How gift cards help bridge the holiday inventory and fulfillment gap

Inventory issues happen - it might be that your stock is delayed for a particular product, maybe it’s the holidays and you’re approaching shipping deadlines. Whatever the case may be, you don’t want these issues to stand in the way of you and your customers.

When customers run into inventory issues, especially around the holidays, their primary response is to simply look elsewhere. In one survey by McKinsey, 70% of respondents said when faced with an out-of-stock they switch to another retailer or brand. When an item won’t arrive on time, customers panic - according to another survey, 20% say they’ve ordered more gifts than they need just in case they don’t arrive on time. That figure jumps to 40% if you look just at millennials. 

As shipping deadlines start to loom, there may be items or orders that won’t arrive until after the holidays and into the new year. In these instances, you don’t want to lose those customers just because you can’t control courier delivery dates. 

The solution? Promote your gift cards as an alternative option. 

Gift card purchases have already increased 43% this year, and they’re fast becoming a favorite present for recipients. They remove the pressure of finding that perfect present, and give the recipient open choice as to what they buy. 

Better still - they help you to bridge that holiday inventory and fulfillment gap.

How gift cards help solve holiday issues

There are three primary ways in which you can leverage gift cards to lessen the impact of inventory and fulfillment.

#1 - Sell when inventory is low or out-of-stock in some/all variants

Low inventory and out-of-stocks are an inevitable part of ecommerce during the holiday season. Perhaps you were running low due to supply chain issues, or a product went viral on TikTok. No matter the reason, you still don’t want this to mean you lose sales. People want your product, they want to make a purchase, but when that product is out of stock it can often result in customers abandoning their session with your store.

Especially when it comes to the holidays, it’s unlikely that the customer will wait for a back-in-stock notification. They’ll be aware of issues like supply chain and shipping deadlines, and they’ll likely want a more immediate solution. Gift cards give them a convenient option - they don’t need to wait for it to be back in stock, they don’t need to wait for shipping, and it’s something that they can guarantee the recipient is going to love.

#2 - Sell when your shipping deadlines are close or have passed

Last-minute shopping is a big part of the holiday season - either you’ve waited too long to order that gift you found weeks ago, or you didn’t realize deadlines were so soon, or you just couldn’t decide what to buy. We’ve all been there. The closer deadlines get, the less likely it may be that you are able to fulfill orders placed after a certain date. Once they’ve passed, you definitely can’t and there still exists a window between that date and Christmas where there are still customers looking for gifts. 55% of last-minute shoppers say they plan to order something even if it won’t arrive on time, and 44% say they plan to buy gift cards.

When a customer takes a chance and decides to see if you’re still shipping that item they wanted to buy, and they see your deadlines have passed, it can be a huge disappointment. However if you offer them the option to instead buy a gift card, this can not only give them that convenient solution we mentioned earlier but also give them a really positive experience with your store. 

#3 - Solve customer experience issues during key sales periods

As mentioned earlier, gift cards provide customers with an alternative when the item they want isn’t available or won’t arrive on time. This may sound like something that only benefits your business - after all, you’ll get the sale and the future purchase from the recipient may end up higher than the value of the card. However for your customers, these gift cards can save them a major headache. 

Without the option to buy a gift card, they need to go and research a different brand or retailer. They need to spend more time finding something else, and even then they may not find something they like as much or that’s within their budget. Plus if your store’s shipping deadlines are close, you can bet that most other retailers’ will be also and this leaves the customer with very limited options. This can be incredibly frustrating, and it feels like a waste of time. They may not immediately think of a gift card as an option, so by presenting that to them clearly you’re giving them a convenient, simple way to solve their issue and buy a gift they actually want to give, not just a product they felt obligated to buy because their first choice wasn’t available. 

How to promote gift cards to improve customer experience

So we know that gift cards are useful, but how do we make sure customers know about them? Ideally, we want to get the option right in front of them rather than hidden away in a sub-menu somewhere on your site. Especially during the holiday season - and indeed during other key sales periods - it’s important to promote your gift cards in the right places.

#1 - Display on product pages

There are two ways in which you can display gift card options on product pages to solve for inventory and fulfillment issues. 

With inventory issues, you want to display gift cards as an alternative to out-of-stock variants and products. Govalo allows you to do this right on the product page, and is deployed automatically so when a product goes out of stock it will display the option to purchase a gift card instead. This gives customers an immediate and very visual cue to consider gift cards as an alternative when they may not have otherwise.

As for fulfillment, you should instead display a message somewhere on the product page - ideally near the top - that informs customers that the item will be delivered after the holidays, along with a link to purchase a gift card instead. If the product has low inventory or is out-of-stock, you could also include an estimated restock date as well as the option to buy a gift card, in case the customer wants to let their recipient know when they can purchase the product they originally wanted to buy.

Amazon example

#2 - Include in primary site navigation

A really easy way to draw more attention to your gift cards and get them in front of your customers is by including it in your site’s primary navigation. 

This will then follow them around the site as they browse through your catalog, and catch their eye as they use the primary menu to navigate around. You could also include it as an announcement banner letting customers know that your deadlines have passed, but that they can still order digital gift cards at any time. 

#3 - Email back-in-stock list, abandoned carts, and browse abandonment

It’s important to use every channel you have to engage with your customers to let them know about your gift cards. Customers pay much closer attention to marketing emails during the holiday season, and some automated flows like abandoned carts have some of the best open rates of any type of email campaign. It makes sense then to use that to your advantage during the holidays.

This is especially true as if you have an automated flow for things like back-in-stock, abandoned carts, and browse abandonment, you don’t want customers to open those emails and try to go to your store to make a purchase only to find that it either won’t arrive on time, or is out of stock. 

When you approach deadlines, send emails to these segments letting them know about your gift cards. This can be as simple as telling them your shipping deadlines are approaching, so the items they’re interested in won’t arrive. Or if the item is coming back in stock that it will arrive after the holidays. This will not only promote your gift cards, but also prevent any potential disappointment as a result of an automated email.

#4 - Promote on social media

Last, but certainly not least, you should be promoting your gift cards on social media in the run up to your shipping deadlines. You can promote these across different channels to target customers who have shown interest in specific products, including those that may not restock until into the new year. You should also target the last-minute shopper audience, especially in the last few days before specific holidays.

You can continue promoting gift cards right up until and just after the holidays, giving your social media followers an easy reminder of a really simple gift they can buy and give instantly.