Gift card ecommerce has become one of the most intriguing areas of modern retail. The space is bursting at the seams with untapped potential but still misunderstood by many of the world’s largest brands.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that gifting drives at least 20 percent of today’s retail sales. The number can be as high as 25 percent according to some researchers. One in every four retail purchases in 2018, then, will likely fall under the gift category.
Selling gift cards online offers a plethora of “low-hanging fruit” for retailers who want to increase revenue, but today’s merchants are capturing only a fraction. The greatest obstacle is the fact that most retailers still treat gift cards as a niche category of their overall businesses.
In truth, gift card programs should be fully integrated into any ecommerce enterprise and expertly implemented across all operational channels. In this blog, we will outline the most important trends in selling gift cards online and highlight the three best practices that will help brands claim these missed opportunities.
Five Game-Changing Trends in Gift Card eCommerce
- Creating everyday opportunities: Gift card revenues are not exclusive to the traditional holiday season, despite this prevailing misperception.Innovative retailers are tying them into monthly and even weekly events throughout the calendar year, such as Valentine’s Day, Easter, graduation, Mother’s and Father’s Days, Independence Day, back-to-school, sporting events, etc. The most successful gift card retailers such as Starbucks and Amazon make them everyday opportunities for their customers.
- Personalization: Retailers can increase their success in the gift card market by creating ways to make the customer experiences more personal. Consumers respond to personalization, whether that be a name, personal note, significant date or customized illustration on a physical or digital gift card. A recent Blackhawk Network survey revealed that 50 percent of respondents agreed that holiday-specific gift cards and personalized messaging (either on the card or in an accompanying greeting card) would get them to purchase more gift cards and between 30 and 40 percent would be encouraged to spend more on a gift card regardless of the type of personalization added.
- Promotions: Research shows that consumers favor gift cards over other promotional offers of branded value. In its January 2017 report, “Consumer vs. Retailer Promotional Preferences,” NAPCO Research concluded that shoppers prefer gift cards by a ratio of nearly 2-to-1 over coupons, bonus dollars and rebates. This preference opens the door wider for retailers looking to increase revenue by expanding everyday gifting opportunities for customers.
- Self-use: Gift cards are not just for gifting anymore, and retailers are paying attention. Blackhawk Network conducted its own survey in March 2018 and discovered that 91 percent of consumers have purchased gift cards, and of that number, 69% had purchased a gift card for themselves.
- Mobile purchasing: Like all of retail, selling gift cards online is experiencing the rapid acceleration of mobile purchasing, making it a focal point for brand and ecommerce planning. For merchants using the CashStar platform, mobile orders increased by 50% from 2016 to 2017.
The Three Keys to Success in Gifting eCommerce
The above trends are critical adaptations which merchants need to stay competitive in gifting ecommerce. The “how” is outlined below in the best practices that merchants need to succeed.
Provide an omnichannel customer experience: One of the most provocative revelations from the NAPCO 2017 “Merchant Gift Card Ecommerce Evaluation” was the fact that only 36 percent of the brands evaluated sell gift cards online. This finding supports the assertion that there is a misperception among brands that gifting is a niche business.
Providing omnichannel opportunities for gift cards is imperative to increase revenue today. Merchants should ensure that customers will have the same optimal experience in searching for and purchasing gift cards from their desktop devices, on mobile devices, in mobile applications and in-store.
Engage in conversational commerce: The best bet for merchants is to bring commerce opportunities to customers’ preferred channels. As the new “digital watering hole,” social media apps are an ideal channel. These messaging apps have risen in popularity, making them the perfect intersection of customer conversation and shopping. Through chatbots and other technologies, brands can connect to, engage with and delight customers through conversational commerce experiences. The key is in providing a streamlined, tailored experience for customers, which requires intuitive design.
Conversational commerce allows customers to make one decision quickly through simple, intuitive and streamlined messaging. In 2018, merchants using our newly optimized conversational UI have experienced, on average, a 40-percent faster purchase time.
Ensure complete accessibility: Gift cards must be easy to find, easy to purchase and easy to use across all retail channels and media. They shouldn’t be hard to locate on a website or impossible to access through a mobile app. Nor should they take weeks to arrive in the regular mail, as was the case with some of the brands included in NAPCO’s evaluation.
Gift cards are a powerful tool for retailers to increase revenue. Brands that invest in expert implementation across all retail channels—and follow best practices—are positioned to unlock the full potential value that selling gift cards online can provide. Understanding dynamic consumer preferences and behavior around self-use, personalization, everyday gifting opportunities, promotions, and mobile is integral to running a successful gift card program. Merchants stand to benefit greatly by finding the right partners and develop robust, omnichannel gift card ecommerce programs.