Make E-Gift Cards a Holiday Hero This Season
All signs point to e-gift cards this holiday season. They’re a no-brainer for, oh, a thousand reasons. For people who are still wary about shopping in stores, for online shopping fans, for last-minute shoppers, people who can’t make up their minds, and just about everyone else — e-gift cards are the answer.
And marketers shouldn’t look at e-gift cards as a cop-out, either. Consumers have embraced them and brands should too. According to the 2021 Retail Personalization Index Consumer Survey, more than half of shoppers plan on using e-gift cards and similar fulfillment options even after the pandemic ends.
That’s great news. This holiday season, marketers need e-gift cards more than ever as supply chain issues, shipping backlogs, and COVID-19 worker shortages have made the ability to deliver physical gifts on time less reliable than years past.
E-gift cards may be convenient for shoppers and a viable solution for strapped retailers and brands, but they do require some strategic planning to overcome logistical complexities. What’s more, e-gift cards create new opportunities for fun and flexible engagement that can maximize sales.
Set E-Gift Cards Up for Success
Providing e-gift cards for consumers adds some complexity to the customer journey that requires planning. It’s a convenient fulfillment option, but only if it runs smoothly. E-gift cards need to be easy to purchase on a website and in an app. The purchase needs to be recorded both for the purchaser and the recipient. And every e-gift card needs to be sent to the right recipient in a way that can be redeemed across any channel.
If you’re looking to set your e-gift cards up for success, follow these steps to make a meaningful impact this holiday season (and beyond):
- Run through real-life logistics. E-gift cards don’t order themselves, and fulfillment has its own number of complexities — from recording and storing information to creating easy-to-use redemption workflows. Brands also need mechanisms to approve each transaction, screen them for fraudulent buyers, and complete the delivery online. That leaves a lot of potential for unexpected issues and delays if everything hasn’t been thought through to create a smooth experience for customers and the team behind the scenes.
- Plan for the unknown. The holidays are stressful enough without having to also deal with unexpected problems. Try to think of different scenarios that could cause issues, from typos in the e-gift card information to customer service issues when people want to redeem cards for items that aren’t eligible or use cards on partner websites that don’t actually accept them. When everything has already been thought through, these real-life situations become much easier to handle in the moment.
- Think in terms of “X-commerce.” E-gift cards seem easy enough to use, but everyone has a different view of what that “e” stands for, from website shopping to mobile apps to social, email and everything in between (or a combination of all of the above)! X-commerce planning ensures that each channel has been thought of and consumers can easily access, shop and redeem no matter which channel they choose.
Dial Up the Fun
E-gift cards might not come in a big wrapped box, but they can still be fun.
Personalization can add a little extra something on a few levels. Let the gift-giver custom design the e-gift card for an interactive experience that makes the e-gift card more memorable and special. Offer multiple packaging and electronic delivery options, and give the option to incorporate interactive elements like animations, multimedia, and sound effects to make them more engaging.
Using personalization can last beyond the initial e-gift card design. Once someone gets an e-gift card, they may not redeem it for days, weeks or months. This presents a unique opportunity to create personalized messages and reminders that can incorporate the same design elements as the original card, along with promotional messages to re-engage the recipient.
Marketers can also use mobile to their advantage. When a shopper has a gift card that they haven’t redeemed, a SMS push notification can nudge them when they’re in a store for an online-to-offline redemption. Or when they’re using a mobile app, marketers can serve personalized messaging reminding them of their e-gift card and what it could be applied to.
Don’t forget, people appreciate even a small gift, and love to feel like they’ve rewarded themselves. The restaurant industry has used this concept to great effect with gift cards that give a little back — providing a $10 or $20 gift card to the purchaser when a minimum gift card is purchased for someone else. It’s a win-win-win. With a little something for the buyer, a marketer now has two future engagements to look forward to, with two different happy customers.
Brands don’t need to let the logistical challenges of this season’s holiday season dampen the fun. E-gift cards provide a welcome opportunity to create personalized engagements in any channel, setting the stage for good times ahead.
Laura Carrier is a retail consultant for Sailthru, an email marketing and marketing automation services provider.
Related story: 2020 Merchant Gift Card Omnichannel Evaluation