Case Studies

ROI on a gift card program: the 10 positive (and sometimes unexpected) outcomes

In this case study looking at the many and varied returns on investment for a local gift card, we spoke with Colin Munro and Leigh Brown of Miconex, Shona

In this case study looking at the many and varied returns on investment for a local gift card, we spoke with Colin Munro and  Leigh Brown of Miconex, Shona Byrne, Project Manager at Aberdeen Inspired, Helen Hames, Marketing & Commercial Manager at Cambridge BID, Noelle McAloon, BID Manager at Enniskillen BID and Mandy West, Business Engagement Executive at Scarborough Council.

  • Local spend

Colin: “When places introduce a gift card program, it’s often with the direct economic aspects of the program in mind, the sales that can be generated and the money locked into the town or city. It’s a visible initiative that businesses can get behind with a tangible return on investment seen through sales. But there are many other benefits too.”

Shona: “We brought forward our plan to introduce the Aberdeen Gift Card to help businesses to recover from the pandemic, and drive people to support the local economy. We didn’t set a ROI target but are delighted that in its first year over £400,000 of sales have been achieved delivering a much-needed boost to the local economy. In December alone sales compared to the previous year increased by 37% underlining the public’s desire to support the local economy and shop local.  The BID has a project budget for the operation and marketing of the card and now that we have a years’ worth of sales data, we are setting targets for the future. It’s an important product for the economic recovery of the city centre.”

Helen: “For us, the biggest ROI for our gift card is the financial side. It’s a powerful message. The Cambridge Gift Card retained over £100,000 in the local economy in 2021, money that is ringfenced for local businesses. With our card, the money has to be spent in person, so we know that £100,000 is money that is coming back into the BID area, as part of our wider objective to encourage people back into the city centre, when they feel ready.”

  • Developing civic pride

Colin: “The shop local sentiment is ever growing. For places, a gift card which enables consumers to support local, and encourage friends and family to do the same is extremely valuable. It moves beyond liking and sharing so people can take direct action to support where they live, building that sense of pride.”

Noelle: “We say that with the gift card, you’re putting a little bit of Enniskillen in someone’s pocket. When we first launched the gift card on the 25th November 2017, we didn’t do much advertising but took £27,000 in sales before Christmas because people were thrilled at the idea of being able to buy a gift card for their town. There’s definite pride in saying ‘this is a gift card for my home town or my home county’. And people love the brand too, seeing the spires of the church and the castle on the card itself. We build on this pride and ownership through our competitions, asking what they love the most about Enniskillen. For me, the ultimate endorsement is when someone says they had a gift card given to them last year, and this year they’re giving it as a gift. It doesn’t get better than that.”

Shona: “There is a huge drive from consumers to think about what they’re buying and where they’re buying it from, to support local jobs and livelihoods, and when people buy and spend the Aberdeen Gift Card the satisfaction they get definitely helps build on the sense of civic pride.  There’s a definite trend towards buying and supporting local and the gift card messaging fits perfectly with this.”


  • Working in partnership with businesses

Mandy said: “In year 1, we brought on 100 town centre businesses. In year 2, we opened the gift card to the whole of Scarborough and have a good mix of nationals and independents. Our aim for year 3 is 300 businesses, and now we have made the move to digital it will enable us to bring on board even more businesses, making it better and quicker for businesses to accept the gift card as payment. We send out a monthly newsletter to businesses, and share the redemption success businesses are having with the gift card.”

Noelle: “As a return on investment, the level of engagement the gift card gives us with businesses is invaluable. We introduced the Enniskillen Gift Card in 2017, each year there has been a growing realisation from businesses about the benefits of the scheme.  5 years on, and there is still more we can do to encourage merchants to use the gift card as part of their marketing strategy, and giving them the tools to do that, for example by encouraging their customers to redeem their card with them with spend inspiration. It’s about reminding them that there are thousands of pounds sitting there on gift cards that could be spent with them. No matter what, you always have the common ground of the gift card with the statistics to back up the benefit to businesses, such as the 40% overspend and the likelihood that customers will go for higher ticket items.

Colin: “Nobody wants to visit Clone Street, they want to experience a place that is unique and special. A Town & City Gift Card brings all types of businesses together behind one gift card and we need this collaboration for the future health and vibrancy of our places.”

Shona: “It’s really important to foster good relationships with businesses and the gift card aids that. We issued a press release in January 2022 about the Aberdeen Gift Card reaching £425,000 in total sales in just over a year, and had really positive feedback from businesses about it.”

Helen: “The gift card helps to develop our relationships with businesses, and gives us an immediate reason for us to talk to a new business that has opened in Cambridge.”

  • Marketing tool

Shona said: “The gift card is a real hook from which you can promote your town or city, and this has helped in our awareness of Aberdeen Inspired with consumers, as previously our interactions were primarily with businesses. Marketing is fundamental to the success of our gift card and our marketing push this year will focus on the Aberdeen Gift Card being the only card you need to give for any celebration.”

Leigh: “A gift card programme is one of the few projects that cut across everything, and is a great marketing tool which can be utilised for press, online and with events such as food week. Our data shows that when one sector, such as retail, does well, other sectors benefit, so places can promote a specific sector through their gift card with a restaurant week for example, in the knowledge that related sectors will benefit.”

Noelle said: “I know for other places that when they market the destination, the call to action can be difficult. With a gift card system in place, that CTA is always clear and alongside the distinct branding, it’s a lovely package to sell. We’ve had success in packaging the gift card with a hotel stay.”

Mandy said: “The gift card is front and centre when we promote Scarborough as a holiday destination. When people make a booking with an accommodation provider, there is information about the gift card in the confirmation email.”

Helen: “The fact that we have the Love Cambridge brand out there in people’s pockets and wallets on the Cambridge Gift Card is brilliant for brand awareness, it helps people to understand who we are and what we offer. They’ll receive a gift card and visit the Love Cambridge website, and through that will also be able to gain an understanding of the other activities we work on too.”

  • The recipient journey

Colin: “One of the more unexpected benefits of a gift card program involves the recipient journey. Receiving and spending a gift card can also alter the recipient’s perception of the town or city, widening and enhancing their view,” adds Colin. “It’s not only the spend of the gift card itself, it’s who the recipient takes with them on that visit to the town or city, whether it’s a journey made specifically to spend the card, what else the recipient does during that visit, for example using public transport, has lunch and visits additional businesses.”

Noelle: “A really positive outcome of the gift card is the customer experience. Because our businesses are behind the gift card, they know what it is and how to accept it, you also know that the recipient journey is going to be positive, and that gives people the confidence to give the Enniskillen Gift Card as a gift, especially for those that are outside the area.”

  • New customers for businesses

Colin: “We know that customers will be more experimental when they receive a gift card; it de-risks the process so they are more open to trying out new businesses.”

Helen: “Looking at the redemptions for the Cambridge Gift Card, we can see that we have a really broad cross section of usage, and that is one of the unique aspects of the program. There are people that use their gift card for their daily lunch or coffee, right up to higher value spend. The beauty of the card is that it can be used flexibly, and that gives customers the opportunity to explore the city and try somewhere new. Having a gift card in their pocket can help people to step out of their comfort zone.”

  • Connecting with employers

Noelle: “We had one local newspaper group that celebrated 120 years of operation with a £120 Enniskillen Gift Card for staff that lived locally. The staff that didn’t live locally were asked where they wanted a gift card which is a difficult decision, just one single retailer or restaurant to spend a gift card. The benefit of the Enniskillen Gift Card is the choice it offers, so staff don’t have to pick a specific brand, they can spend on what they like when they like.”

Shona: “Corporate orders have been important to the development and success of the Aberdeen Gift Card. We have also had success engaging with charities and not for profits alongside corporate organisations, extending the brand’s reach.”

Mandy: “In our first year, we had two large corporate orders. Year 2 brought in smaller orders from a greater number of businesses, building those connections with local employers and extending the reach and impact of the gift card program.”

Helen: “The gift card gives you a product through which you can talk to businesses, and give them a tangible means to support local. Over the past two years, the idea of supporting local has elevated further, people have realised that it is so important and businesses too now understand their ability to impact local through support of the Cambridge Gift Card.”

  • Collaboration

Mandy said: “The introduction of the Scarborough Gift Card was supported by a number of organisations including Scarborough Council, Yorkshire Coast BID, Scarborough and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce, York and North Yorkshire Growth Hub and the Brunswick Centre- which has a kiosk to sell the gift card. The gift card project has encouraged the collaboration between these organisations, with regular strategic planning sessions to develop the gift card on a long term basis. For example, the new digital Scarborough Gift Card is being funded by the BID.”

  • Regeneration

Shona said: “There is a regeneration masterplan in Aberdeen right now, encompassing issues such as traffic flows and re-pedestrianisation. That brings with it an opportunity to work with other organisations within the city on the gift card. One example would be rewarding people with the gift card for using public transport. The more open the gift card is to different uses, the more it will help the gift card to expand its reach.”

Mandy said: “Regeneration, and helping businesses back on their feet has been a priority in Scarborough, with everything from digital training for businesses to developments in the town centre such as new seating and planting. The gift card is already playing its part in bringing in sales for businesses and is part of our wider plans for regeneration, for example, the gift card kiosk in the Brunswick Centre has already been moved to a more prominent position and will be key to development plans for the centre, which is now under new management, to include a new cinema and eateries.”

  • Engaging different demographics

Leigh: “Places can use their gift card to engage with specific community groups or demographics, perhaps through mobility programmes or disbursement initiatives.”

Mandy: “Our new digital gift card will help us to engage with a younger demographic who don’t even use debit and credit cards. Parents can give the card to students who can use it on food, stationery, shoes and anything else they need.”

Helen: This idea of customer proposition is one that we return to regularly, ensuring that everyone that receives a gift card has somewhere they can spend it. It is our aim to make the Cambridge Gift Card as appealing as possible to a broad range of people, which requires us to look at the gift card from the perspective of all different age groups, and the different purposes they might use the card for. There is immense satisfaction in being able to use your gift card for small day to day purchases, as much as for larger or luxury purchases.”

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