Mi Rewards, the cardless, city-wide loyalty scheme, was launched in Perth in September 2018. It’s the first scheme of its kind in the UK to offer rewards that can be earned and spent across a whole city or area.
What makes this programme unique and groundbreaking is that participating consumers don’t need a loyalty card or even to download an app to participate. They simply link their existing payment cards to the programme and then when they spend money in participating businesses they are automatically rewarded.
In the five months since launch, over 2600 consumers and 60+ businesses have signed up to Mi Rewards. How and why did this loyalty scheme come about, and how has it developed?
Since December 2015 Miconex, a digital marketing and fintech company based in Perth, has managed a successful Gift Card programme in partnership with Perth & Kinross Council. The gift cards, which are preloaded Mastercards, can be spent in over 80 businesses across the city. Miconex have since gone on to work with nearly 30 other UK towns, cities and areas to help them replicate this model. The town and city gift card programmes help to lock in spend for businesses communities and stimulate additional economic activity.
Following the successful implementation of the Perth Gift Card, Miconex started looking for a town/city rewards scheme. The main objectives were:
Loyalty and reward programmes have been around for decades, but the usual model means that the participating consumer has to identify themselves at the point of sale in order to receive the “reward”. They have to produce a card or a key fob, search for an app or look for an email. For busy consumers that’s often a barrier to earning the points.
Businesses can find it difficult to manage, too. Historically they have had to train all of their staff (which is difficult to maintain with staff turnover across an entire town or city!) and/or provide additional hardware and software (which is expensive). The Miconex team knew that, in order for the scheme to work differently, it had to remove the friction at the point of sale.
Colin Munro, Miconex’s Managing Director, recalls, “We drew up requirements based on achieving these objectives and overcoming any issues. Following extensive research, we concluded that payment-card-linked technology would work best to remove any barriers to loyalty.
“We then went looking for a partner company who could provide a viable solution that met our requirements. We identified Stampfeet as the ideal partner, a company that offers a digital, branded, mobile-centred alternative to the loyalty card, and partnered to propose a model of a city-wide cardless rewards scheme.”
Asaf Rozin, CEO at Stampfeet: "Getting involved in Mi Rewards was an easy choice. Stampfeet has vast experience with card-linking technology and we have been advocating the technology for a while. In addition, our loyalty platform was flexible enough to support the special requirements involved in a city wide scheme with multiple participating merchants. We were excited about the opportunity to deliver an excellent product with a great vision".
Miconex also partnered on the project with Perth & Kinross Council’s City Centre Management Team. A steering group was formed with businesses from different sectors, made up of members of Perth Traders’ Association and organisations such as leisure-services provider Live Active, Perth Playhouse Cinema and creative arts organisation Horsecross Arts.
The Mi Rewards proposition that was devised by Miconex and its partners provides the ideal frictionless solution:
All of the elements of the proposition are highly attractive for consumer and business alike.
In the same way that Tesco, Nectar, Boots and Morrisons reward their customers with vouchers, Mi Rewards gives back to customers in the city – the difference is that they don’t need to carry yet another store card or deal with any paperwork through the post.
Mi Rewards and the Perth businesses benefit from the data that’s securely gathered, gaining valuable insights into consumer behaviour. It allows questions to be posed and answered that could only previously have been guessed. How might changing the street signage in the city centre affect shopping patterns? How was retail affected by the closure of a particular street or the Christmas Lights switch-on event? Did that marketing campaign reach the right audience and prove effective? These and many more questions can be answered with real data, which allows for better communication with customers, improved marketing and improved city-centre planning.
Mi Rewards was launched on 21st September 2018, with 50 businesses on board already. The team at Miconex marketed Mi Rewards in the run-up to the launch with a mix of live broadcasts, high-quality video and photography, blogs and competitions to win Perth Gift Cards. These were spread across a mix of Perth and Kinross Council and Miconex’s social media channels, emails and websites.
At the launch, Leigh Brown, Chair of the Association of Town and City Management and City Centre Manager at Perth & Kinross Council, added: “Mi Rewards is a programme which will allow Place Managers to develop a greater understanding of how people are engaging with their local towns and cities.
“With the data provided by the scheme, Place Managers will gain a better understanding of how local residents are using their towns and cities and also how we can adapt places to satisfy evolving consumer preferences. With this information we can improve residents’ experiences and the local economy”.
Dawn Cotton Fuge, owner of local business Precious Sparkle, said, “What I love about this programme is its simplicity and the fact that it encourages people to shop locally. Because the rewards aren’t linked to one particular business, the programme does not pitch one business against another but rewards customers for shopping with us all.”
Within the first two weeks of operation, 500 customers had signed up to Mi Rewards. That number is now 2600, with 1400 of those having linked at least one payment card to the scheme so far. Mi Rewards has tracked over £100,000 of local spend to date, which gives powerful insights into consumers’ retail behaviour and trends.
In order to promote Mi Rewards further, encourage regular use and enhance the user experience, Miconex introduced the concept of “Points, Perks & Prizes”. As well as earning points through the scheme which accumulate towards a Gift Card, consumers are also offered perks such as discounted activities, two-for-one deals at restaurants, and queue-jumping or exclusive offers at Perth’s regular events.
Mi Rewards also rewarded one particularly prolific shopper with a £50 Gift Card in return for a few minutes of her time to explain what she enjoys about the local shopping experience. This provided further insight for the team and a marketing opportunity on social media.
Because Mi Rewards is simple, cardless and requires no additional software, hardware or training, it’s easy for consumers and businesses to sign up – and easy for any other town, city or region to replicate.
Consumers simply set up an account at Mi Rewards and link one or more payment cards. When they spend at participating businesses, e.g. local shops, restaurants, the cinema, theatre or swimming pool, they automatically earn points for every £1 spent.
Businesses register to participate in the scheme by registering on the Mi Rewards business website.
The scheme rewards shoppers with pre-loaded credit cards that can be spent in any registered business across the city. If there is an existing Gift Card programme in place, that Card can be used as the reward.
Social media marketing, press releases, word of mouth and events can all be used to enhance the offering. Using extra rewards, as Perth does with “Points, Perks & Prizes”, will further engage the consumer at no cost to the town/city or BID.
As a city Perth can proudly boast that it is rewarding people for spending money locally.
What does the future look like for Mi Rewards in Perth? From February 2019, Mi Rewards is partnering with Stagecoach Group to offer Mi Rewards to bus users. Anyone registered with the programme can earn points when they pay using a registered card on the buses, as well as when they buy tickets online or using the app. This addition to the proposition will mean that Mi Rewards is truly a whole-city rewards programme. As a welcome bonus, encouraging bus travel will help to keep cars out of the city centre and improve air quality.
Also aligning with the goal of a greener city, Mi Rewards aims to use mobility tracking and smartphone apps (as used in the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places programme) to encourage people to use public transport. Mi Rewards users will be able to earn points if they walk or cycle from outside the city into the centre.
Colin Munro says, “We’re so pleased that Mi Rewards allows us not just to communicate more effectively with consumers and gain insightful data, but also to reward customer loyalty and encourage healthier living.
“We are in discussions with a number of towns and cities about the UK and Ireland rollout of the programme in 2019. We believe that Mi Rewards is the future of town/city loyalty and that the resultant data gives the High Street the opportunity to use data in the same way as large online marketplaces, to drive additional footfall and spend.”
To find out more about Mi Rewards, please contact Colin Munro at Miconex on 01738 444376 or [email protected].