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Holiday season is just around the corner. Consumers are already giving thought to how they will organize themselves. And since it is a key period before the financial year-end, brands are working assiduously to prepare several strategies for the upcoming holidays. They are all looking for ways to set themselves apart from the ever-growing competition, and get closer to customers. Digital gift cards are an insightful strategic line of action during the holiday season.

E-gift cards enjoy an ever-growing success under consumers’ Christmas tree, but brands can use them in a variety of ways. However, if brands wish to implement a gift card program, several elements must be anticipated and shouldn’t be overlooked. Here are the key steps to implement a high performance program for the holidays.

Laying the foundations for the gift card program

Setting clear goals for the holidays

As with all strategies, it is important to ask the right questions and set clear goals before launching into the project. What is a brand looking for during the holidays? Does it want to boost sales by regaining or attracting customers? Does it want to maximize its revenue until the very last minute? Each goal enables the brand to implement a specific gift card program and use it accordingly. These goals also enable brands to set limits regarding the issuance and use of gift cards. Will they be redeemable on the website or only in brick-and-mortar shops? Brands can choose between having plastic gift cards and/or dematerialized gift cards. Both are complementary, but digital gift cards remain more flexible in their use, especially on the marketing side.

Defining the target

Depending on the orientations a brand wishes to take, its gift card program will encompass several strategic targets. If the gift cards are used as a marketing tool, it will target customers that have subscribed to a loyalty program, or customers that have bought at least one product online. Some of them could be customers that have been inactive for a while. For customer acquisition, one would have to think of a target that’s likely to be interested in the brand, especially during Christmas time.

If gift cards are offered as a brand product, the target changes entirely. Instinctively, brands target their typical consumers, however, cards should first be seen as a gift that someone will buy for their loved-ones. Of course that includes the brands current customers, but it goes far beyond. The people that are most likely to buy a gift card for Christmas are the typical customers’ loved-ones. For example, for a men’s jewelry brand, it is more relevant to target partners, parents or friends.

Managing the traffic flow and peak over Christmas

Integrating it into the cash register system

Whether for ecommerce or brick-and-mortar shops, you need specific programs to manage sales and stocks. Gift cards are a product first, and a means of payment second. Therefore, it must be integrated into the system that is already in place.

Moreover, it is necessary to be able to manage multiple payments, especially if a brand offers omnichannel cards (that is to say they are redeemable online as well as in physical shops). With gift cards, brands will have to offer additional payments. Often, when recipients come to redeem their gift card after Christmas, they will spend more than the card’s face value. The brand will have to be able to manage this excess by allowing customers to pay the rest with their credit card, or any other means of payment. Cross-channel payments must also be anticipated.

Managing the flows up to the bank interface

Particularly in ecommerce, it is obviously necessary to set up redirections during the purchasing process. The redirection takes place on the checkout page, and the customer has to be redirected on the brand’s bank page in order to complete their purchase. Therefore, it is very important to link the gift card, which is a new means of payment, to the brand’s bank interface to secure the flows.

Handling the administrative work

In addition to financial aspects, brands must incorporate these new flows to the rest of the company’s documents. Especially accounting and financial documents which enable brands to assess their activity each year. Since gift cards are an integral part of a brand’s new activities, it is essential to incorporate them and take into account their specificities.

Creating a holiday-like experience

Providing an interface customized especially for the occasion

Whichever the case, all programs have a common denominator: the holiday season. And in order to be at one with the magic of Christmas, and not clash with the surrounding scenery, they must be given a holiday makeover. Whether it is the displays for the physical cards, or the website’s landing page, everything must exude the Christmas spirit. Even more importantly, gift card designs must be revamped for the festive season. Consumers always prefer buying a card with a Christmas tree or a few snowflakes, rather than a card with a basic design that can be used at all times.

It is also essential to think about ways to add value to a program in order to set it apart from the competition. To do so, one can add features to further customization possibilities. The more consumers are able to choose or create parts of the card, the more their gift will feel unique. Offering an easy, quick, as well as thoughtful present could appeal to many consumers.

Having an effective back office

A back office is the cornerstone of any successful gift card project. Without one, brands cannot manage, verify and bring to life their gift card program. It is essential to offer a comprehensive digital interface, on which employees and program managers will be able to perform all essential duties, and analyze performance indicators. The interface must support the multiple features and strategic goals that have been set.

For example, if a brand considers using its cards as a promotional tool over Christmas to draw consumers’ attention, employees need to be able to implement it quickly. Or, for instance, if the marketing team wishes to create an emailing campaign with free gift cards to encourage their most loyal customers to come do their holiday shopping, they should be able to do so from the interface.

On top of all this, statistical reports should be available in order to assess the business’s ROI and study the program’s performances. It is also necessary to track issued cards and card deliveries, among other things, in order to manage any potential malfunction.

Securing a gift card solution

Setting up a fraud protection system

It is essential not to forget that gift cards are a means of payment, which necessarily entails fraud risks. Gift cards, and especially digital gift cards, tempt cybercriminals because they are an easy and quick way of making money. In fact, fraudsters like making their move when the traffic flow is peaking, like during Christmas, at times when gift card solutions are often put to the test. Since programs are more vulnerable, fraudsters can quickly take action without anyone noticing anything, or if they do notice it, the harm has already been done. Without a fraud protection system, brands will undoubtedly be victims of fraud attempts. And if a breach is caused, many cybercriminals can swiftly step into it and bring about significant losses for the brand.

Overcoming potential malfunctions

Holiday season is always a very busy time for gift card programs. Because of the numerous transactions, malfunctions can occur. This can happen to any brand. There are gift cards that might not arrive on time, or not be delivered at all, or two gift cards that were issued with the same code, or even cards that simply do not work. These mishaps are not serious, as long as they are discovered and handled in time. Therefore, it is vital to provide an after-sale service for gift card programs, especially at the end of the year. Thanks to such a service, brands are able to correct all errors and support customers all through Christmas.

Launching and gathering momentum in a gift card program

There is no point in having a gift card program if there is no strategy, no actions undertaken in its wake. When a program is implemented, it is necessary to have a global overview of the actions that will be taken in order to reach the initial goals. Important marketing campaigns must be set up during key moments. And for gift cards, the holiday season is the biggest highlight of the year.

For that specific period, brands must develop strategies in order to boost gift card sales. They can work on promoting the cards as a product to stimulate their sales, or use gift cards as a promotional tool. In all cases, for every gift card sold, a consumer will visit your physical or online shop to spend it, and they often spend more than the card’s face value. It is a profitable additional revenue for brands.

Monitoring gift card performances

Analyzing consumer behavior

After launching a gift card program, there is still much work to be done. It is important to be able to analyze consumer behavior, especially on the website’s ordering platform. Knowing the bounce rate, the time spent, where they clicked, how many abandoned midway and why. Brands must know all this to be able to constantly improve customer experience, to fix problems and, ultimately, boost sales over the Christmas period.

Developing and maintaining the program after the Holidays

After the holiday season, brands have to be able to analyze their gift card program’s overall performances and its impact on their revenue. They should know which actions taken thanks to gift cards were the most successful, see which ones didn’t work and understand why. Analyzing these elements will not only allow brands to notice the benefits of gift cards for their business, it will also enable them to adjust the parts that can be improved in order to start off the following Christmas on a better basis. Taking stock of the program will make it more efficient, and give brands an opportunity to reap its full benefits.

Implementing a gift card program is not necessarily an easy task. And the steps get increasingly complicated if the brand decides to develop such a solution in-house. Nevertheless, it is particularly relevant for a brand to launch it in time for the Christmas rush considering gift cards are increasingly popular under the tree. They boost traffic, trigger sales… and can be very profitable for brands! However, be careful not to overlook certain aspects in order to have a viable program that is up and running for the holiday season. To maximize their chance of success, brands can also work alongside an expert service provider to make sure the project runs smoothly.
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