Cambridge BID Marketing and Commercial Manager Helen Hames explains: “We want to deliver a return to businesses, so we wanted to ring-fence spend within the BID area. We had been looking at Gift Card programmes for some time, but we wanted one that is set up like the Miconex programme, so not requiring too much from businesses in terms of additional technology or point-of-sale material, that type of thing. We wanted it to be as simple as possible for businesses.
“And it was really important that we were able to put together a Gift Card programme that keeps spend within the BID area, encourages people to come into the BID area from a footfall point of view, and works across a range of businesses as well.”
Helen recalls: “I saw the Miconex Gift Card programme in one of the emailers from the Association of Town and City Management. Then I spoke to Colin [Munro] from Miconex to find out more.
“We liked that the Gift Card wasn’t sector-specific, in that it could work across any businesses in the BID area, but it was location-specific. One of the points – that the card couldn’t be used online, that it had to be used in person – was also really attractive to us.
“Setting it up has been quite straightforward. Once you go and speak to businesses and they understand the programme and what they need to do to get involved, it’s a simple process. The card is open to any businesses within the BID area, whether that’s nationals, independents, retail, food & beverage or leisure.”
“Getting the retailers on board has gone really well,” Helen says. “To date, 180 businesses have signed up and we’re looking to grow that during the first year. We would ultimately like to have 250-300 participating businesses. We’ve had some good sales since our launch; we’re seeing a good spread of businesses involved in terms of having redemptions through their businesses. And they are involved from a social media point of view as well.
“We issue them with window stickers and there are a lot of window stickers throughout the city, both the nationals and the independents, which is really encouraging.”
In terms of marketing the Gift Card, Helen says that the BID team is actively using social media now, and the Love Cambridge Gift Card website, which is set up by Miconex as part of the package, is up and running. She adds, “We’ve done some advertising locally as well; we’re working with local magazines and newspapers to promote the message. In November we’ll be launching a bus-back campaign, as we go towards Christmas hoping to capture the Christmas gifting market.”
Part of the marketing strategy is to appeal to the corporate market as well as the individual shoppers, as Helen explains: “We’re working with local partners to make sure that the message is out there, not only from a consumer point of view – people buying gifts for other people – but also encouraging corporates within the city to switch to the Gift Card for long-service awards, bonuses, gifting, etc. That’s where we see the real benefit from the businesses. Corporate gifting and awards encourage people who might live outside Cambridge but work in Cambridge to come in and explore the city. That’s really important for us.”
The Love Cambridge Gift Card was implemented in August 2018. What benefits will it bring to Cambridge as a city, and to the businesses?
Helen says: “I think it’s defending the High Street. Some of the other BID projects that we work on, such as our mystery shopper and awards programmes, are about driving up standards in service and making sure that, as a city, we are excelling from a customer service point of view, which obviously impacts on repeat visitors. The Gift Card programme supports that by protecting the High Street and encouraging people to come into the city and enjoy the experience, rather than shopping online.”
Two owners/managers of businesses in Cambridge also told us what they liked about the Love Cambridge Gift Card.
Louis Navarro is founder and owner of Nanna Mexico, a local chain of restaurants serving honest, authentic Mexican food. Luis believes in social commitment and giving back to the local community, which is one of the reasons he signed up to the Love Cambridge Gift Card programme: “It’s a good way to keep the money in the location and to regenerate the local businesses,” he says. “I think the initial benefit is creating the awareness that there is a way to spend money locally, and why it’s important to do so. In the long run, as that awareness takes off and the more we see how big online businesses operate, people will see the many benefits of shopping local and making sure their money stays as close as possible.”
Was it easy to get started with the programme in terms of the software set-up? “Very easy,” Luis recalls. “All we had to do was to say ‘yes’ to the programme and the rest was done by the local BID team. It was very straightforward.”
Luis is also rewarding each of his managers with a Gift Card this Christmas. “It means that I don’t have to work out what each individual will enjoy specifically – I can give them something that they can go and spend locally, and get whatever they like the most! That has saved time for me, and it’s a great way to reward my team.”
Graeme Booth, Partner and Operations Manager at John Lewis & Partners in Cambridge, explains why they wanted to be part of the Gift Card programme. “It’s really important that John Lewis works with the BID to help the community and the high street, because their driver is to try to attract people to Cambridge as a destination. The Gift Card really helps to focus on retailers as well as food-and-beverage outlets; it will drive footfall into Cambridge.
“The biggest challenge as retailers is that the internet takes business away from the high street, and it’s also quite a costly way of doing business when you’re a multi-channel retailer, so if there’s a way for John Lewis, which is seen as one of the bigger brands in Cambridge, to attract customers into Cambridge to benefit from that personal environment, then we absolutely have to do it.
“There’s benefit for John Lewis, but there’s a wider benefit for Cambridge and the independent shops, cafés and restaurants.”
As a large national retailer with its own retail software, was it easy to get signed up to the Gift Card system? “It was very, very easy,” says Graeme. “We had great support from the BID team; we had a personal visit that took under two minutes, then we were up and running. I wouldn’t want any business to worry about the complexity of it, because we have our own systems here at John Lewis and we adapted them very quickly. Because it’s based on Mastercard it’s very straightforward. I was really surprised at how easy it was.”
When Helen is asked whether she has any advice for other BID/town managers considering a Gift Card programme, she answers: “We looked at a lot of different programmes, a lot of loyalty-based programmes as well, before deciding to launch this one. Our objective was to have a programme that benefits all different types of businesses – and that doesn’t ask businesses to offer reductions or reduce their costs, but is purely about gifting. We felt like the Miconex Gift Card programme was the best fit for what we wanted to achieve and the businesses we wanted to work with.”
Luis Navarro from Nanna Mexico has no hesitation in recommending the Love Cambridge Gift Card. “I would advise any other business to sign up immediately and wholeheartedly. It’s something that we should all promote and it’s something that will benefit us all, not only the customer, but also ourselves and our community. I think the benefits are on all three levels.”
Graeme Booth from John Lewis & Partners agrees: “[Signing up to the Gift Card] is such an easy thing to do that you’ll be at a disadvantage if you don’t. If you embrace it, the awareness of it will continue to grow in customers’ minds and business customers’ minds, and you will benefit from it.”
If you’d like to increase customer footfall and engage more strongly with the businesses in your town, city or BID area, it’s easy to join our growing number of Gift Card programmes. Contact us online, email [email protected] or phone 01738 444376 and we’ll be happy to talk you through the possibilities.