SUNDERLAND’s smart city journey has received an extra boost, with an innovative digital scheme which will support the local economy.
Sunderland BID launched its gift card a year ago, with more than 150 retailers signed up.
The scheme was part of the city-wide Reopening the High Streets Safely project, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered in partnership with Sunderland City Council to encourage people to return to the high street following the pandemic.
And now the card is supporting the city’s ambitions to become a digitally enabled world leader, by being available as an E-card.
The E-card can be sent to the recipient’s phone instantly as either a text or email and then by using a Love Local app they can add the balance to their digital wallet and make their purchase using Apple Pay or Google Pay either online or in-store.
Sharon Appleby, Chief Executive of Sunderland BID, said the cards could still be bought in a physical version but this was now an additional option to make the process even easier.
“As a city, Sunderland is completely committed to adopting digital services and technology to help increase connectivity and support economic growth,” she said.
“Being able to buy the Sunderland City Gift Card in such a straightforward way and to be able to send it instantly to the recipient is now part of that process and we’re delighted to have been able to introduce this at such an important time of year for the local economy.”
A 2021 Gift Card and Voucher Association report found that over 38 per cent of respondents converted to digital gift cards during the pandemic, while there was a steady growth in people spending their gift cards via a mobile device.
Sunderland Gift Card is part of the multi-award winning Town & City Gift Card concept from payments provider, Miconex, with the company revealing there was a huge 2000 per cent increase in online searches for ‘support local businesses’ in 2020.
Colin Munro, managing director of Miconex, said that Sunderland getting on board with the digital version of the gift card aligns it with the latest trends.
“The first is convenience – one in three adults are said to choose gifts based on how soon they can get them,” he said.
“It also highlights the continued move towards using mobile devices.
“By 2023, an estimated 12 million people will use their phones as their primary payment method and by 2022, mobile payments are set to overtake cash and credit card as the preferred payment method, second only to debit card.
“The new digital Sunderland Gift Card is an important step, not only in the evolution of the card but also in the evolution of Sunderland itself, giving customers ultimate choice in how they support and spend with local businesses.”
Liz St Louis, Assistant Director of Smart Cities at Sunderland City Council, said: “Digital technology continues to redefine interactions between people, businesses and public services; reshaping every aspect of consumers’ experiences in Sunderland and beyond.
“Digitising Sunderland BID’s gift card is a perfect example of how smart technology can support local businesses to adapt their way back to growth. Using this interactive, multi-channel approach, businesses can adopt smart technology to go beyond simple transactions, leveraging convenience and speed to boost sales and customer satisfaction.
“The digital high street represents an exciting evolution for local businesses, and I look forward to seeing more and more tech integrations in shopping experiences – such as digital POS (point of sale) and virtual reality – to continue to excite and engage future generations.”