Future proofing Britain’s high streets: Miconex rolls out digital gift cards

Future proofing Britain’s high streets: Miconex rolls out digital gift cards across the UK

A programme which aims to future proof Britain’s high streets is underway as Miconex rolls out its digital gift cards technology to 16 towns and cities across the UK.

Sunderland, Watford, Gloucester, Malmesbury, Perth, Scarborough, Wimbledon, Ipswich, Swansea, Worthing, Arran, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Bradford, Edinburgh and Colchester are the first places in the UK to introduce the place based digital e-card gifting technology from the Scottish fintech.

The technology allows the towns and cities to have their own digital gift card, which works though the Mastercard network, digital wallet services such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, and a new Love Local app.

Miconex, who operate over 70 Town & City Gift Card programmes in the UK and Ireland, Scottish government backed Scotland Loves Local Gift Cards, and Downtown Gift Card programmes in North America, has worked alongside EML Payments Limited (ASX: EML) on the introduction of the payment technology for the UK and Ireland.

Many of Miconex’s existing physical gift card programmes are introducing a digital e-card as an additional option for customers, including Sunderland, who launched the Sunderland Gift Card in 2020.

Sharon Appleby, chief executive at Sunderland BID said:“Sunderland has already taken great strides in its digital transformation journey, being named as Smart City of the Year in 2020. 38.4% of consumers made the switch to digital gift cards during the pandemic, and 21.6% of respondents redeemed their gift card using their mobile phone in 2020, almost doubling the 2019 figure of 11.4%. The introduction of the digital version of the Sunderland Gift Card is yet another way that we are positioning Sunderland for the future, catering for how people wish to shop both now and in the future.

“Over £40,000 has been retained in our city through the physical version of the Sunderland Gift Card. Our new e-card, alongside the launch of sales points in the city, will widen the appeal of our local gift card, giving customers ultimate choice and catering to the 1 in 3 customers who make gifting choices based on how soon they can get them.”

The popular Aberdeen Gift Card which launched in November 2020 has also made the move to digital to futureproof the city centre:

Adrian Watson, chief executive of city centre BID Aberdeen Inspired, which operates the Aberdeen Gift Card, said: “We have been blown away by the success of the Aberdeen Gift Card, which has allowed us to retain more than £300,000 in the local economy since it was launched in November 2020. More than 200 local businesses have signed up to accept the card so we were keen to work with Miconex to launch a digital version to make it even easier and convenient for both consumers and outlets to use the card.

gift cards

“Our digital version will allow even more businesses to sign up to be part of the scheme.  Bars, restaurants and other outlets which did not have the technology to accept the Aberdeen Gift Card’s magnetic strip can now join as most accept payment from digital wallets on smartphones.  As we move into 2022 we need to ensure we are making the most of technology to futureproof our city centres and encourage customers to shop in person and support their local high street.”

The Watford Gift Card launched in February 2020 as part of Watford Business Improvement District’s efforts to support local businesses. Glen Hempenstall, marketing and communications manager at Watford BID said:

“Having spoken to our businesses, it was becoming increasingly clear that many of our businesses are moving towards contactless payments only. Combining this with growing consumer trends towards smart phone payments, we felt it was essential that we introduced digital gift cards so that the programme was more inclusive for our businesses and that it met the needs of the modern-day consumer in Watford.”

Places who are new to the Town & City Gift Card programme are also launching digital versions of their gift card, including Colchester.

The Colchester Gift Card launched in August 2021 as a physical card, adding a digital gifting option in time for Christmas.  Sam Good, BID Manager at Our Colchester BID said: “The digital Colchester Gift Card provides an opportunity for even more businesses to come on board and be involved with the gift card project. Businesses are constantly adapting how they operate; many now prefer digital and contactless payments so this is a great opportunity to work with these businesses, and provide a greater option for shoppers using the Colchester Gift Card.”

Swansea launched the Big Heart of Swansea Gift Card in October 2021. Andrew Douglas, operations manager at Swansea BID, said the introduction of the digital gift card will help the city to adapt to changes in customer purchasing behaviour:

“We are proud to now offer the Big Heart of Swansea Gift Card in digital form, so people can simply house the card on their mobile devices.

“More and more individuals are opting to solely use their mobile devices to pay for products and services in physical stores and businesses. It is therefore vital that we adapt in line with these shifts in behaviour, so consumers can use the card easily, in the same way they would use their normal mobile payment methods.

“The Big Heart of Swansea and Swansea BID are in place to drive people into the city centre to enjoy everything we have on offer, from our independents to big high street brands. Making it as easy as possible for visitors to spend their Swansea Gift Card is a top priority, to encourage even more visitors to the city.”

Colin Munro is the managing director of Miconex and said: “The pandemic has exacerbated the challenges faced by our towns and cities. A High Streets Taskforce report for 2020/21 found that 10 million fewer people visited each of England’s regional cities on average during the pandemic. Encouraging consumers back to the high street, and making the high street attractive to consumers of all ages is a key focus for places.

“The statistics are clear. By 2022, mobile payments will eclipse both cash and credit card as the preferred way to pay. By 2023, 12 million people in the UK will pull out their phone to make payments. And it is younger people who are leading this drive, with 48% of 18-34 year olds using digital wallets. Interestingly, the GCVA also found that it was the younger cohort, 25-44 year olds, who were most likely to view gift cards as a mutually beneficial means of funding local establishments. Towns and cities want smart solutions to future proofing their high streets, and that’s what digital gift cards offer.”

“Miconex and EML have vast experience in infusing life into high streets across the UK, making digital gifting accessible to everyone and encouraging communities to shop locally. We’re delighted to see another 16 towns and cities experience the joy and simplicity of digital payments this Christmas,” said Nikki Evans, CEO Europe at EML.