How to Start Selling Gift Certificates

How to Start Selling Gift Certificates

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Gift certificates are being touted as a popular way for small businesses to continue earning revenue during the closures and social distancing procedures enacted due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, selling gift certificates can help a variety of businesses increase sales no matter the situation or time of year.

Step-by-Step Guide to Start Selling Gift Certificates

1. Define Your Gift Certificate Offerings

  • Decide on the types of gift certificates you will offer, such as fixed-value, service-specific, or customizable amounts.
  • Determine any terms and conditions, such as expiration dates or specific services included.

2. Design Your Gift Certificates

  • Choose a design that reflects your brand identity. Use tools like Canva or Adobe Spark for easy designing or collaborate with a professional designer.
  • Include essential details: value, expiration date, terms and conditions, and a unique identifier for tracking.

3. Choose a Sales Platform

  • For physical gift certificates, decide if you’ll sell them in-store or also offer them online.
  • For digital gift certificates, set up an online sales system. Utilize your business website or platforms like Shopify, Square, or WooCommerce.

4. Set Up a Tracking System

  • Implement a tracking system for sold and redeemed certificates. This could be as simple as a spreadsheet or integrated into your POS system.
  • Use unique serial numbers or barcodes for each certificate to prevent fraud.

5. Train Your Staff

  • Educate your team about the details of your gift certificate offerings and how to process sales and redemptions.
  • Ensure they understand the terms and conditions to communicate effectively with customers.

6. Market Your Gift Certificates

  • Use your website, email lists, and social media to promote your gift certificates.
  • Consider creating special promotions, such as a bonus value for a certain amount purchased or seasonal themes.

7. Launch Your Program

  • Officially launch your gift certificate program with an announcement to your customers via email, social media, and in-store signage.
  • Monitor sales and gather customer feedback to make improvements.

8. Manage and Fulfill Orders

  • Have a process in place for managing both online and in-store purchases.
  • For digital certificates, automate the process as much as possible to deliver certificates promptly via email.

9. Continuously Monitor and Adapt

  • Regularly review the sales performance of your gift certificates and make adjustments based on customer preferences and seasonal trends.
  • Update designs and offerings occasionally to keep the program fresh and appealing.

Selling Gift Certificates

Gift Certificates

How to Get Gift Certificates

If you want to sell physical gift certificates for your business, you have a few main options — you can design and print them yourself using a program like Photoshop, or you can use a template from a printing service like Vistaprint and order them.

Whichever route you choose, just add the essential information like what each card is redeemable for and when it can be used.

You can also get up and running quickly by selling online gift certificates, which will be covered later in the post.

Differences Between Gift Certificates and Gift Cards

Gift certificates differ from gift cards because they are usually only redeemable one time and aren’t generally reloadable. They can cover a set amount of money or a specific type of product or service, like a free lunch or a spa service of the person’s choice.

Gift cards only operate in dollar amounts and can often be used multiple times. This option usually takes more time to get started, but you might consider offering both at some point.

If you’re interested in using gift cards for your business, there are services like Square, Gift Up!, and GiftFly that you can use to get up and running quickly.

Gift Certificates

How to Record and Track Gift Certificates

If you’re going to offer gift certificates, you should have a way for recording and tracking which ones are sold and used so you can prevent fraud and knock-offs. The most basic way to do this is through a number system.

Basically, each certificate should have a unique number on it so that you can check off when they’re used and make sure there aren’t duplicates. If you have a POS system that works with gift certificates or cards, you might even include a barcode that you can scan to make sure a certificate is original.

Additionally, avoid placing gift certificates on display in your store or posting exact pictures of them on your website so people can’t easily copy and edit them. You should also make sure they have a unique design, potentially even using some kind of hidden element like a watermark to make them specific to your business.

Rules Surrounding Gift Certificates

Laws surrounding gift cards and certificates can vary from state to state. However, businesses are generally not allowed to refuse to honor a gift card unless the customer violates a term that’s clearly laid out in the terms and conditions of the card, like presenting the card after a clearly marked expiration date.

You must also clearly outline any terms and conditions on the card and avoid changing those without the customer’s knowledge.

Basically, if you want to offer gift certificates, explain exactly how they are allowed to be used and make sure you notate any limitations on the card itself, like if the card is only redeemable for a certain type of item or during certain days of the week.

Place a clear expiration date (which should be at least a few years away) on the front of the card. And then make sure your staff knows how to abide by all of those rules.

Gift Certificates

Selling Gift Certificates Online

Selling online gift cards may currently be an especially attractive option for businesses in areas with very restricted foot traffic.

However, it can also help companies that operate mainly online in general. If you sell on platforms like Etsy or Shopify, each of those services has their own process for creating and offering gift cards. So go to your shop dashboard to create those.

If you have your own store or want to offer gift certificates on another platform, you can offer them as a free download on your site. Simply add them as you would any other product.

Then at checkout, have customers share their email address and your can send them a copy of the gift certificate that they can either print or access on their mobile device. You can even automate this part of the process through your sales automation software if you have one.

Is your website set up to add products? Do you accept payments? If not, start offering gift cards quickly anyway. Add a “Buy Now” button to your website. Or use a WordPress widget. And add ecommerce functionality to your site.

Then either send gift cards via email to each customer as they purchase. Or get them to send out automatically when that product is purchased.

Do this for multiple types of gift certificates. For example, a restaurant might offer a $20 gift certificate for a free lunch for two, and a $40 gift certificate for a free dinner for two.

Selling Gift CertificatesDescription
Getting Gift CertificatesChoose between physical and online gift certificates. Design and print or use printing services.
Gift Certificates vs. Gift CardsUnderstand the differences between gift certificates and gift cards in terms of redemption.
Recording and TrackingImplement a system to record and track gift certificates, preventing fraud and duplicate use.
Rules and RegulationsFamiliarize yourself with state laws regarding gift certificates and outline clear terms.
Selling OnlineOffer online gift certificates as an option to attract customers, especially during restrictions.
Boosting SalesPromote gift certificates in-store and online, offer discounts, and use social media for exposure.

Tips for Creating Attractive Gift Certificates

Gift Certificates

Designing appealing and professional-looking gift certificates can significantly impact their sales. Here are some tips to create eye-catching gift certificates that customers will love to purchase:

  • Branding Consistency: Ensure that the gift certificate design aligns with your brand identity. Use your business logo, colors, and fonts to make it easily recognizable as part of your brand.
  • High-Quality Images: Including high-quality images related to your products or services can make the gift certificate visually appealing and enticing.
  • Clear and Concise Information: Keep the text on the gift certificate clear, concise, and easy to read. Include essential details like the certificate’s value, validity period, and any terms and conditions.
  • Customizable Options: Consider offering customizable gift certificates that allow the purchaser to add a personal message or recipient’s name. Personalization enhances the emotional appeal of the gift.
  • Seasonal Themes: For special occasions or holidays, consider creating themed gift certificates. Seasonal designs can attract more buyers during specific times of the year.
  • Limited Edition Designs: Introduce limited edition or exclusive designs for special events or milestones. Limited availability can create a sense of urgency and encourage customers to buy them quickly.
  • Value Bundles: Offer bundled gift certificates with a variety of services or products to provide customers with more options and a higher perceived value.
  • Gift Wrapping Option: If possible, provide an option to include gift wrapping or a personalized gift envelope to make the purchase even more special.
  • Social Proof: Feature testimonials or customer reviews on your website and social media platforms to build trust and showcase the positive experiences of previous gift certificate buyers.
  • Cross-Promotions: Consider collaborating with other local businesses to offer joint gift certificate promotions. Cross-promotions can expand your reach and attract new customers.
  • Gift Certificate Landing Page: Create a dedicated landing page on your website where customers can easily purchase gift certificates. Optimize the page for mobile devices to capture on-the-go shoppers.
  • Email Campaigns: Use your email marketing lists to promote gift certificates to your existing customer base. Offer exclusive discounts or early access to encourage repeat purchases.
  • Gift Certificate Contests: Run occasional contests or giveaways featuring gift certificates as prizes. This can generate excitement and interest in your offerings.

Remember, the goal is to make the gift certificate buying process as seamless and appealing as possible for your customers. By putting effort into the design and promotion of your gift certificates, you can boost sales and provide a valuable revenue stream for your business, regardless of the economic climate or time of year.

How to Boost Sales of Gift Certificates

Plan to offer gift cards? And make sure customers know that they’re available. And how to purchase them. Want to sell in-store gift cards? Place display signs and promotional materials where customers will see.

For example, does your restaurant offer gift certificates to boost sales during the coronavirus outbreak. Put visuals all around the carryout area. And they potentially go outside the storefront. So people see it as they pass by.

Online, feature gift certificates prominently. Put them on your website and social media profiles. Some customers remain employed. They look for ways to help their favorite businesses stay afloat. Make it easy for them to buy online.

Or to stop in for a carryout order. They may want to support you. Additionally, post on social media. It helps you gain a larger audience. Get others to share your offer with people they know.

Offer discounts or promotions to entice customers even more. For example, include a gift certificate with each order over a certain amount. Or offer a two-for-one promotion. Use it to increase the amount that each customer is likely to spend.


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Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 12 years. Annie covers feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago in Journalism and Marketing Communications.