Pay It Forward utilises mobile payments to create a direct peer-to-peer sales model. Readers are encouraged to buy The Big Issue magazine, read it, and then sell it on, with each payment returning to the vendor. This initiative amplifies the loyal relationships the vendors have with their existing customer-base, empowering customers to take a direct action to help multiply vendor’s sales. Pay It Forward taps into customer’s innate desire to help those in need, giving them a seamless and immediate way to do so.
The Big Issue is a magazine sold by those facing poverty to provide both a wage and sense of purpose. The Big Issue was once considered a radical solution to dismantling poverty but is now struggling to thrive in a digital world.
The rise of free content online has resulted in the decline of UK magazine sales and as the most vulnerable people in the publishing industry, this has dire consequences for The Big Issue vendors. Buying the magazine has become equivalent to giving money to a beggar - rather than an effective means of solving poverty.
Simultaneously, recent years have seen the rapid rise of a cashless society. This poses a serious problem for street vendors and drives a wider gulf between the privileged and the vulnerable.
Our key objective was to increase the income of the most vulnerable members of the print and publishing industry.
Describe the creative idea (30% of vote)
Pay it Forward transformed The Big Issue’s business model by creating the world’s first resellable magazine. Each magazine is provided with its own scannable QR code so once buyers have finished reading their magazine, they don’t bin it, they sell it on. Each magazine can be resold multiple times, with the profits returning to the vendor time and again. Every buyer becomes a potential seller and every vendor becomes the head of an entrepreneurial chain.
By adopting mobile payments, the Big Issue is less reliant on cash, maximises every physical sale and gains greater reach by circumventing the physical limitations of the vendors.
For this new business model to work, we needed to solve one of the biggest problems our sellers have: access to a bank account. So, we partnered with Monzo and as part of the scheme, vendors can open their own personal bank accounts.
Describe the strategy (20% of vote)
To understand the realities of The Big Issues’ business and the vendor’s lives, we had to spend time with vendors in their environment, observing how they interact with their customers and society at large. This unearthed a key audience insight: Big Issue buyers aren’t just readers of the magazine, they’re vocal champions of the Big Issue mission. The Big Issue confirmed the existence of a loyal pool of regular buyers, reporting that 75% of readers purchase 3 out of 4 issues monthly.
An understanding of the behavioural science behind charitable giving confirmed the power our loyalists possess. “Giving” is essentially a social act: people are significantly more likely to give to causes if asked to donate by someone they know. To harness the power of this peer effect, we turned buyers into sellers, empowering our advocates to sell and distribute the magazine amongst their friends and family.
Describe the execution (20% of vote)
Pay It Forward launched as a pilot scheme with vendors across the UK on 1st April. Each vendor was provided with: stickers containing their photo and a distinct QR code, belly bands explaining the activation and a personal Monzo bank account
Each QR code is connected to a customised monzo.me page containing the vendor’s picture, a short bio and the payment mechanic. Buyers can choose how much they want to pay, £2.50 being the minimum. The payment is then automatically split between the Big Issue and the vendor.
To make the initiative world-famous, we called upon a host of celebrities, including Gary Lineker, Emma Bunton, Roger Daltry, Bincent Kompany etc. who all bought copies of the magazine which are now in general circulation.
We secured coverage across major news outlets, including BBC London, The Sun and Mail Online, achieving 93.5 million impressions.
List the results (30% of vote)
Pay It Forward has resulted in an increase of 15% across participating vendor’s weekly sales, meaning they can spend less time selling and more time in employment and financial capability training.
If the Big Issue were to scale the initiative across their entire organisation and each magazine were resold just once, this would mean an annual revenue increase of £10m.
Without any traditional ATL media spend and with only a £17k investment, we achieved over 93 million impressions. We’ve put The Big Issue back on the national news agenda and have helped change perceptions by revealing the organisation for what it is: a network of entrepreneurs.
As a direct result of our campaign, Monzo have changed their policy to allow vendors without a permanent address to open bank accounts. Monzo have seen many of our participating vendors utilise their accounts for further financial management i.e. opening savings accounts.