A Perthshire-based fintech firm has launched a “first of its kind” digital gifting product for towns and cities to encourage Scots to ‘love local’.

Miconex‘s virtual gift card, which has been created under its new global Love Local brand, will operate via the MasterCard network and online wallet services such as Apple Pay.

A Love Local app developed by the payments provider to accompany the new digital gift card will enable recipients to add the gift card balance to their digital wallet, view participating businesses and spend online or in-store.

Miconex’s managing director Colin Munro said: “Working alongside our partners EML, MasterCard and Apple, we have created a cutting edge digital gift card product for towns and cities, breaking down the barriers that have previously existed and enabling places to have their own digital gift card for the first time. We listened to what our clients told us they wanted from their gift card programmes, whilst staying attuned to consumer trends.

“An estimated one in three adults are said to choose gifts based on how soon they can get them. For consumers, digital gift cards are instant, meaning they can send a last minute gift conveniently, whilst also supporting local businesses.

“The digital gift goes straight to the recipient. They receive a text or email, click on the link to download the Love Local app, then receive a code to add the balance to their digital wallet, making their purchase using their phone, or even their Apple watch. Ease of use for consumers is paramount, as is the trend towards mobile payments which is particularly pronounced in the UK.”

The 2021 Gift Card & Voucher Association (GCVA) ‘state of the nation’ report suggests that the pandemic has accelerated the trend for digital gift cards, with 38.4 per cent of respondents converting to digital gift cards.

Whilst in-store redemption remains the most popular way to spend gift cards (54.8 per cent), this has decreased considerably in comparison to 2019 (69.6 per cent), indicating a trend towards online and mobile redemption.

Additionally, 21.6 per cent of respondents redeemed their gift card via mobile in 2020, up from 11.4 per cent in 2019.

There is also a clear move towards local shopping, with a reported 2000 per cent year-on-year increase in online searches for ‘support local businesses’ in 2020.

The GCVA found that almost a quarter of consumers (24.5 per cent) purchasing a gift card for someone else in June 2021 did so to support local businesses and/or their local high street, with a similar percentage (24.9 per cent) planning to continue to use gift cards to support local businesses.

And it is estimated that by 2023, almost 12 million people in the UK will use their phones as their primary payment method.

In 2019, 81 per cent of Brits were using some form of online payment, the highest percentage in the world.  By 2022, mobile payments are projected to overtake both cash and credit card as the preferred payment method, second only to debit card.

Research shows a link between age and the use of digital wallets, with 48 per cent of 18-34 year olds having a digital wallet, 44 per cent of 35-44s, 37 per cent of 45-54s, 29 per cent of 55-64s and 22 per cent of 65 plus users.

Mr Munro believes the new digital gifting product will help towns and cities to engage a younger demographic.

Benefits of digital gift cards noted by consumers include the perception that it is easier to shop online with a digital gift card, as well as sustainability and environmental benefits.

Miconex currently operates over 100 gift card programmes around the UK, Ireland and North America, which unify a wide range of businesses to create a secure, flexible gift and reward product for consumers and employers. 

The Love Local brand will become an umbrella brand for Miconex’s ‘town and city gift card’ programmes in the UK and Ireland, with digital gift cards facilitated through the Love Local app.

The firm is also behind the new Scotland Loves Local Gift Card, backed by the Scottish Government and Scotland’s Towns Partnerships, which was announced in June.

Munro added: “The shop local sentiment is evident in our work with programmes in the UK, Ireland, Canada and the US. Developing the Love Local brand allows us to convert that love local sentiment into spend, in a brand that will be as recognised and understood in Cambridge UK as Cambridge Canada.

“Theoretically, you could have your downtown gift cards in your Love Local app alongside your town and city gift cards. The Love Local brand also provides us with flexibility as we continue to develop new products for different use cases, and new tools for businesses and places to interact directly with an engaged consumer audience. The potential for Love Local is huge.”

“With a digital gift card in their armoury, towns and cities can appeal to a wide range of consumers, but by combining a digital gift card with a physical gift card, places can give customers the ultimate choice and flexibility in how they spend their gift cards, which is what they will increasingly expect.”