Vashon Island Small Businesses: Why Offering Gift Cards is Essential in a Crisis/Down Economy

Leveraging gift gift cards in your Vashon Island Business

Why Offering Gift Cards is Essential in a Crisis/Down Economy

Vashon Island small businesses, why is offering gift cards an important strategy for raising funds in a down economy/crisis? By selling a gift card now, we get to collect and use those funds for today’s operating costs with the opportunity to fulfill the order at a later date. Gift cards are great for many things. Building brand loyalty, driving sales and encouraging future visits are just a few ways that gift cards can help drive traffic to your brick and mortar or online business where you can up sell your products or services. Below we will talk about how to use gift cards effectively… especially during this Covid-19 outbreak.

For starters, let’s put ourselves in the customers shoes. They are thinking about their own financial situation and here you are asking them to purchase a gift card. Yes, customers will just give at times, but if we are asking for help, we really should be offering something in return if possible. Provide them a reason to purchase the gift cards and not just count on their good will to influence the purchase.

Another VERY Important Reason to Offer Gift Cards

There is also another great reason to get gift cards… and I will read you the headline from MarketWatch.com: “$1 billion in gift cards go unused every year….”. It’s true, so many gift cards are not used, there is even a secondary market for those who want to sell them. My point is, that often times gift cards are not used.

Ideas on how to sell gift cards

Below are some specific ideas on how to move gift cards and leverage them for future business. Always keep the customers viewpoint in mind when creating your gift card strategy. We get so involved with the day to day that sometimes we forget to ask our customers what they want.

Creating a Gift Card Program, The Right Way

Anyone can “give away” something, but there a few pre gift card release tasks that should be thought about before you create your gift card program. Here are ideas:

  1. Use a gift card vendor if you can. I have seen many places try to get around paying for nice physical cards and tracking systems and getting burned by counterfeiting. So first, use a vendor if you can. Often time they are working with your point of sale system and fairly easy to set up.
  2. If creating your own gift cards, ensure they can be authenticated. I would suggest writing codes (unique, random) on the back of the cards and listing those cards on a spread sheet at your business to track them. On the island, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue, but with printers these days, I can duplicate almost anything.
  3. Reinforce your brand. Ensure your logo, colors and branding is located on the card. Use the same colors as your business. Same fonts… ensure your customers know this card is for YOUR business.
  4. Include business and marketing details by adding your website, phone number and email address to the card so the customer can check out your product or service before coming in.
  5. ALWAYS add an expiration date (shorter the better) to the gift card. We don’t need someone coming back into the business years after the purchase… via inflation, we will end up losing money on the deal.
  6. Require a signature when redeeming the gift card physically. Have a spreadsheet with all the codes from the back of the gift certificate.
  7. Partner with our Vashon Island real estate agents. Not just any agents though. What you are looking for is audience size and engagement. Check out all of their various social media platforms and check on not just follower count, but if customer is interacting with them. Have those agents offer a $10 gift card for anyone who spends a day with the agent looking at homes. Or, provide them to move-in baskets… do real estate agents still do that?? I would think so…
  8. Provide lower priced cards to auctions for charities and schools. Pretty self-explanatory. the idea is to get customers through the door. Then up sell.
  9. How to track gift cards.
  10. Have a plan, verbalize then execute.

Offer More Than the Cost of the Gift card

Offer something in addition to your gift card amount. For instance, instead of asking for someone to buy a $100 gift card for $100, sell your $100 gift card for $75 or $85… this lets the consumer 1. Feel good about helping out our small business and 2) provides an incentive for them to purchase.

Offer a gift card or discount after a purchase. When someone provides

Offer Gift Cards at the End of Every Transaction

If you are selling products online, why not also offer a gift card on check out? Seems silly, but if a customer is in the middle of purchasing a product or service, why not offer them a gift card on the spot? Perhaps give 10% off the current purchase?

All invoices or receipts should have a link printed that is easy to remember. <yourcompany>.com/giftcertificate always works well.

“Giving Away” Gift Cards

I hate giving things away for free. I hate it. However, sometimes we must do that we hate to get what we love… deep. However, there are times you give something away for “free” and actually get something out of it. Below are some creative ways to sell gift cards anytime, including crisis like we are seeing now.

  • Drawing for Free Card: When entering the drawing, require an email address to enter. At least this way when you give away that card, you have something you can leverage for other marketing tasks.
  • Have people share an offer, a GOOD offer as part of a competition for a gift card: This will get the word out about your message and encourage sharing of your content. On Facebook, this has the potential to be very good at spreading your brand, but Insta and Twitter also can work.
  • Find another business on the island to partner with and do a gift card swap. Of course, if possible, find a partner that This will leverage your partners followers to potentially reach a more diverse or larger audience. Do some research on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to find larger audiences. Also, make sure those audiences are also YOUR audience.
  • Find other media and other social businesses (local blogs, travel sites, review sites, etc.) and have them offer a gift card to your business. Again, like above, these social audiences could be leveraged for more gift card sales.
  • Contact larger companies and offer gift cards as company rewards or incentives.
  • Vacation Rentals –VRBO Rentals on the island are great for acquiring customers. Why not offer a $5 or $10 gift card to each of their rentals in the next couple of months. Get a customer in the store/restaurant to spend $40-$100 while we are only out $5 or $10! The key is getting customers through the door, butts in the seats… and then I they can be up sold and blown away by the great purchasing experience they had.
  • Look for other influences on and off island to partner with. Why are we not offering $5, $10 or $15 gift cards on every Voice of Vashon show?

IMPORTANT: Ensure your customers and clients know you HAVE gift cards

How can customers and clients buy your gift card if they do not have access I have been so, so, SO many websites that do not mention they offer gift cards and that just blows me away. Make the cards prominent.

  • Every social platform should mention gift cards once a month at least. Much more if you are offering cards less than dollar amount of the card.
  • Thank folks for redeeming their card, hell, get a picture of them in your place or with your product and share it with your fans on your social platforms.
  • Also, adding your gift card offer to all email correspondence, newsletters and when applicable phone conversations we have. Get the word out!

Gift Card Expiration Dates.

Limit the time the gift card can be used. For instance, let the card be valid starting June if selling in March. Like I mentioned before, many times folks will lose the card, forget about it, or decide they don’t want to redeem it for whatever reason.

In Conclusion: Gift Cards are…..

Gift cards do not always need to be a lose/win scenario. You CAN win if you architect your gift card program correctly. It’s super important to ALWAYS be thinking like the customer. What would they want? How can I serve them better? What drives them to come to my store/site? Thinking like the customer can be the different of making a gift card program that drives revenue and builds customer loyalty… and a complete nightmare.

Email me if you could use some ideas or assistance setting up, brainstorming or managing your gift card program. I run Explore Vashon and Vashon Island Blog, I think I would be a great partner if you have a Vashon Island business or would like to serve us here on Vashon Island.

-Sean McVeigh

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