Merchant Services: Why Should You Offer Gift Cards?

November 22, 2011

Today The Official Merchant Services Blog continues its ongoing series to get you ready for the Holiday Shopping Season. A previous blog entry looked at the next big thing, virtual gift cards. But we figured we’d take a moment to focus on the old school mainstay, and offer insight into why merchants should offer their customers regular old plastic gift cards.

The Numbers Are Telling

Getting the obvious out of the way first: Gift Cards, Gift Certificates and Loyalty Programs are big business. According to one report, businesses sold $23 billion in gift cards in the U.S. in 2010.  The consumer perspective is pretty straight forward: they are convenient for both the shopper and the recipient of the card. This blog article here goes into detail about why they are convenient and popular with shoppers.

But what about your business? Why would gift cards and loyalty programs be good for your business?

Here’s a rundown on some of the most prominent reasons to start running a loyalty program and offering gift cards:

Increase in Sales

You’re about to see a lot of new foot traffic (or click traffic if you’re reading this from an e-commerce perspective). And a gift card program will heighten the sales potential you have this Holiday Shopping Season. From impulse buys to people who just aren’t quite sure if the person they’re shopping for has a particular item, the gift card steps in and provides more chances for consumers to purchase something from your store.

Getting Sales Referrals

Gift Cards take two to tango. The person buying the card, and the person receiving the card, are both potential long-term customers for your business. It could be that the person buying the card knows the recipient likes your store but doesn’t know what specifically to buy from you for them. Or it could be the other way around, and the gift giver likes your business and wants to introduce the recipient to your goods or services. The real power in gift cards is that they inherently refer your business beyond just one customer shopping one time.

Free Marketing Tool

A Loyalty Program and the Gift Cards you run through it are powerful forces for the marketing of your business. Building off of the previous point of the ability of the cards to refer new business, Gift Cards put your brand and your business out there for new customers and for repeat customers. A good loyalty program spreads the word about your business with each individual gift card.

Customer Retention and Business Events

You can also use Gift Cards as rewards in events or campaigns your business engages in. Or just simply use them as rewards to loyal customers. The goal of long-term customer retention is made that much easier when you have the power to give back to your customer in such a way that it keeps them coming back. The customer gets the gift card in appreciation of their business. And then comes back to you to use it for more purchases.

The Opposite of ‘Breakage’

Breakage is described in this blog about gift cards as people purchasing a gift card, and then the card not being used. It often gets touted to merchants as a way to make money on gift cards as that is money being spent on future purchases in your store that never get made. So just using straight mathematics, you make more money from breakage. You get to virtually sell items more than once. But as that blog points out, the benefits of good loyalty programs and gift cards are really focused on lowering the amount of breakage.

You want the card to get used. Why? Because people tend to spend more than the gift card is worth. It’s been reported that consumers who do use gift cards tend to spend an average of 35% more than the value of the card. Which makes a lot of sense from a consumer stand point. Gift Cards let them make purchases on expensive items they may not have initially thought were in their price range. Simply put, you have a $50 gift card to a store you like, that $100 item you had your eye on seems a lot more within reach.

You want this business. You sell more than you initially sold the card for. And you cultivate long-term relationship potential. Breakage looks good in black and white numbers, but the goal is get happy customers that keep coming back to your business.

Get Going with Gift Cards Now

Those are some of the very basic reasons why Gift Cards and Loyalty Programs can help give your business a quick boost right as we enter the Holiday Shopping frenzy. Host Merchant Services offers a robust set of services to help you process gift cards quickly and easily. The company takes the hassle out of the process with complete turn-key solutions that are focused on increasing customer loyalty for you. And we offer tiered branding customization options for the card program you select. For more information on what Host Merchant Services offers, you can click here.

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