Do downtown shopping districts need their own loyalty programs?
Drawing inspiration from Pokemon Go, a new loyalty program in Olympia, WA, rewards downtown visitors for “checking in” with their mobile phones at local stores, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.
Reward check-in points can be redeemed for prizes. The technology also encourages multi-store shopping trips by incentivizing users to create “shopping loops” and share favorite routes with friends.
Olympia Downtown Alliance and SnowShoe, the technology provider, are co-funding the pilot program.
“Our staff is asked all the time for recommendations of where to shop or eat,” said Kae Stair of Compass Rose, a gift shop in Olympia, in a statement. “The Go Downtown app gives us a fun way to share our recommendations with people and for customers to become advocates for their favorite places.”
Numerous cities and towns have launched rewards programs over the last year to support local establishments impacted by the pandemic. Most run for a limited time.
Local donors fund some. Many are supported by municipal funds or downtown alliance organizations, which are often funded by special property taxes on downtown businesses or membership dues paid by commercial property owners.
This past April, Boston launched an app, B-Local, that rewards users with Boston Points for purchases at a local business. The discounts are reimbursed through federal CARES Act Funding. A similar program in Akron, OH, generated more than $200,000 in sales and supported 170 businesses over six months.
Some other local efforts from around the country:
- San Diego’s downtown alliance last July launched a program offering 700 $35 gift cards for $25 with the $10 bonus covered by local donors. The program was repeated in September.
- This past June, Raleigh launched an eight-week Support Local, Win Prizes contest. Shoppers submitted receipts over $10 from local businesses to enter sweepstakes for staycations, downtown behind-the-scenes tours and gift cards.
- An ongoing old-school program in Lowell, MA, encourages shoppers to pick up a Downtown Lowell Loyalty Card at participating businesses, get the card stamped six times at local businesses and drop the card in boxes around town for a chance to win a $50 gift card.
- Why I Go Downtown – Olympia Downtown Alliance
- SnowShoe Launches New Gamified Loyalty Solution Pilot with Olympia Downtown Alliance – SnowShoe/Olympia Downtown Alliance
- New Loyalty Program Rewards Downtown Shoppers, Supports Businesses – SnowShoe/Olympia Downtown Alliance – Thurston Talk
- B-Local: Support Boston’s Small Businesses – City Of Boston
- New citywide app lets residents get discounts at Boston stores and restaurants – The Boston Globe
- Downtown San Diego Partnership – Downtown San Diego
- ‘Support Local, Win Prizes’ contest launches Monday, offering unique gifts for shopping in Raleigh – San Diego Downtown News
- Support Local, Win Prizes – Downtown Raleigh Local
- Downtown Lowell Loyalty Program – Like Lowell
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How should downtown shopping districts design loyalty programs to provide the greatest benefit for the retailers involved? Which of the programs cited in the article or those you know from your own personal experience have you seen to be particularly effective?