Whether you own a retail store, beauty salon, restaurant, housecleaning service or other local business, gift cards can be a great way to spark new holiday sales. Gift cards aren’t just for big, national chains anymore; in fact, a new study reports, half of U.S. consumers are very open to buying gift cards from small, independent retailers. And more than one-third admit they frequently buy gift cards for themselves. (Check out the infographic at the end of this post for more details on the survey findings.)
Using Small Business Gift Cards to Boost Holiday Sales
Here are 10 tips for using gift cards to increase your holiday sales.
1. Offer both plastic gift cards and e-gift cards. These days, it’s all about giving shoppers options, right? While three-fourths of shoppers say they plan to buy plastic gift cards this year, compared to one-fourth who plan to buy e-gift cards, e-gift cards are gaining ground. They also have several advantages compared to plastic gift cards:
- You can easily implement an e-gift card program on your business website in just hours, compared to ordering and waiting for plastic gift cards.
- E-gift cards appeal to young consumers who do everything on their phones and can’t fathom lugging around a plastic card.
- E-gift cards can be purchased literally at the last minute (Christmas morning!) and instantly emailed to recipients — a boon for last-minute shoppers and your sales.
- E-gift cards appeal to customers who don’t want to deal with holiday crowds just to buy a plastic gift card.
- When a customer purchases an e-gift card, you capture their information as well as the recipients’. This means you can continue marketing to the customer and recipient with new offers.
Since e-gift card use is bound to increase in the future, now’s the time to get started with such a program. GiftFly and Yiftee are two e-gift card providers that cater to small businesses.
2. Promote your gift cards on social media. Consumers increasingly turn to social media for holiday gift ideas. Especially if you offer e-gift cards, advertising them on social media or creating organic posts can attract customers to buy them right then and there.
3. Market gift cards as a self-gifting option. Let’s face it: Most holiday shoppers end up buying a little something for themselves, and gift cards are no exception. Create marketing messages that encourage customers to treat themselves with a gift card.
4. Use gift cards as promotional items. You can draw customers into your business — or get them to buy more than they otherwise would — with gift-card related promotions. For example, give customers a $10 gift card for every $50 they spend, a $25 gift card for every $100 they spend, and so on. You can also outright give customers low-value gift cards — for $10 or $20, for example — by mail or email. It’s worth the cost, because customers who visit a business to use a gift card typically end up spending far more than the card’s value.
5. Offer deals on gift cards themselves. Since most holiday shoppers are considering buying gift cards anyway, you can easily get them off the fence by offering a small deal. For example, do a promotion where people can get a $25 gift card for $20, a $100 gift card for $85, or two $25 gift cards for $40.
6. Place gift cards at the point of purchase. Gift cards are often an impulse (or desperation) buy, so putting an attractive display with gift cards, envelopes, gift-card bags or gift-card cases near your registers can really boost sales.
7. Use gift cards to reward loyal customers. If you have a loyalty program in place, try using gift cards instead of or in addition to discounts. Gift cards have higher perceived value than discounts, so they’re more successful at getting customers into your business.
8. Promote gift cards more heavily as Christmas and Hanukkah draw near. As time runs out, shoppers start to panic, and gift cards become even more appealing. Emphasize that gift cards can be used after the holidays — when crowds have thinned out and there are plenty of deals to be had. Since gift cards purchased in December are likely to be used in January and February, they’re a great way to pump up sales during a season that’s usually slow for small retailers.
9. Market gift cards as “the perfect gift for (fill in the blank).” Don’t know what to get a teacher/client/employee/neighbor/mail carrier? Gift cards are suitable for just about any recipient, so emphasize that in your marketing messages.
10. Get started now. If you’re considering adding gift cards to your mix, don’t wait. Many consumers have already started holiday shopping, and the more choices you can offer them, the better your chances of capturing their dollars.
Gift Cards Photo via Shutterstock