Key to a successful Scotland Loves Local Gift Card is the attractiveness of the card to consumers. In this case study, Shona Byrne from Aberdeen Inspired shared her advice on how to build a strong gift card that customers and employers want to buy.
The Aberdeen Gift Card launched on the 26th November 2020. In just over one year, the Aberdeen Gift Card became the most successful Town & City Gift Card system in the UK, with over £425,000 in gift card sales. The project is led by Aberdeen Inspired with the support of Aberdeen City Council.
Engage your businesses
“The best way to onboard businesses to the gift card is to go out and explain it to them in person, and demonstrate how easy it is. It is not the BID or the local authority that will benefit from the gift card, it is the merchants who will accrue the benefit when people spend the gift card with them. When we onboarded businesses, we had two part time business engagement officers whose role it was to visit all of the businesses to explain and sign them up, visiting a second time if necessary. Simple joining instructions for the business are vital, so they can easily sign up, as are simple till point guides. The onboarding process of businesses to the gift card is also a great opportunity to engage generally with them, signing them up to the gift card but also as a starting point for discussions about the priorities of their business and the challenges they face. These discussions and interactions provide valuable insights.”
Get a critical mass of businesses on board
“The number of businesses which accept your gift card is fundamental to its success. The key is getting a critical mass on board quickly so it becomes a gift that people want to buy. I had one customer contact me asking for a refund for her gift card as she couldn’t find anywhere to spend it. After some discussion, it transpired that the customer thought she had a shopping centre gift card rather than an Aberdeen Gift Card. When I pointed out the places the customer could spend the card, she was happy.”
“It’s vital that customers are happy with the card when they receive it, see the value, and see businesses where they can spend it. In the future, we’ll be adding a QR code so customers can quickly see this, as an alternative to visiting the website. For a regional Scotland Loves Local Gift Card covering a number of small towns, a good challenge would be to get at least 10 businesses from each town signed up, quickly reaching a critical mass of 50-100 businesses.”
The mix is as important as the number of businesses
“It’s important to not just see your Scotland Loves Local Gift Card as a retail gift card. Yes, retail is vital but so is hospitality, health and beauty, accommodation and attractions. This mix will lend itself to different purchasing occasions through the year, and different customers. When signing up businesses, we split the sectors so it matched the business engagement officer’s skill set, and they could talk about the unique benefits of the gift card to that sector.”
Think about the overall experience
“We launched with 140 businesses in November 2020, and had over 200 businesses by December 2021. With our new digital gift card, that number will just keep on growing. There is no limit. We recently added Aberdeen Performing Arts to the gift card, including His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen Music Hall and the Lemon Tree. Customers being able to use their gift card for a theatre show, concert or gig alongside a meal, a hotel, shopping and more adds to the overall experience they can enjoy with one gift card.”
Blend nationals and independents
“Having a mix of nationals and independents who accept your gift card is key. The nationals being a part of the gift card convinces the independents to take part, as it carries more weight. Nationals will join because they want to be part of the wider community effort, and once they have signed up, you can get them involved in your business engagement activities, giving quotes about why they are part of the gift card. Corporate customers like the blend of nationals and independents. As for redemptions, we have strong redemptions for both independents and nationals.”
“Positive customer experience when customers go out to use their cards is vital, and that means businesses need to tell their staff that they accept the gift card and show them how to. In the majority of cases, any issues with the gift card in the early days were down to staff members at businesses saying they didn’t accept the card. The till point reminders, showing that the gift card should be put through as a Mastercard payment, really help.”
“It’s no good thinking of the gift card as a tool to bring in Christmas sales and doing nothing until then, there has to be a plan for the whole year. This marketing plan will help you to engage with customers and corporates, and develop relationships. A lot of corporate spend will come through the year rather than just at Christmas, and consumer sales can be generated year round for anniversaries, birthdays and so on. This is just as crucial as the Christmas trading period. My advice is to keep the gift card front and centre in all of your activities. In doing so, you will create a successful gift card scheme.”