The end of the year is a big time for ecommerce and retail in general. Between Black Friday weekend all the way through to the New Year, the sales opportunity is huge as people search for those perfect gifts. The same is true for selling gift cards - those last two months of the year are big business.
Gift card sales are expected to top $1.4 trillion globally by 2026, and the digital gift card market alone topped $258.34 billion in 2020. Looking to 2021, sales of gift cards in Q4 grew by 114% in November and December compared to the same period in 2020. It’s easy to see why there is so much focus placed on gift cards during the holiday season.
However, if we dig into some data from years past we see a new side to the gift card story start to emerge.
According to the NRF, it’s expected that US consumers will spend $23.9 billion on Valentine’s Day in 2022 - up from $21.8 billion in 2021 - with 53% saying they plan to buy gifts, and gift cards being among the most popular options. Looking further into the year, 83% plan to celebrate Mother’s Day with US sales in 2021 totalling over $28.1 billion. Moreover, the Covid19 pandemic fundamentally changed how people pick and give gifts to each other, with searches for “gift card online” growing 100% YOY globally in 2020.
While we place a lot of emphasis on gift cards at the end of the year, there’s clearly a lot of opportunity within the gifting space year-round.
Marketing gift cards to customers around the holidays is a no-brainer; we understand the kind of issues these cards solve and the audience who are looking for them, and this makes it a lot easier to decide how to promote them. When it comes to the rest of the year, that’s a bit more difficult.
So let’s look at how you can successfully and effectively market your gift cards to customers throughout the year, not just in November/December.
Step #1 - Consider when someone would need a gift card throughout the year
The first step in promoting gift cards throughout the year is to understand when someone may buy a gift card outside of the end-of-year holidays. That may sound simple, but it goes beyond simply thinking about other holidays with gifting opportunities. There are many other reasons why someone might want to give a gift card, and because there are so many we’ve grouped them into a few categories:
Examples: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day
It’s worth noting that we’ve specified “gifting holidays” as not every holiday is associated with gift giving. If there are holidays relevant to your audience, look into gifting etiquette to determine whether or not you should make a push for gift sales opportunities.
Examples: Birthday, Anniversary, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, New Baby, New Job
There are a number of celebratory occasions throughout the year where someone may want to buy a gift. Consider how gift cards may best play into these occasions for example if you sell baby clothes and accessories then a gift card might be marketed as a way to give new parents the gift of whatever they still need for their new addition.
Examples: “Just because”, Congratulations, “Missing you”
Especially during the pandemic, more and more people gave gifts to friends and family for no reason other than to show appreciation and thought. It’s worth accounting for these random acts of generosity as part of your strategy for gift cards.
Examples: Back-to-school, Teacher gifts, 4th of July
Depending on what you sell, there may be times throughout the year where your products are especially relevant and during these periods you should promote gift cards.
Examples: Employee perks/benefits, Employer gifts
The market for gift cards for employees is growing - rather than a physical item, gift cards are proving an effective and well received way for businesses to show appreciation for their employees.
This gives a much clearer picture of the different occasions where a gift card is a good option. Consider those which are relevant to your business, products, and audience. It doesn’t make sense for instance to promote gift cards for back-to-school if you don’t sell any products suitable for students. This will also help you to create relevant materials to go along with your gift cards, such as a range of interchangeable images for the customer to select from depending on which occasion the card is for. This adds a more personal touch to the gift card experience for both the buyer and the recipient, and promotes them as an option for other occasions outside of the holidays.
Step #2 - Promote gift cards on par with other products in gift guide and collections
Creating gift guides and landing pages is a great way to catch your customers’ attention, especially when it comes to specific holidays and occasions. We don’t always know what to buy for the people in our lives, whether that’s finding that unique Father’s Day gift or the perfect birthday present for a friend. In fact, 57% of shoppers say they actively look for recommendations and suggestions for gifts.
Even with those ideas, it can still be difficult to know what to choose especially if the customer is unfamiliar with your products, perhaps they’re unsure of a recipient’s preferred size, or the recipient is particular about which products they purchase from your store. It may even be that the product they want is out of stock, or they’re uncertain if the gift would arrive on time. In these instances, gift cards are the ideal option; they’re still a thoughtful gift, but without the pressure of choosing a product or time constraints.
Promote your gift cards as part of your gift guides and gift related landing pages to draw attention to them and put them on par with the rest of your products as a gifting option. While gift cards are growing in popularity, if you don’t put them on the same level as your other products for gift ideas then it may send the message to customers that they aren’t a good gift idea. Here are 4 steps to promoting your gift cards that will let customers know that they’re a great alternative to buying a physical product:
- Add your gift card product to landing pages and gift guides.
- Promote gift cards on social media and email as part of your regular holiday campaigns.
- Include gift cards as part of your product recommendations in email.
- Add gift cards as a suggestion for abandoned carts around holidays.
Step #3 - Strategically place links to gift cards throughout your store
Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or any other holiday throughout the year, it feels obvious how to promote your gift cards. After all, there are a lot of people actively looking for gifts. However as we’ve already discovered, there are many other reasons throughout the year when a customer may be looking for a gift. You can’t set up specific landing pages and homepage promotions for every single possible reason why a customer may want a gift card, however you can place your gift card product page link strategically throughout your store to ensure your customers can always find it easily.
Here are some of our top placement ideas:
The most visible part of your navigation that will follow your customer as they browse is your main top level menu. No matter where your customers are, they’ll always have a really easy way to check out your gift cards.
Another option to catch a customers’ attention is to include your gift card in your catalog menu. Anytime they go to look at another section of your store, they’ll be greeted with your gift cards.
If you’re keeping your main navigation minimal, then you may want to include gift cards as part of your sitemap. This gives customers an easily accessible link if they can’t find the gift card in your primary navigation.
Alternatively you can make gift cards more of a feature in your site footer, to draw even more attention.
Another excellent way to promote gift cards is by having it as part of your out-of-stock strategy. Govalo allows you to automatically display the option to purchase a gift card when an item is out of stock - this feature will immediately switch off when the product inventory is replenished.
Placement throughout your store is essential if you want to increase gift card sales and make the customer experience even better for those looking to purchase a gift throughout the year.
Step #4 - Draw attention to gift cards during promotional events
Whether it’s sales, flash deals, or discounts, as an ecommerce merchant there’s a strong chance you’ve run a promotion outside of specific holidays. They can be a great way to clear out old inventory, spread brand awareness, attract new customers, and catch the attention of previous customers. It may seem out of place to include gift cards as part of a promotional event, but doing so can increase awareness of your gift cards among your entire customer base and be of greater value to your brand than a straight discount promo.
When you run a sale or promotion as part of a sitewide campaign, consider using gift cards either instead of or in addition to discounts. For example, rather than 10% off sitewide, it may be a $10 gift card when the customer spends over $100. It could also be a combination of sales and gift card promotions, i.e. “spend over $100 in our sale and get a $5 gift card”. The benefit of adding gift cards into your promotions goes beyond simply awareness, it also benefits retention as the customer will be encouraged to come back again to spend their gift card.
Aside from sitewide promotion, you can also include gift cards as part of your loyalty program. For loyalty program members, a gift card could be a reward they’re able to cash in points for, or something they’re able to earn once they reach a certain tier of your program. The customer still feels like they’re getting a reward for their continued loyalty, but it also benefits your retention rate. Gift cards encourage spending - in one study, 74% of respondents said that they expected to spend more than the value of a gift card they had received.
Not only do you then encourage a repeat purchase from an existing customer, but you’re also acquiring a new customer and giving them a positive first impression as they already get to reap the benefits of your loyalty and referral program.
Step #5 - Retarget gift card customers
If a customer has previously purchased a gift card, then there may be a chance they’ll do so again - especially if they had a great experience prior and their recipient enjoyed it. Retargeting these customers is valuable, and by using email segmentation and automation this task can be easily implemented as part of your remarketing strategy.
Create a segment for customers who have previously purchased a gift card - you can even segment this further by creating one for those who have only purchased a gift card, and customers who have purchased other items as well as gift cards. During key gifting periods throughout the year, create extra campaigns that focus on gift cards to send to these customers as they’re more likely to engage and be interested. If you want to dig deeper, you can create additional groups within these audiences depending on the holiday they purchased a card for - if they bought one around Christmas, they’ll get more targeted content about gift cards around that time of year.
Outside of the holidays is where remarketing can get a bit trickier, as it won't be as clear why someone may have purchased a gift card. As well as including those gift card customers in your holiday gift card campaigns, you can also set up an automated flow that will trigger one year after a gift card purchase to remind them of your gift cards and how they work. If the gift card went down well with their recipient the year prior, then it may catch their attention in their inbox and encourage another sale.
Gift cards are an essential part of any ecommerce store, though it requires a little extra thought and consideration to promote them outside of the holidays at the end of the year. Having a clearer understanding of how your customers may use gift cards throughout the rest of the year as well as some clever placement and strategy will enable you to not only improve gift card sales year-round but improve your customer experience for gift buyers.