4 July 2022
Miconex’s Downtown Gift Card program has been a game changer for us: The Boro Gift Card
The Boro Gift Card is an initiative from the Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area to support its businesses in the pandemic era and beyond. Launching on the 9th December 2020 in Downtown Peterborough, Ontario, and replacing its existing paper Downtown Money system, over $350,000 of Boro Gift Cards have been sold to date.
Terry Guiel is the Executive Director of Peterborough DBIA and answered some questions about the success of their gift card program:
1. Why did you want to introduce a new gift card for Peterborough?
“Miconex’s Downtown Gift Card program has been a game changer for us. We wanted to move away from the paper money system which was incredibly time consuming as well as a security risk. But more than that, we realized that to compete in the growing gift card market as well as with the likes of Amazon we had to offer an attractive alternative, and one that was local.
“Our Downtown Money system was more like a paper gift certificate and got a lot more popular during the pandemic, but was really onerous to run and the customer experience was average. We had to give each certificate a serial number, and when a customer used the certificate we’d scan in the certificate and visit the business to reimburse them. A lot of hours each week were spent on administration for Downtown Money. If we wanted to achieve $100,000 in sales with Downtown Money, we’d need a full time staff member purely to manage the administration.
“The other problem with the paper system was that Downtown Money could only be purchased in $25 or $50 amounts, which meant it would only get used in certain places where transaction values were higher, such as outdoor stores or on a nice dinner. Cafés and sandwich shops completely missed out. As a result, not all businesses were actively using Downtown Money and if a customer tried to pay with Downtown Money, they’d sometimes be turned away.
“This experience factor was a major reason for us wanting to switch to the new Boro Gift Card with the technology to enable customers to pay for even small transactions with the gift card. This opens up the program to a lot more places. Businesses don’t have to make a big effort to be a part of the program as it uses payment technology that they already have, and they get the money the same as any other card payment instead of having to cash in Downtown Money. The experience for our traders is better.
“Even though Downtown Money got more popular with the pandemic, it’s not something we pushed much as a DBIA because of how difficult it was to manage the administrative side of things. With the new Boro Gift Card we are more proactive in how we market it.”
2. How did you launch the Boro Gift Card?
“We pushed ourselves to get the card out in time for Christmas and that really paid off. There was a real interest in supporting local. Within its first month, the Boro Gift Card achieved $70,000 in sales- equivalent to around 5 years of sales for our old paper system.
“We started promoting the gift card in early December digitally through social media, email newsletter and PR, including a couple of interviews with local press. People were so excited about the launch of the program that word of mouth was strong too.
“Corporate orders were vital to our early success with 80% of our sales in the first month coming from local employers. We approached employers who had purchased our paper gift certificate in the past, taking sales from $1000-$7000 per order. Because we had corporate orders lined up, we took $20,000 of orders on day one. The consumer orders ranged between $25 and $300 and took more of our time. I think the push we had to get the Boro Gift Card live for Christmas was worth it, which was around 8-9 weeks.”
3. How user friendly is your new gift card?
“Our new gift card is super easy. It can be used on universal terminals, which was a major selling point for us. Now things are set up and we’re past the holiday rush, on average we spend only a few minutes each day processing the cards. It’s incredibly easy to manage, seamless and our customers love it. We developed the Boro brand and gift card holders, the perfect size to slot into an envelope. With our new Boro Gift Card we’ve been able to transform our whole downtown into a local mall with its own dedicated gift card that can be used in over 120 businesses.”
4. What results have you seen from the Boro Gift Card?
“50% of our gift card sales come from outside the area, 15% of redemptions are new customers to that business and 65% is usually spent over and above the gift card value. It brings new money into the community, gives people choice whilst also lessening their ability to spend outside of the area, and encourages them to be more experimental. It’s a great example of what a downtown can do for its members.”
5. What advice would you have for other places thinking of launching their own gift card program?
“If I had to choose, for budgetary reasons, between an event we put on every year or this gift card program I would easily pick the gift card. Events are great, they bring people down for a fun day but that $20k or $40k I spend on an event does not support our members as well as the gift card.
“Every time someone uses their gift card with our brand logo on it they think of our BIA and how we are supporting them. It’s a huge value they see. With events, usually just one particular street or area gets the benefits and some businesses get the negatives of events, but with the gift card program there are only winners and they are spread throughout the downtown.
“All I need to do is look at the numbers of people buying these cards and say ‘this is the perfect gift to support local.’ We are giving the customer what they want, convenience, accessibility, choice and a chance to support their local small businesses. It doesn’t get much better than that.”