When it comes to the holiday season at the end of each year, it makes sense to have a tool to help with gift products. After all, 50% of gift cards are sold in November and December. And that’s just gift cards - according to Statista, Q4 accounts for as much as 27% of yearly US retail sales.
The benefit of a platform like Shopify is the ability to freely customize your tech stack as required. If you need to boost your customer support, there’s an app for that. And if you need to improve your gift products ahead of the holiday season, there’s an app for that too. Govalo makes it easy for merchants to offer enhanced gift cards, gift subscriptions, and more to improve the gift buying experience for customers. The benefits of such an app are clear during a peak gifting season like Christmas or Hanukkah.
But what about in January? When the dust settles after another successful holiday season, where’s the value in a whole app just for gift products?
At the start of the year, it’s common practice for merchants to plan for the months ahead. They look at holiday data, new product development, and of course, evaluate their existing tools and tech spend. It might be easy to assume that now the holiday season is over, you don’t need to pay for an app every month to handle gift products.
Today, we’re going to take a look at ways you can use Govalo that don't involve selling products. In fact, it can be used as a tool that will boost acquisition, improve promotional periods, increase retention, and enhance customer support.
Let’s get started.
#1 - Use gift cards as a high value promotional tool
Whether you’re looking to acquire new customers, or run a major promotional campaign on your store, many merchants default to using discounts. They’re easily implemented and popular with customers, however they aren’t always the best for the long-term success of your business. They bring in one-off or low value customers, as well as impacting the perceived value of your products.
Gift cards are a high value alternative to discounts that make it easy to increase both acquisition and AOV. Rather than removing value from your products, you give value to your customers.
Here are a few ideas for how you can use gift cards as part of your acquisition strategy:
Offer new customers a gift card for their first order
Why not replace that 10% off code for new email subscribers with a gift card? Customers love incentives, however discounts can often end up setting the “true” price for a product. In other words, if a new customer uses a discount code and a product is $20 instead of the ticket price of $25, they may only ever be willing to pay $20 in future. This makes it difficult to sell them new products, or existing ones at full price.
By offering a gift card, you remove that concept of price - all the products are still full price in their cart, they just get a gift card to redeem against them. Not only that, but there’s more to “lose” for a customer if they don’t redeem the gift card. Discount codes come and go all the time, but a gift card is seen as something of value that they won’t want to lose out on.
Run a “buy one, get one” promotion on gift cards
We’re all familiar with the concept of “buy one, get one free” promotions, but have you ever thought of offering a similar deal for gift cards? It may sound strange at first, however what you’re essentially giving the customer double the money to spend…on two different orders. Either the customer will give the other gift card to someone else who will be interested in your products, or they’ll use it on another order for themselves. This means you’ll have two orders where the customer is more than likely to spend over the value of the card, increasing your chances of retention and higher cart spend.
Run a “Spend [x], receive a gift card worth [y]” promotion
This is another interesting way to use gift cards instead of discounts. The customer still pays full price for the products they want, but they also get extra “money” to spend on another order. They get the satisfaction of having scored a great deal, and you won’t devalue or affect profit margins on your products. The gift card a customer gets can scale with the amount they spend, for example they may get a $10 gift card when they spend $30, $20 when they spend $50 and so on.
- Offer a “top up” on gift cards purchased during promotional periods
If you want to encourage customers to buy gift cards during big sales or promotional periods such as Black Friday weekend, then you can offer to “top up” gift cards purchased. For example, if a customer purchases a $10 gift card they’ll actually receive a $15 gift card. This can be an effective way to draw more attention to your gift cards, especially in the run up to key holiday and gifting periods.
Rather than customers trying to get a discount, they’ll instead be encouraged to spend more when they go to use their promotional gift card. When it comes time to redeem, 75% of customers will spend more than the value of a gift card. This can have an impact on the AOV for new customers, as with certain promotions they can only use the gift card after they’ve placed an order i.e. buy one, get one.
Black Friday weekend is one of the biggest promotional opportunities of the year, and a great example of where gift cards can be used outside of strictly gift giving. Over BFCM 2022, Govalo merchant Curie ran a gift card promotion offering a free gift card with any order over $30.
This scaled depending on the order value, making it more attractive to place a higher value order. Curie founder, Sarah Moret, shared on Twitter that this promotion netted Curie higher acquisition and AOV:
This BFCM we ran a gift card promo w/ @fromgovalo. The only sitewide sale we've ever run is our Curie Day 20% off sale, so using that for comparison:— Sarah Moret (@thats_a_moret) November 28, 2022
1) Gift card promo helped us acquire more NEW customers than a % off sale (70% returning customers for Curie Day vs 28% for BFCM)
#2 - Boost retention marketing using gift cards and credit
Gaining new customers is a challenge, but it’s only the first piece of the puzzle. If you want long-term brand success, you need to pair acquisition with a retention strategy. Throughout the last two months of the year, your store likely saw a high number of new customers meaning there’s a lot of potential for retention. Plus, if over the holidays you had a high number of returning customers, they’ll be even more receptive to retention incentives.
Gift cards and store credit can be used to strengthen that retention strategy. Unlike a discount code or free item to redeem, gift cards imply something more rewarding and personal, and store credit feels more like real money that customers have in their pockets. It’s easy to ignore a discount code in your inbox, but a free gift card or some store credit will grab attention.
One way to incorporate gift cards into retention is by adding them into your loyalty program. Another way is to surprise customers with trigger based rewards sent automatically via email.
Using Govalo alongside email tools such as Klaviyo, you can use your store data to automatically send gift cards to customers who reach certain criteria. Setting up different triggers along with different gift card values will allow you to understand which rewards work best for different segments of your customer base.
Some triggers to consider include:
- New customer from the holiday season (or another holiday)
After the holidays, generate some goodwill with your new customers by offering them a gift card to spend on their next order. This can be a flat amount for any new customer, or scaled depending on order value. This can encourage them to return for another order, or if they’d purchased a gift they may pass it on to their recipient to spend.
- Existing customer from the holiday season
Don’t forget about all the loyal customers who may have purchased over a holiday. Show them appreciation for their continued support with a gift card or store credit. It’s up to 70% easier to convince an existing customer to place an order, so a small monetary incentive could go a long way.
- Customer AOV or LTV
When you have a high value customer, you want to make sure they stay loyal to your brand. Customers with high Average Order Value (AOV) or Lifetime Value (LTV) should be a segment you pay close attention to as part of your retention strategy. Reward them with gift cards, scaling the value depending on their current status.
- Number of orders / Frequency of orders
Sometimes it isn’t all about how much a customer spends, but how frequently they place an order. Especially if you have products which are on a replenishment based subscription model, oftentimes you may have customers who are very loyal but don’t necessarily have high AOV. For example, you may have a customer who has spent $100 on coffee and equipment in one order but only orders every 6 months. On the other hand, you may have a customer who buys a $10 bag of coffee every month and has done so for a long time. Both are valuable, but the latter may not be on the radar for a reward if based on LTV or AOV alone. Set up triggers to send a gift card based on order frequency, and they may just increase their AOV in the process of redeeming it.
Combining these strategies alongside your loyalty program will encourage customers to continue engaging with your brand, and strengthen your relationship with them. It will also bring more attention to your store’s gift card as a purchasable product, so when a loyal and well-rewarded customer thinks about where to buy a gift your store is in the front of their mind.
#3 - Improve returns experience and customer support with store credit
Store credit has a few different uses that could make it your store’s customer support secret weapon. By incorporating it into your support and returns processes, you can boost customer satisfaction, and retention all at once.
Customer Support Experience
By making use of store credit, you can enhance support resolution tactics as well as giving customers a more positive perception of their experience. After all, it’s worth remembering that customers don’t really want to have to contact your team. If they do, it’s because they can’t find information for themselves on your site, or something has went wrong with their order. This immediately puts a negative light on the interaction. Coming to a speedy resolution is one way to spin this into a positive, however not every resolution will be a positive one. Say a customer is missing an item from their order, but that item is now out of stock so cannot be sent to the customer. They have an answer, but it isn’t their ideal outcome. So, you can offer store credit as a gesture of goodwill, to apologize for the issue. In the case of the missing item, the customer would be refunded the cost of the item plus receive a small bonus to spend on their next purchase. This can help turn a negative resolution into a more positive one.
In other cases, the resolution may be a good one. However, the customer still had to go through the process of contacting your team to resolve the issue. Especially if it’s a high value customer, you want to do everything you can to make sure they remain satisfied and loyal. Create some criteria where a customer will receive store credit when they contact support. This doesn’t have to pay out every time they contact support, just every once in a while. This token of appreciation will show loyal customers that your brand cares about their experience and continued support.
Enriching your customer support experience will have long-term benefits for your store and retention strategy. Provide customers with great support, and 89% will be likely to return for another purchase in the future.
Returns can be a pain for both customers and merchants. Much the same way customers don’t necessarily want to get in touch with support, they also most likely don’t want to process a return either. However, this is an opportunity to provide a great experience and foster positive brand perception - 92% of customers will buy again if the returns process is easy.
Part of making it easy, is making it flexible. Customers should have a variety of options available to them when they want to process a return. Most merchants will typically include a refund or exchange as standard options for returns. Refunds are the less appealing option for merchants, as this can result in lost revenue and sales. Exchanges are better, as at least some of the revenue is retained even if it’s only a part-exchange.
Adding store credit as a third option could be key to creating the ideal situation for both the merchant and the customer. This retains the sale value with the merchant, while giving the customer “their” money to spend without having to process a refund. You can also make it more appealing to opt for store credit to encourage customers to instead spend “again”:
Offer a “top up” if the customer choose store credit. For example, if the order value was $50, you top it up to $55. The customer has more to spend, and may end up spending above the original order value.
Extend your returns period when choosing store credit. If your standard returns period is 30 days for a refund, make it so that if an order is returned within 40 days they can get store credit.
- Offer store credit as part of an exchange. When a customer wants to exchange an item for one that is of lesser value, give them the option to get instant store credit instead of a refund. You can combine this with the idea of “topping up” to make it more appealing.
Govalo’s store credit features are available to merchants on our Enterprise plan.
Why it’s valuable to have better gift products available year-round
While there is value in gift cards and other products as promotional tools, it’s worth remembering they’ll still continue to serve your store for their original purpose - as gifts. Gifting occurs year-round. Between shared holidays like Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day, to personal occasions like birthdays and friends moving into a new home.
Being prepared to offer a better gift buying experience to each customer no matter the time of year is valuable to your store and customer experience. Offering a consistent experience is key to satisfaction and retention. If it’s easy to personalize a gift card during Christmas-time, a customer may come back later in the year to order another and they’ll expect that same level of service.
If you already operate in a niche with high gifting potential, maintaining that level of customer experience is essential. Niches that typically see higher gifting include baby products, pet supplies, food and beverage, stationery and office supplies, and homeware. These suit a range of different potential gifting reasons that aren’t tied to a specific occasion or holiday. For example, a friend who’s just had a new baby, or a family member starting a new job. By offering a better level of service, you position your store as the go-to brand when a customer needs to find a gift anytime of the year.
Finding new apps and solutions for your store takes time. You want to ensure that anything you install has longevity and fits within your strategy long-term, not just for a specific season. By finding new ways to incorporate gift cards and other features beyond gifting, you can make the most of apps like Govalo. These can become invaluable tools in retention strategies, open up new methods of promotion, and improve existing processes.