Tis the Season for Gift Cards

Depositphotos_125776532_s-2015.jpgThe holiday shopping season is a critical time for retailers—small and large. In fact, this could be the busiest season ever. The National Retail Federation (NRF) is predicting retail sales in 2016 to increase 3.6 percent—to $655.8 billion. That’s a huge chunk of change being spent. One of the top items sold during the holidays is always the gift card. In 2015, NRF surveyed respondents and found that around 73.4 percent of American adults were planning to buy one or more gift cards during the holiday shopping season. Stats like that should be reason enough to convince any retailer that offering gift cards is a must. However, if you are not yet convinced, we’ve gathered nine reasons you should make gift cards a primary focus this holiday season.

 

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•    Increase Your Brand Awareness – One of the biggest priorities for any small business is getting the word out about your brand, name, and product. A very affordable and straightforward way to build brand awareness is through the use of gift cards. You can have the cards printed with your name and logo. Alternatively, you could choose a unique design that makes your cards stand out from the crowd. Either way, producing gift cards means that you are putting hundreds or thousands of little billboards out into the world. 
•    Ideal for Returns – A huge challenge for retailers during the holidays (and the rest of the year too) is what to do about returns. It is important that you allow your customers to return items; otherwise, they will hesitate to purchase. However, you don’t want to take every return and pay out cash blindly. Offering gift cards, instead of cash, for returns without a receipt or those that are past the return date, allows you to please your customers and make sure that the refund money is coming back into your store.
•    Tie in with a Loyalty Program – Unlike “old-fashioned” paper gift certificates, gift cards are digital and run through a merchant services account. This digital feature means that you can utilize the gift card much in the same way that you do a store loyalty card. Use the card to track purchases and reward your most frequent buyers with the best deals or coupons. Many retailers prefer the gift card to a traditional loyalty card because customers are more receptive to the concept.
•    Help You Obtain New Customers – As a retailer; you love new customers, right? By offering gift cards, you make it much easier for new customers to find you during and after the holiday season. Your current customers will give the gift cards to friends, loved ones, and acquaintances. Some of these individuals may be new to you. Since the recipient will have to shop your store to use the card, you have the opportunity to turn these people into loyal customers too.
•    Excellent for “Hard to Buy for” Gifts – Depending on what type of retailer you are, you may or may not have many items available that make for awesome gifts. With gift cards, it doesn’t matter. You are offering a product that your customers can give to friends, family or others (such as teachers, service employees, etc.) Everyone has a few people on their list that are particularly challenging to buy a gift for; gift cards fill this gap and make sure everyone is happy.
•    Take Advantage of Last Minute Buyers – While many people are proactive and start shopping for gifts on Black Friday or even before, there will always be those buyers who wait until the last minute. Gift cards are a great solution! Not only can they be purchased and given immediately, but they also only take a couple of days to ship via USPS first class mail, or some stores even make it where they can be sent digitally by email. 
•    Assure Customer Retention – When a customer receives a gift card for a holiday gift, you can be sure of one thing—they will be back to your store. By offering branded cards, you know that the money spent on this product is coming back into your store sometime in the future. Don’t lose customers to reloadable debit cards or other solutions, make sure you are offering a gift card that is appealing and accessible.
•    A Great Way to Offer Holiday Deals – You’ve been thinking about offering specials or sales for the holidays, but you are not sure the best way to do it? Gift card specials can be an excellent way to give your customers a great deal. Consider a percentage off of the sales price when customers buy a certain dollar amount, or give a free low-value card as a gift when a large purchase is made. Either of these ideas can be your “doorbuster” special for the holidays that assure you won’t run out of stock and risk disappointing customers.
•    Great for Cross-Promoting Online and Off – Whether you are an online small business looking to launch into the real world, or you are a brick and mortar business moving into the online realm, the key to success is cross-promoting both platforms. Gift cards are a great tool for doing this using the credit card processing devices you already have. The same card that works in your store can be used online. Using your card to promote both venues assures that customers will check out both options.
It does not matter what your reason is for selling them; gift cards are a must have for retailers—especially during the holidays. If you have never utilized the gift card system, or you haven’t made these cards a priority, now is the time to get in on the action.  It is almost certain that you will have customers looking to purchase cards as gifts, so make sure you can comply. Increase your sales today AND in the future by getting cards out there into your customers’ hands. After all, tis the season to be jolly and for giving gift cards!