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How to Sell More with Gift Cards – Gift Cards Marketing Strategies
Mike Sedzielewski
Mike Sedzielewski
September 28, 2017
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How to Sell More with Gift Cards – Gift Cards Marketing Strategies

For 12 years in a row now, gift cards remain one of the most requested gifts which incessantly reduce the number of mismatched choices found in a secondary market. Moreover, from the retailers’ point of view, even an unwanted card generates revenue. Only in 2013-14, $1.750 billion loaded on gift cards went unused, what made the market has earned almost $2 billion without the sale of any real goods.

The huge numbers of gift cards in the market prove not only their marketing power but also show how common a tool they have become in marketers’ hands. To stand out from this crowd you need something more than just a nice piece of plastic.

With our new complete guide on gift card marketing strategies, we want to show you how to combine the marketing power of gift cards with a modern e-commerce environment. This approach demonstrates an affordable and easy to maintain marketing infrastructure which allows you to make the most of each gift card bought.



Laying the foundation for your gift card trategy

Before we lay concrete gift card campaign ideas on the table, we want to share some of our marketing insights right at the beginning. After analyzing consumers habits and modern e-commerce data, we discovered there are 2 major directions that need to be considered in order to make every gift card marketing strategy an overnight success:

  • Consumers value the most personalized and well-targeted offers.
  • As e-commerce goes digital, more and more customers choose online gift cards service over the traditional in-store practice. 

Update May 2020 – Digital transformation is now much more necessary than ever before as business face lockdowns due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we wrote a post dedicated to helping you transfer your business into digital space. 

With this in mind, let’s see how to jump into a gift cards train and primarily, how to finish this journey with a growing ROI, fulfilled business objectives, and a pat on the back from the management.

Plan for a plan – define your marketing goals

Your aims and expected benefits from launching a gift card campaign may vary depending on your role and business maturity. In general, we have noticed five main marketing goals connected with launching a gift cards campaign:

  • Increase in sales in general.
  • Cross and up-selling – product-oriented sales.
  • Increase of a brand awareness.
  • Acquisition of new customers.
  • Building long-term relationships.

Whatever your goal is, you need to schedule your gift card strategy ahead. The good plan decides if you’ll be ready to manage the expectations of your customers during the entire season. If you look at the calendar you’ll see plenty of events that give your cards enough time to shine. All you need to do is to be ready when the right time comes. 

Near holiday be prepared for the growth of sales and do not forget about personalization. Even if it’s something as universal as a mother’s day allow your buyer to make a gift card tailored for one person (in our case, a mother) only.

The majority of businesses note big lulls after the hottest periods and find their sales results look like a sinusoid. If you can analyze your revenues during the year, gift card campaigns planned ahead, can be a cure for these gaps.

There are many people who would never walk into your store if not for a gift card. With nice cards, give a sense of money in hands, people start to interact with your brand and give you a chance to turn them into regulars.



Best practices

  1. Opt for smart gift card redemption rules
  2. Sell gift cards online
  3. Automate, automate and automate
  4. Track and optimize non-stop
  5. Collaborate with affiliates

1. Opt for smart gift card redemption rules

A flexible rules engine is the heart of your gift cards system. It allows you to personalize gift cards for diversified occasions and secure them against fraud.

Most consumers make purchase decisions based on service quality. If you want to ensure a good customer experience you need to be up to date with a current cards’ performance and their metrics. In response to customer complaints and unexpected situations, you should be able to react immediately by deactivating the card or changing the balance.

To manage the maintenance follow the rule that prevention is better than cure and set some predefined validation rules which keep an eye on the gift cards and ensure customization, tracking, and safety at once.

2. Sell gift cards online

All efforts would be in vain if you weren’t able to reach customers efficiently. That’s why a well-fitting distribution is key to ending your campaign with profits.

People are increasingly choosing to go online to purchase gift cards, although there are still many who prefer classic, hand-to-hand gifts. Aiming for a better appeal to customer’s preferences actually, demands both distribution channels. If you choose to sell gift cards in-store, here are some worth noting tips:

  • Make them eye-catching, efforts put in design may decide if a customer will notice your card and consider a purchase. 
  • Put them on a display – in other words, put them everywhere and make them impossible to overlook. 
  • Ensure mobile redemptions and allow customers to redeem gift cards displayed on a mobile device. 
  • Consider launching local campaigns in your POS, usage of local holidays is a great way to increase customer loyalty and drive sales results at the same time. 
  • And finally, don’t stop here and go online.

A major advantage of a digital gift card over a traditional one is the possibility of designing each gift card’s aspect and receiving something unique. That means introducing another level of personalization which doesn’t have to ruin your budget. The point is to ensure ready, predefined templates and allow your customers to add their individual compounds (private message, dedication, etc.), which make their cards personal and unique.

3. Automate, automate and automate

If you base your gift card process on excel sheets and a hand-made distribution, it is hard to ensure personalization and keep up with your audience once scale starts growing. With a modern gift card provider, many operations can be entirely automated and campaign management won’t require constant bothering your developers. You can set an automatic series of emails and SMS messages which are going to take care of your regular and new customers by sending gift card when a customer match predefined criteria.

For example, you can launch:

• Abandoned cart series – action is triggered automatically once a client leaves a cart. The gift card is sent instantly encouraging him/her to get back and finalize a purchase.

• Re-engagement series – this kind of campaign is based on a specific timeframe. You can define a time window for a customer’s absence, and when the time for re-engagement comes, the workflow will be triggered automatically.

• Best promoters/loyalty series – automatic message with a special gift card is triggered once a new customer appears on your “the best” list. It allows you to show appreciation and effortlessly look after the most loyal customers.

As you can imagine, automatic, well-targeted distribution requires efficient customer tracking and appropriate segmentation. Together they allow you to send gift cards that really appeal to buyers' and receivers' tastes.

4. Track and optimize non-stop

Every marketing strategy is a combination of clever ideas, endless testing, efficient customer tracking, and constant adjustment to the target. Assuming that you already have some ideas laid out let’s go to the tracking and accounting issues.

Before we start tracking your gift cards, let’s say a few words about how A/B testing works and why it is vital to building your gift cards strategy?

It starts with your ideas put into multiple gift card campaigns with various attributes and then, comparing the results. This includes testing different gift card features like the value, the minimum amount to spend, expiry date, etc. as well as different customer segments like locations, marketing channels, gender, or age.

The way it works is that you first roll out to a small customer segment to figure out what converts best. Then, you expand the campaign (country- or channel-wide).

With this approach, you know which products are the most desired and which types of gift cards would bring the greatest yield. Though, to catch these clues in daily practice, you need software that tracks and collects data round-the-clock. In the next paragraph, we put a set of parameters that should be included in tracking to give you a comprehensive overview of a gift card’s performance.

Let’s start by analyzing one type of gift card only (one campaign); what would you like to monitor to find out if they work?

  • Number of sold cards
  • Redeemed amount
  • Amount left to spend
  • Information about cards’ owners/buyers
  • Which products/services were the most desired among orders paid with gift cards 
  • Staggered sale results

Of course, to leverage the potential of these data you need software that allows you to run multiple gift card campaigns at the same time and compare their performance. Only then, you’ll be able to improve targeting and estimate the expected ROI.

5. Collaborate with affiliates

When considering large scale marketing campaigns, implementation across a distributed organization that spans multiple business partners may easily become the elephant in the room. This is why your collaboration with affiliates should be well-planned and secured during the entire season. Gift cards providers should allow you to include partners into your gift cards system with limits on their data access but without cuts on gathered data for your tracking and analytics. On the other hand, multiple campaigns run in parallel with gift cards at wholesale may be a real headache without appropriate management. To be ready for a growing number of projects, try to automate as many operations as it’s possible and find solutions that reduce the amount of software or excel sheets. Modern gift card providers ensure automation features that bring up simplicity to your gift cards system and saves plenty of your marketers and developers time.

Finally, when your scale grows enough, it may be worth to consider affiliates collaboration and build your first distribution networks.

Designing a modern gift cards software from scratch

No matter if global or local, the gift cards system has to provide you with tracking features. If you are able to track your customers efficiently, your gift cards will more likely meet their expectations and turn into measurable results. Growing audience involves the ongoing expansion of your database but doesn’t mean heavy-software investments, instead of choosing a different app to create, track and distribute cards, choose one which allows for all of these operations and additionally can be integrated with your existing infrastructure (CRM, POS). You’ll find out more about designing a modern gift card system from scratch below.

While designing a gift card marketing strategy, you’ll probably start from a gift card provider that fits your existing infrastructure. If you search the market, you’ll find many companies that can deliver designed gift cards at wholesale ready for selling. Though, what about tracking then? Personalization and flexible campaign rules? Customer service or team management scheme? To avoid confusion and puzzling with many apps and service providers, choose gift cards platform which builds a solid framework and contains most of your gift card system compounds. Moreover, before choosing a gift card provider, remember to check its capability of integrating with your existing infrastructure (CRM, POS, email provider, etc.)

Below you will find crucial gift card software features you need to deliver specific marketing values:

1. Personalization & Targeting

  • Customer segmentation
  • Sophisticated email designer
  • Integration with CRM and POS
  • Flexible rules engine
  • Tracking customers data
  • Virtual inventory with your products/services 
  • Bulk generation

2. Multilevel Management

  • The capability of assigning roles to team members
  • The capability of limiting users data access

3. Scalability

  • Automatic gift cards distribution
  • The capability of creating gift cards at wholesale and automatic data tracking
  • User and developer-friendliness
  • A/B testing

4. Multi-channel distribution and sale

  • Integration with email/SMS provider
  • Export tool
  • Mobile app
  • Online/offline redemptions

5. Fraud protection

  • The capability of defining redemptions and usage limits
  • Unique gift cards (codes)

6. High-quality customer service

  • Overview of a campaign’s performance
  • The capability of deactivation/activation a gift card
  • Tracking of redemptions and details of an order
  • Each customer assigned to the unique ID viewable in their profiles in the dashboard
  • Balance settings (rechargeable cards)

7. Tracking sales results and estimating ROI

  • Gathering redemptions and customers data,
  • Current overview of campaigns’ performance, metrics, and stats
  • Gift cards performance updated dynamically with every change

Examples of gift card tactics

To gain more traffic, try a referral program with gift cards. A gift card can be a reward for a referrer or a new customer as well. In the simplest scenario, you can offer a $5 gift card as your appreciation for endorsement and encourage new customers to purchase with another card or a discount. The key to making it works at every scale boils down to details:

  • Set minimum order value to upsell.
  • Add expiry date to each card and create a sense of urgency.
  • Use gift cards to collect customers’ data (name, location, email address) and prepare more personalized, exclusive offers in the future.

Treat each returning customer with a unique, personal gift card. A combination of targeting and customization creates a feeling of something extraordinary, far above the standard.                                     

More ideas

  1. To keep newbies and turn them into regulars, launch campaigns with exclusive gift cards for the most loyal customers.
  2. To increase brand awareness, leverage geo-oriented gift cards, and local events.
  3. Geo-located gift card campaigns can be used to promote your brand with local events and contests.

Memorable events enable you to grab the attention of a local audience and drive real marketing results. Many giant brands (Zalando, McDonald) use events entertainment as an alternative to traditional marketing and advertising. This tactic works not only as a way of promotion but also helps to build a long-term brand image.

As you can, see there is a huge margin for your creativity. Personalization, targeting, and catchy ideas give you a chance to leave your competition behind but also, make their maintenance more demanding.

Learn more: 13 examples of gift card campaign done like a pro

Key takeaways for your gift card marketing strategy

1. Make personalization paramount and let your customers create something unique.

With personal data, targeting becomes more accurate, and consumers are more likely to use gift cards if it includes their favorite products/services:

“(...) more than three-quarters of US business-to-consumer customers saw the benefit of trading personal information for more relevant discounts and offers.”

2. Use the digital environment to extend gift card sales and facilitate their management.

The in-store sale is only one of many channels that interact with your audience. If you want to keep up with a today’s buyer profile, online sale and service is a must. To be even more successful, you should leverage the power of social media and perhaps run a few ads to get your gift cards in front of a wider audience. 

“56% of surveyed consumers would like to keep gift cards stored on their phones. This makes the card easily accessible and decreases the chances of it being lost.”

3. Choose comprehensive gift card providers which allows you to achieve your marketing goals without long hours spent on rebuilding your current infrastructure:

  • Check its tracking and accounting features.
  • Test its rules engine and personalization possibilities.
  • Choose from API platforms to ensure developer-friendliness. 
  • Search documentation for integration capabilities.

4. Ensure your gift card system uses automation and dynamic customer segmentation.

Do not invest in things that don’t scale; software should make things easier to manage and maintain, no matter system growth.

“The future of commerce is digital. Even if your brick and mortar storefront is thriving, don’t miss the opportunity to establish your brand online.”


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