Sales from digital gift cards are projected to hit nearly $700bn in global sales by 2024 – if you’re a retailer, it’s an area you simply can’t afford to avoid or get wrong, especially since 72 percent of retailers now spend more than the value of their card.
However, while gift cards present unique opportunities, they also present some unique challenges.
The gift card space has evolved considerably due to improvements in technology: they’re used both online and offline, and it’s become easier for brands of all shapes and sizes to operate gift card programs. There’s a real need to differentiate and provide a gift card experience that’s a cut above the rest.
If you’re running a retail business, you might well be asking: how do I go about building a modern gift card program that delivers real benefits to both the brand and its customers?
Make it easy to purchase and redeem
Great Customer Experience is all about cohesion. If you experienced an issue buying something in-store and an advisor was unable to help you resolve it online, then it would present a problem, wouldn’t it? It’s the same with gift cards – they need to be easy to buy and redeem across all different online and offline channels.
When your customer buys a gift card in-store, they should be able to use it online – and when they buy it online, they should be able to use it in-store. If they can’t use it in the way they prefer, they’ll rightly wonder what the point of buying it at all is – damaging their experience and your brand reputation.
Some brands still rely exclusively on physical gift cards and don’t have any kind of digital equivalent, which can be an immediate turn-off for customers. Others run disparate online and offline gift cards that aren’t compatible with one another – a situation that’s common even for more established brands.
So, make sure your provider unites the offline and online experience. Work to migrate separate programs into one distinct program, ensure it converts all kinds of currency if you operate locations globally, and make sure gift cards are clearly available to purchase on your e-commerce platform, as well as from any resellers, such as department stores. You can even distribute them to some businesses to use as a corporate incentive.
The idea is to make your gift cards available across every possible commercial touchpoint: to create a true multichannel gift card program.
Make it global
Ever get annoyed when a much-anticipated film or TV is released in the US – and only released in the UK a week, a month, or even a year later? It’s really annoying, both because you don’t get to watch what you want to watch and because it makes you feel like there are two tiers of viewer: the one in the home market, and the one in the less-valuable foreign market.
The same thing applies to gift cards. If you’re a large international retailer, a hotelier, or a restaurant chain, you need to make sure your gift card program is scalable all over the world rather than restricted by geography. You shouldn’t ever be in a situation where you’re setting up specific programs for specific countries – the same experience, in the preferred language and the preferred currency, should be available to all.
A customer who uses your service in Boston, a customer who uses your service in Berlin, and a customer who flits between the two, should all be able to buy and use gift cards seamlessly.
Make it sustainable
Sustainability is a big draw for modern-day customers – and many gift card programs are heavily reliant on plastic.
You can make these programs more sustainable by using an eco-card, which has all the advantages of a standard plastic gift card, but is made using substantially ‘greener’ techniques. These cards can be made of recycled PVC, corn-based plastic, or paper stock, and their carriers can be made of soy-based inks or recycled materials. It’s also worth making sure you shred and recycle all deactivated cards.
Plastic waste is a significant issue in the modern world, and a more sustainable approach can not only reduce your environmental impact, but also boost your brand’s reputation.
Make it easy to integrate
Does your gift card program fit in with your electronic point-of-sale (EPOS) system and e-commerce sites, or is it tethered more loosely? The more tightly you can integrate it, the better. Gift cards should be easily compatible with in-store ordering technology to make it as easy as possible for staff and customers to process sales and redeem cards. The same goes for ecommerce sites.
More integration means a more cohesive customer experience, and it also makes it easier to collect and report data related to gift card transactions. This should help you refine your sales and marketing strategy. Integrating gift cards with EPOS systems can also decrease processing times and improve the ability to offer tailored promotions.
Make it different
Finally, think about specificity. Gift cards haven’t been around for all that long, and they weren’t always commonplace. Now they’re available everywhere, so it’s worth making sure yours stands out.
Think about creating different gift cards for different purposes. They come in many flavours: loyalty-based gift cards can be sent to particularly long-time customers to reward them for sticking with you; mystery gift cards can be sent to entice new prospects; you can send them on birthdays or weddings, or you can send them when a customer has checked into a specific location – for a hotel chain, you might want to send customers a specific resort gift card.
You can, of course, also use them to compensate customers for a negative experience. They should all be a part of the same program, but there should be a range available to suit the full range of Customer Experiences you offer. If a customer returns an item for whatever reason, you should give them the option of putting the value onto a gift card – this means the money stays with the retailer, the customer is statistically likely to spend more, and you can easily turn a negative experience into a positive one.
Gift cards, ultimately, are a show of faith in your retailer: instead of spending money on you directly, customers buy them for friends and family – trusting that something within the range of what you offer will make them happy. Repay this faith and trust by making the gift card experience as positive as possible. Customers will reward you for it.
The volume of businesses using gift cards as part of their reward, incentive and loyalty schemes has seen a significant uplift year-on-year, according to the latest research published by the UK Gift Card & Voucher Association (UKGCVA).
The State of the Nation report, compiled by GlobalData and sponsored by First Data, found that the B2B gift card market has seen an impressive 20.5 percent growth year-on-year.
Interestingly, more than a third (35.9 percent) of gift card managers also anticipate the B2B gift card market as having the greatest future growth potential, compared with 2.6% of those who say the same for B2C.
Employee incentive schemes are a particularly key avenue for this growth, with over a fifth (21.1 percent) of Brits receiving gift cards through these programmes. This figure rises to 29.9 percent for millennial and Generation Z workers – those aged between 16 and 34 – suggesting that gift cards are a popular method for engaging with the younger generation, and likely to rise in popularity in future.
Encouragingly, this has also been recognised by organisations offering gift cards, with more than six-in-10 gift card managers (61.5 percent) looking to develop direct relationships with businesses wanting to reward their staff. A further 43.6 percent are also developing partnerships with the likes of price comparison businesses, energy providers and media companies, demonstrating the increasingly prominent role gift cards can play in businesses’ incentive and loyalty programmes.
The in-depth research, which surveyed more than 2,000 UK shoppers, C-suite executives, and gift card managers on their perceptions, attitudes and habits towards gift cards, demonstrates that they could be leveraged as a key tool for businesses to engage their staff, as well as customers. However, more needs to be done to secure senior buy-in if this market growth is to continue.
While more than four in five (85 percent) gift card managers believe gift cards to be an important area of growth for their business, this figure drops to just under two thirds (65 percent) of professionals at C-suite level. This is likely due to the fact that almost half of senior-level employees (45 percent) reported having minimal visibility of the results driven by gift cards, and more than a third (35 percent) reported little to no awareness of the opportunities they can present.
Gail Cohen, Director General of the UKGCVA, said: “The right reward scheme can have a hugely positive influence on employee (and customer) loyalty, particularly when used as part of an ongoing incentive and reward programme.
“However, if retailers are to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the growing B2B gift card market, it is imperative that gift card managers and the C-suite are on the same page, requiring greater education and clearer lines of reporting throughout the business around the positive effects gift card programmes can have.”
The average UK consumer spends £41 more than the original value of their gift card, according to a new study.
The UK Prepaid Consumer Insights Study released by First Data found that 34 percent of consumers visit a store they would not have visited otherwise due to their receipt of a gift card.
Researchers looked at trends in branded currency, giving business owners insight into how gift cards can benefit and grow their businesses. This year’s study was based on survey data from more than 1,000 UK consumers and aggregated responses across four unique age groups: Generation Z (ages 18-23), Millennials (ages 24-37), Generation X/Y (ages 38-53), and Boomers (age 54+).
John Gibbons, Executive Vice President, Head of EMEA & Co-Head of Global Financial Solutions at First Data, said: “Our study shows a distinct opportunity for UK business owners to drive more sales, strengthen their brand, and bolster customer loyalty by implementing smart branded currency strategies.
“From employee rewards and customer service programs to social media promotions and targeted marketing campaigns, both physical and digital gift cards offer valuable incentives to both businesses and consumers.”
The study results showed increased interest for digital currency and a growth trajectory that is expected to continue. It found that 55 percent of consumers purchased plastic gift cards, while 45 percent of consumers purchased digital gift cards in 2018. While a majority of purchasers still prefer plastic, consumers are accelerating their use of digital cards largely due to convenience – as these can be sent instantly and are easier to reload.
Last year, UK consumers spent on average £203 or 38 percent of their annual gifting budget on gift cards; and while 81 percent of consumers surveyed purchased a gift card as a present for an occasion or event, one-in-three respondents spent more on a gift card than a traditional gift.