How Regina put the fun into marketing their program

Regina Downtown Business Improvement District’s (RDBID) launched their Regina Downtown Gift Card in November 2023 as part of ongoing efforts to champion a shop local ethos in the city and show that Regina is ‘where it’s at’.

Sophie Farrell is Manager of Member Engagement and Jill Schmidt is Manager of Marketing and Communications, and they told us more about the launch of their program, how they market the program, and the benefits they’ve seen:

Why did you launch the Regina Downtown Gift Card?

“Regina is a big city with a small town feel and shop local is a sentiment we’ve championed over recent years. We had a corporate Gift Card rebate program in the past which was popular but there was lots for the corporate organization to do, from working out which staff member wanted which Gift Card to filling out forms to get the rebate. Our businesses and our city keeps on evolving. The Regina Downtown Gift Card was the perfect opportunity for us to introduce a high-tech program with less administration for all involved.”

What benefits have you seen from your Gift Card?

“Sales is a big one, and overspend. We launched in November 2023 and took over $50,000 of Gift Card sales in the pre Christmas period. Between January and March 2024, we had $15,000 spent downtown with a $3000 uplift of people spending over the Gift Card value on redemption. We’ve had lots of positive feedback from businesses, for example, a bubble tea place signed up to accept the card saying they didn’t expect to get lots of redemptions but they’re actually getting lots of spend and the owner is delighted. 

“Every month we pull the reports and share the results with our businesses. This has the added benefit that we can adjust our marketing to encourage greater redemptions with businesses who are not seeing as many cards spent with them. All types of businesses have supported the Gift Card, including a big mall in the district with 70 retailers, enhancing collaboration across all business types and sizes. Redemptions across independent and mall stores are currently 32.5% vs. 67.5%.

“We also use the Gift Card as a gift for volunteers at events like our winter festival, Frost, so we’re not having to pick a Gift Card for just one business and the benefit goes back to a variety of businesses.”

How did you onboard your businesses?

“We approached onboarding by creating a one pager of the benefits of the program and taking this around to businesses in person, saying ‘we just want to leave this with you to have a read, and we’ll be back to get you signed up’. As we had the business details through our database, we pre-filled the form, so all we had to do on that second visit was to ask them to sign and take a swipe of their terminal. For successful onboarding, you have to talk to businesses face to face. Once businesses know what your program is, then it’s almost always a ‘yes’. The only time we’ll get a ‘no’ is if the business doesn’t have anything to sell. 

“It’s also useful to think outside the box when it comes to signing up businesses, so as well as retail and hospitality, we have pharmacies, hair salons, dental clinics, basically any business that is on the Visa network. Businesses are super excited about the program too. A local escape room has their first spent Regina Downtown Gift Card up on display!

“We created a package that businesses received on sign up to the Gift Card which included the window sticker to show they accept the card, a guide for them on how to process the card, and a QR code for them to display that reflects the QR code on the back of the card for customers to check their balance. Businesses were told that we were available if they had any queries, but the idea of the pack was to give them self-serve access to the kind of information they might need regularly. To date, we haven’t had any calls about how to accept the cards.”

How have you targeted the corporate market?

“When our Gift Card program launched prior to Christmas, we reached out to the corporate businesses who’d purchased cards through our rebate program and had 3 big purchases through that activity. The businesses really liked the new Gift Card and the ability to support downtown. Organizations would typically buy a Visa or mall GIft Card for their staff but with the Regina Downtown Gift Card, they know that money is going back to downtown businesses. This Christmas, we’ll have an even bigger focus on attracting corporate sales.”

How have you marketed your Gift Card?

“Our approach with marketing the Regina Downtown Gift Card is similar to marketing Regina Downtown generally, showcasing people enjoying the downtown. For the launch, we got a giant Gift Card and contacted 10 businesses to be involved in a launch video where we brought the fun into showing how and where the cards could be spent. Bringing the fun into your Gift Card marketing is so important, especially when attempting to engage younger people with shorter attention spans, but also to demonstrate how much fun downtown can be with a Gift Card in hand.

“For the launch, we also had a first swipe event where local businesses talked about why they were excited about the new Gift Card. We hosted a pop up at a Mayor’s breakfast event with handouts where people could get more information about the Gift Card and we created video content on where to buy, and how to use the Gift Card such as Snack Time.

“On an ongoing basis, we feature the Gift Card within our marketing once a week as part of our overall marketing strategy and include it within regular campaigns such as Shop Downtown which highlights downtown businesses that you can use the Gift Card. Along with that, we ran a  promotional campaign where if you purchased a Gift Card and used the Click and Collect option to pick it up at our office, you would receive a downtown tote. We also created a Holiday Gift Guide.

“We’d previously created a sunset Regina Downtown logo as a standalone downtown logo and we used this on the Gift Card and materials. It’s super eye-catching and we’ve had lots of positive comments about it, and we even had hoodies created with the sunset logo design to wear when creating videos for the card, reinforcing the Gift Card brand.”

Do you have any advice for other downtowns launching their own Gift Card?

“Your program will be what you make of it. Consider your various stakeholders in the Gift Card, from businesses to consumers, organizations to the community, and how you can engage with each. Make your Gift Card part of your ongoing marketing and plan out your activity in advance. Get into the habit of working ahead to take account of the approvals process for Gift Card marketing but don’t be afraid of the approvals process, you just need to follow the guidelines which Miconex provides but your marketing can still be fun and engaging.”


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