Miconex US

What it really takes to run a successful gift card program in the US (the truth might surprise you!)

93% of Americans are said to have given or received a gift card and the market is set to grow by 8.8% in the US in 2021. Every downtown wants and needs a l

93% of Americans are said to have given or received a gift card and the market is set to grow by 8.8% in the US in 2021. Every downtown wants and needs a local gift card to get their fair share of the market but with so much on your plate already- from developing vibrancy and inclusion to building identity and resilience in your downtown-it’s natural to wonder if you have the resources to implement and operate a gift card program. Here, we reveal what it really takes to run a successful program.

1. Tech, not time. Local organizations tend to think they need a ton of extra time and people to launch a gift card program. In truth, they need tech, not time. Experts estimate that a paper gift voucher scheme needs a full-time staff member to deal with all of the administration. Go for a high-tech gift card program and you’ve got a fully managed solution, from orders to fulfilment, reducing the time needed to introduce and manage your gift card program.

Downtown Peterborough saved hours each week when they switched to our high-tech Downtown Gift Card program.

2. A great network of businesses. The key to running a successful gift card program is having a great network of businesses. We bet you already work hard to create vibrant community hubs, working closely with your businesses, and by using your network, you can spread the word about your program and get merchants signed up.

The steering group for the Minehead Gift Card included local business owners, to drive interest and involvement from the business community.

3. A wider view. In 2021, downtowns are focused on regeneration, vibrancy and building the downtown of the future. What you really need to run a gift card program is the ability to see the many and varied uses of the program to meet these aims.

The Knowsley Gift Card is part of a masterplan for the future of 3 town centers up to 2030, and will be used to develop the district’s night-time economy, as part of their plan to create vibrant towns.

4. Social savvy. 70% of the US population have a social media account with users set to hit 257 million by 2023. With social media, you can inspire, educate and encourage consumers to buy and use your downtown gift card. You don’t necessarily need a huge following, or Jedi-like social media skills, rather the commitment to making social a key communication tool.

Downtown Lynchburg used Instagram to create an explainer video, to encourage redemptions. They also reminded businesses to post stories about how the gift card could be spent with them.

5. Perseverance. You don’t need a full-time staff member purely to run your gift card program, you don’t even need the biggest and best downtown, but what you do need is perseverance. Maybe that organization can’t buy your gift card this year, there’s always next year. Perhaps that customer segment is still yet to buy a gift card, a different offer could appeal. With perseverance, you can continue to improve your program to be as good as it can be.

Enniskillen in Northern Ireland persevered with their organizational bulk orders, increasing sales by 37% in 2020. 

6. Creative thinking. There are set points in the year, like the holidays, when everyone wants a gift card but with creative thinking, you can make your gift card program relevant all year round. As well as occasions, creative ideas could make your card appealing to different demographics, for b2b audiences and for a whole array of different uses.

Belfast used city center experiences, themes, and key moments of celebration throughout the year to drive sales of their gift card.

7. Relationships with employers. US organizations spend $100 billion each year on rewards like gift cards for their staff. Time and time again we’ve seen just how valuable corporate orders are to local gift card programs. A successful gift card program means working those relationships you have with target organizations, and being willing to form new relationships too.

Barnsley Council encouraged two of the biggest local employers to place corporate orders at the time of the launch of the Barnsley Gift Card

8. A finger on the pulse. From local blogs to the newspaper that everyone in your district reads, having your finger on the pulse of who’s influential in your area will contribute massively to the success of your program. And if you don’t know, it’s easy enough to find out. Ask people how they get their news, who they follow on Twitter and Instagram, what papers they read. These are the influencers you want in your sphere.

When Ireland’s most enterprising town launched their Carndonagh Gift Card, targeted PR saw local and national coverage.

9. Vision. Last but most certainly not least, you’ll need vision. A vision of a downtown that champions local, where local shopping is attractive and easy and a place where dollars stay local instead of disappearing out of the district. Where you lead, others will follow.

Downtown Gift Card programs are running all over the US. Do you have what it takes to join them?

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