What are the benefits your businesses have seen through the gift card?
“They see it as a chance to gain new customers. A lot of our independents are tucked away and often won’t get too much footfall but if they are on the gift card website, and feature in our social media as a gift card business, then they see it as a good opportunity to promote themselves. A lot of people will decide to spend their gift card somewhere new, and because it is ‘gift-card money’ they’re more inclined to try somewhere new. That has been really beneficial for our independents, as a way to gain new customers.”
What has been the ROI for Watford BID in having its own gift card?
“We just want to make sure we’re gaining new and repeat customers for our businesses. Every £1 that we sell with the gift card is £1 that is going towards our levy paying businesses. We see it as so beneficial and we contributed a lot more to the marketing last year. Our businesses know these are customers that they perhaps wouldn’t have had through the door if the recipient hadn’t received the gift card. At Christmas, a lot of people will have received a Watford Gift Card, and will be spending them in January when it is traditionally quieter. That is the main benefit for our businesses, and as long as our businesses are happy, that is the main benefit for us as well.
“It also helps collaboration between national and independent businesses. A lot of our nationals see being a part of the gift card as an opportunity to also drive footfall for the smaller businesses in Watford.”
How do you market the Watford Gift Card?
“We tend to use digital marketing approaches, including display advertising, Google search ads, and social media paid advertising, allocating budget towards key gifting occasions such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, end of term and of course Christmas. We allocate around half of our budget to Christmas, because we know around half of gift card sales come at that time of year. We use striking graphics that will draw people in and explain the gift card in simple terms, using the unique selling points that it is supporting the local economy, and gives the ultimate range of choice for the recipient. That drives traffic to the gift card website, leading to sales.
“We do some non-digital gift card advertising, including posters and flyers in the town so that people are seeing and recognising the gift card in the town centre. For us though, as our cards are only sold online, we feel the most appropriate marketing channel is to drive people to the ecommerce site to purchase online.
How important is it for you to promote the gift card all year round?
“The key gifting occasions that we promote are quite nicely spaced out throughout the year which allows you to promote the gift card all year round. But outside of those campaigns, we do organic social media advertising so that people are seeing the gift card all year. And that’s important because you get birthdays, colleagues might be leaving and you want to get them a gift, anniversaries and more. The gift card can be sold all year, so it should be marketed all year.”
Have there been any campaigns or initiatives that have worked really well to market the Watford Gift Card?
“We were given the kiosk at our local shopping centre at Christmas to sell the card, and that was the biggest presence we’ve had in the town centre to date. The kiosk was nicely decorated and looked fantastic, featuring the recognisable logos of the businesses that accept the card. We got plenty of sales on those dates, but we are confident that it also helped our online sales because people would have seen the kiosk and later seen online adverts or seen our social media accounts, leading to the eventual sale. For the future, we’re looking at how we can introduce sales points within the town so that people can buy the Watford Gift Card in various stores.”
How have you approached the corporate market?
“Watford Council has purchased the card on a number of occasions which shows how valuable they find it as a reward, also our local hospital, but corporate sales is an area where we can develop. We tend to reach out to key stakeholders and partners in the town via email, and during meetings, reminding them that a bulk order of the Watford Gift Card is a way that they can reward their staff. When the time is right, they do approach us to place the order.
“Employers see the Watford Gift Card as part of the CSR strategy as a way of boosting the local economy, and as a big benefit to local businesses. They also know they are giving the best gift to their staff because of the choice of offer across a range of sectors. Employers can be confident that their staff member can find something to spend the Watford Gift Card on across the 150 businesses in the town centre, rather than just buying a single retailer gift card where that staff member may not even shop.”
What has been the most useful part of the Miconex Client Success Program for you?
“The Client Success Program has been very successful for us. The thing that we’ve found the most beneficial is the sharing of best practices across the country, showing what has worked well for other BIDs, which gives us a blueprint that we can also use in the future, and give it a try and see if it works in Watford. I think they do a very good job of presenting those other successful examples.”