An Archstone Consulting survey predicted that retail gift card sales will exceed $35 billion in the 2009 holiday season. One reason for this expected bonanza is that retailers have become more innovative in how they market the cards to their customers, Archstone said. In a Giftex Prepay (now Global Prepaid Exchange) white paper, Gift Card Primer: How to make gift cards work for you, author Dan Horne elucidates the top 15 tips for gift card program success.
2. Market to the recipient: People generally want to purchase cards that will give the card recipients the greatest enjoyment. So emphasizing through messaging why recipients would be happy receiving a gift card can boost sales.
3. Don't say "convenience": Gift card buyers realize that purchasing gift cards is an easy gifting option. But they don't want to be reminded of that fact because it devalues the idea that the card is a gift meant to convey thoughtfulness and an understanding of the recipient's likes and dislikes.
4. Announce your presence: Since gift cards are becoming a fixture in consumers' minds, like flowers and chocolate, consumers need visual cues as soon as they enter the retail environment - either brick-and-mortar or online - to steer them to the gift card section.
5. Avoid the Chinese menu: Limit gift card designs to only a few choices, just as you would for items in any other product category.
6. Avoid exclusivity: Be careful about signing exclusive contracts with suppliers, distributors and processors. "Contract provisions that limit how you run your business are not in your best interest," Horne wrote.
7. Give cards a good home: During non-holiday periods, provide a prominent and permanent place in the retail environment for the cards, so customers can find them easily.
8. Keep branding consistent: Since gift cards are an extension of brand names, stay consistent with marketing themes and gift card images, logos, et cetera.
9. Make it presentable: Provide value-added packaging that enhances the piece of plastic into a true gift. Do the equivalent of tying that gift card with a bow.
10. Grab their attention: Some gift card buyers are impulse shoppers. So as not to miss such patrons, place gift cards near the POS, where shoppers take out their wallets.
11. Be transparent: "Make the terms and conditions of your cards as clear and simple as possible," Horne wrote. By giving consumers the broadest possible terms in how and when they use the cards, chances increase that you will gain customers for life.
12. Make it pretty: Gift card designs should emphasize gift-giving occasions and gender roles to enhance the impression that the card is not just a standard, everyday purchase.
13. Christmas all year 'round: While merchants do most of their gift card business during the holidays, remember to promote gift cards during Mother's Day, Father's Day, school graduation periods and so forth.
14. Think big: Third-party distribution and branching out into the business-to-business sector can dramatically expand the scope of gift card programs and profitability.
15. Keep the pace: It is imperative that gift card providers stay abreast of industry trends and technologies. "In a market that is evolving as quickly as gift and prepaid cards, you are always in danger of falling a step behind," Horne noted.
As a time-honored tradition, gift giving is among the best ways to show love and appreciation. The gift card is but one way to demonstrate affection and respect. "The heart of the gift is the message," Horne believes. It is a point providers would be wise to remember and practice when rolling out gift card programs.
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