They might seem a bit old-hat on the surface, but with an estimated market value of over £5 billion in the UK alone, the humble gift card still has a lot to offer small business owners.
Used wisely, gift cards and vouchers can not only provide your business with a healthy boost to sales, but could help you reach new audiences and even expand your brand.
Join us as we explore the ways that gift vouchers can benefit your business, as well as sharing six top tips for promoting them.
How gift cards can benefit your business
We're all familiar with the concept of gift cards, but how exactly can selling or gifting them to your customers benefit your business?
Let's explore some of the biggest potential plus points:
- They provide revenue up-front. Even if, due to some bizarre set of circumstances, the purchaser or recipient of one of your gift cards doesn't use it (rare, but it happens!), you as the business owner still have cash in the bank from the moment the card is purchased. Gift vouchers give you an instant cash flow boost with.
- They're popular with shoppers. Especially during busy seasons like Christmas, gift cards allow weary shoppers to cross one or more names off their list while limiting the chances that their present will be a dud.
- They take up limited space. Unlike a lot of physical stock, gift cards can be kept in their hundreds behind your counter in a space no bigger than a shoe box. Better still, you needn't worry about theft, as they can easily be voided if any ever went missing.
- They work like invitations. It's common knowledge that consumers are more likely to patronise a business if it has been recommended by someone we trust. When we give someone a gift card, then, we're not only giving them a free pass to spend, but are signalling that the store it's valid for is worthy of our time.
- They guarantee at least one visit. It's rare for the recipient of a gift card not to use it, so you can pretty much guarantee at least one customer visit as a result of the sale. Make a good impression when they do, and you could end up with a brand new repeat customer.
- They encourage 'overspending'. Sure, you'll get the occasional Frugal Dougal coming in, intent on spending only up to the face value of their gift card. But the majority of shoppers are much more liberal, making purchases far in excess of the value of a gift card. After all, customers often don't view the
- They're great for marketing. As well as looking good on display in your store and online, properly branded gift cards act like miniature adverts for your business, introducing your business to the recipient and keeping your in their minds while the card remains in their possession.
There are clearly a huge number of benefits that can come from making gift cards available at your business. The key, however, is in making the cards a part of your marketing strategy and getting them into your customers' hands...
How to maximise the impact of gift cards
Now that we've outlined the potential benefits that gift vouchers can have for your business, we need to know how to properly integrate them into our business model and ensure that we can get the most out of them.
The ways you use gift cards will of course vary depending on the type of business that you run, but the following seven points should help you get the ball rolling and get more of your cards into people's hands.
1. Make plenty of noise — both online and off
With gift cards providing so many potential benefits to your business, you'd be mad not to get them in front of as many of your customers as possible, especially during the run up to Christmas.
Rather than just putting them on a rack near your till (though this is always a good spot to encourage impulse purchases), consider creating a whole display out of your gift cards elsewhere in the store. You might also want to combine them with other popular items to create seasonal gift boxes that draw the eye and add value, making them an even more appealing prospect to shoppers.
Some brands create gift cards with different themes or colour schemes to appeal to different audience — Amazon have literally dozens of themed gift cards to choose between. You could place these gift card variations in alongside appropriate displays in store.
It's also a good idea to set up a dedicated gift card page on your website if you have one, and keep it there all year round. Add clear links — perhaps even popup messages during busier periods — to this page from the other areas of your website, and put together some tweets and Facebook posts (more on this in a moment!) letting your followers know that you have cards available to purchase.
2. Get social
Social media is a fantastic way to promote gift cards during the run up to Christmas. Even if they don't always click on the links you share or immediately visit your website, occasionally reminding your followers that you have gift cards up for sale via Facebook and Twitter will go a long way.
Take some time to nicely photograph a selection of your seasonal gift cards and create some attractive Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts. Throw in some key information about your store and the cards' availability in the descriptions, and schedule them to go live in November and December to maximise their impact.
Sometimes, all it takes is a little reminder.
3. Cater to different budgets
Remember that not all of your gift cards will be purchased by your regular patrons — a great many will also be picked up by friends and family members of those who regularly visit your store.
As such, you should be sure to offer vouchers with a variety of monetary values in order to cater for different budgets. The amounts you choose will of course depend on the average cost of the items you sell, but providing a few cheaper options will ensure that you don't miss out on any sales from those who, while they might not ordinarily shop with you, would still like to treat a loved one.
4. Discount them
It might sound counterproductive to sell gift cards at a loss, but remember that every gift card purchase means money in your bank there and then, and will almost always result a return visit.
Also bear in mind that studies have shown that a surprisingly significant percentage of gift cards are bought by people who intend to spend them on themselves in an effort to save money. By helping them make a minor saving (for example, selling a £20 gift card at 10% off), you're effectively securing yourself a future sale and are likely to rack up additional purchases when said customer returns to your store to spend their card or voucher.
Pro tip: If you're targeting seasonal sales, consider discounting your cards right on the cusp of Christmas Eve — last-minute shoppers especially will jump on the chance to save a few pennies while securing a gift for a loved one.
5. Try putting cards in other people's stores
There's no rule saying that gift cards can be sold only at the store they're valid for. In fact, take a trip to your nearest Tesco, ASDA, or Sainsbury's store, and you'll often find gift cards for a variety of online and offline brands, from Amazon and ASOS to Warehouse and WHSmith.
Okay, you might not be able to get your gift cards into a national retailer like Tesco (yet!). But there are many benefits to partnering with other local and independent stores, and there's no reason why you can't make your gift cards available at other local businesses, and vice-versa, both to show your solidarity and extend your reach.
Talk to your neighbours and see if they can't help you spread word of your brand a little wider by stocking a handful of your gift cards at their counter.
6. Go green
Finally, one thing to bear in mind when you're designing and having your gift cards made up is their potential impact — both on the environment and your customers' perceptions of your brand.
Plastic waste is a seriously hot topic right now, and with good reason, so it's well worth considering a greener alternative to traditional gift cards, or perhaps using vouchers printed on good quality paper instead. Eco brand Green Gift Cards is a good place to start with this if you think your customers would appreciate a greener alternative to plastics this festive season.
Whether you run a quiet cafe or a lively trampoline park, gift cards are a fantastic way to drum up additional revenue and spread the word about your business.
The key is marketing your gift cards to your audience and adding enough value to them to warrant the term 'gift'. As well as considering the design of your cards and ensuring that they properly represent your brand, think about how you'll physically present your cards in-store and how you'll advertise them online.
The demand is definitely out there — it's up to you to make the most of it!