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  • Matt Moloney

Shop more in Lancaster: How the city is using Bludot's shop local app to support businesses

Led by the city’s Economic Development department, notably Sydney Yeseta, Assistant Manager for Economic Development, and Michael Flores, Coordinator for the Economic Development Department, alongside other city staff and its partners, the city of Lancaster, CA launched Open Rewards, a shop local app, in December 2022.

Lancaster Team - Shop Local App

The program allows consumers to earn and redeem rewards when they shop at eligible local businesses within the city of Lancaster. By allowing residents to earn rewards when they shop locally—all from the convenience of their smartphones—the program has transformed how residents support local businesses, invest in their neighborhoods and contribute to the city's economic vitality.

A shop local app that's not just easy for consumers, but businesses as well

Lancaster wanted to make it a priority to eliminate any operational burden that a shop local app would have on its business owners. It's clear shop local programs benefit local businesses; however, what it means for a business owner to support the operational details on a day-to-day basis is often overlooked.

These challenges can not only make it difficult for businesses to participate, but often end up excluding many who are not tech-savvy, have language barriers or just happen to not have received the notification or training. For Lancaster, this was a critical consideration. They understood that only by taking into account all operational challenges that business owners might face and addressing them from the onset, could this program be successful.

To accomplish this, Open Rewards has been designed such that the burden to businesses is eliminated. Consumers simply pay for their purchases at any eligible business like they normally would, and receive their rewards directly in the app.

With this approach, Lancaster was able to launch the program with all 400+ eligible local businesses from day one. All eligible businesses were accommodated equally and inclusively.

Shop Local App Phone Screens

Keeping money in the community is key to a shop local app

Another key aspect of Open Rewards' design is how consumers would redeem the rewards. By requiring that consumers redeem their rewards towards another purchase at an eligible local business, it guarantees that every dollar that the city invests into the program stays local.

Additionally, this incentivizes consumers to return for repeat visits, while giving them the flexibility to choose from the variety of eligible local businesses. This key element of design tangibly influenced consumer behavior and directly resulted in the majority of participants making more than one purchase in Lancaster, thus boosting the program’s benefit to local businesses and the economic impact of a shop local program.

The city recently crossed over one million dollars in economic impact—a milestone the entire Lancaster team has celebratedwith the Open Rewards program.

Lancaster ROI - Shop Local App

Increasing awareness for the Open Rewards shop local app

The program's success is further bolstered by the city's ongoing proactive efforts to increase awareness and participation. The city has created $20 Reward Voucher Cards that were distributed at 25 city-operated events throughout 2023. The voucher cards encourage immediate engagement from consumers and ensure that the funds circulate within the local economy, supporting local businesses and fostering economic resilience.

Lancaster Gift Cards - Shop Local App

The Economic Development team reached out to local businesses via phone and in-person to have 1:1 conversations about the program and the benefits, hosted multiple webinars throughout the year and engaged businesses with new developments, opportunities and city updates.

The team utilized foot traffic analytics to assist in determining which businesses could use an extra push of assistance. The program was promoted across various social media channels every two weeks on LinkedIn, Youtube, Instagram and X, using fun and engaging content that promotes shopping local.

The team also utilized the city’s local television station L28 and the local radio station, and produced videos that displayed in high-traffic areas such as movie theaters and the DMV. These continuous efforts to engage and partner with the community yielded remarkable results in program participation and economic impact.

Want to see what a shop local app could do for your community?

Lancaster's partnership with Bludot on an innovative shop local app is a shining example of innovative collaboration and community empowerment. The leadership and execution by the city’s Economic Development team and the outstanding results it has achieved have made Lancaster a model for effective community partnerships, and serve as an inspiration to cities across the nation.

If you'd like to see what Open Rewards would look like for your community, please schedule some time to meet with us.


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