Iowa City Downtown District Launches Local Rewards
— Downtown Program Incentivizes Shopping in Independent Stores —
The Iowa City Downtown District (ICDD) has launched a new customized shopping incentive platform for local Iowa City stores called Local Rewards. Local Rewards is a customer “loyalty” program intended to reward customers who repeatedly engage or shop at the stores in the program. The more a customer buys or engages with the store, the more “points” they can redeem for discounts, free products, rewards, or inside perks.
The Local Rewards program intentionally brands local stores together to encourage additional customers to the program overall. All customers on the loyalty program will have access to other stores’ reward programs and will receive bonus points for signing on to each. Each store on the program will customize their offerings to patrons independently and customers with points at one store will be able to redeem them at that store (customers cannot redeem points earned from one store at another).
As part of the Local Rewards launch, the ICDD is excited to announce a series of Downtown Double Rewards days. The first will help kick off shopping for Mother’s Day and the following will support other shopping opportunities throughout the year. Downtown Double Rewards are planned for the second Tuesday of each month for participating stores starting Tuesday, May 9, 2023 and including 6/13, 7/11, 8/8, 9/12, 10/10, 11/14, and 12/12. Double rewards are for in-store purchases only.
The following stores are currently participating in Local Rewards. Other additions are forthcoming:
- 223 Baby Co. Iowa City
- 223 Vintage West Branch
- Catherine’s Iowa City
- Catherine’s Davenport
- Discerning Eye
- Fin & Feather
- Textiles Inc.
- Velvet Coat Iowa City
- Velvet Coat Des Moines
These businesses will be added soon with others over the summer:
- Basic Goods
- Beno’s Flowers & Gifts
- Willow & Stock
Customers interested in joining the Downtown District’s complimentary loyalty program and Double Rewards opportunities can sign on at localrewardsic.com.
Local Rewards is an add-on service of the ICDD for local Iowa City stores and downtown “second” stores. The ICDD provides the service for a monthly fee to each participating business to help cover the costs of the overall program. Interested local Iowa City retailers, restaurants, and cultural venues can sign up by contacting Christopher Hunter at email@example.com. Fees are tiered:
- ICDD members – $50/month
- ICDD members with multiple locations – $60/month
- Non-member Iowa City stores – varies by store size
In 2011, a smaller collaboration of Downtown Iowa City stores hired former Small Dot Studios software developer Sam Schrup to develop a loyalty program called SIMPERKS. The loyalty system, which established emerging methods for rewarding the most loyal shoppers downtown, was a game-changer for those businesses at the time.
Currently, loyalty programs like SIMPERKS have grown exponentially as an important element of a retailer’s customer retention strategy. Third-party, subscription-based loyalty systems like Shopify have successfully added loyalty programs across the nation for a fee that continues to increase over time. The rigidity of these third-party systems and the growing costs prompted several downtown store owners to approach the ICDD to explore whether the SIMPERKS system could be retooled, rebranded, secured, and refined for local customers at an affordable flat fee cost for participating stores. Sam Shrup graciously handed over the keys to the program to the ICDD, Nick Bushman, software developer, and Kevin Mellen, UX designer at Creative Mellen, was hired to retool the program.
For the ICDD, the Local Rewards program adds another important service to the District’s retail program with goals of supporting this critical segment of downtown Iowa City’s economy. The ability to grow downtown shopping events like Double Reward days and other unique offerings with the Local Rewards program is a unique service amongst business improvement districts nationally.
For more information regarding the Downtown District’s retail investments, find program details at downtowniowacity.com/dobusiness.