We have a new academic paper out – on place marketing and place based loyalty schemes (details at end of blog) – and in addition to wanting to say something about it, I felt the time was ripe for setting it in a slightly wider context.
Places (towns) are, as any reader of this blog knows, important to me and I would argue to the wider economy and society. Places matter and we need to support and help them. This has become more difficult as patterns of behaviour change, costs rise, the internet offers often false economics and place management stutters along in many locations.
Past blogs have also mentioned our work with Colin Munro and Miconex and their interest in and approaches to place based loyalty. The initial work was a proof of concept about enabling a technological solution to linking loyalty across independent businesses in a town. Our new paper takes this further forward and develops the concept and results further with support from the DataLab for the Miconex solution.
The paper, by Maria Rybaczewska and myself, seeks to extend place management and marketing understanding by concentrating on the strengths and weaknesses of the place based loyalty scheme concept. It analyses place based loyalty schemes from the practitioners perspective as it is businesses and town and city managers who need to work together to implement such schemes. Through this work, we identify the positive views of such schemes but also some of the barriers or tensions. The benefits are clear but concerns over data management, ease of use for consumers and operators and costs all act as a drag on implementation.
Subsequent to the work reported in this paper, Miconex have been pioneering the roll out of a Mastercard place based loyalty offering. This has gained significant national attention. At one level, this is no surprise as the simplicity and ease of such a ‘known’ approach removes some of the barriers our paper described. The ‘offer’ is a gift card for towns and cities; redemption is in businesses in the local area signed up to the scheme. The appeal for BIDS is thus clear, but it can also work more generally as their case studies show. It is in some ways a local currency for a place, usable only in that location, despite being in sterling.
The attraction is pretty clear. At the University we often have cause to offer small ‘rewards’ for activities or service, sometimes from the University and sometimes from the Student Union. These have now become standardised, but often as Amazon vouchers. But you have to ask why? Why are we giving vouchers for an organisation that is placeless (and we’ll ignore other issues here) when a University is about linkages and places. Now if we had a Stirling town card with a range of businesses signed up, we might have a viable offer. How about it Stirling Council or Stirling BID; dare you follow the original Miconex place, Perth?
Rybaczewska, M. and L. Sparks (2019) Place Marketing and Place Based Loyalty Schemes. Journal of Enterprising Communities. Pre-print available for download here.