How to use gift cards as part of your BFCM plans

Typically over Black Friday weekend, we focus on products. Which are on offer, which are your bestsellers, which should you encourage people to purchase and how. It isn’t common to see that much attention given to gift cards, and this could well be a missed opportunity for merchants.

We’re going to look at why gift cards are beneficial to have as part of your BFCM plans, and how to incorporate them more effectively into your strategy.

Why gift cards?

Customers want gift cards

The growth in sales shows us very clearly that people want gift cards. The number of digital gift cards U.S. retailers sold in November 2020 increased 25.0% year over year and increased 106.1% year over year in December 2020. Part of that growth can be attributed to the nature of gift purchasing in 2020 throughout global lockdown restrictions, as consumers purchased gift cards for friends and family when they couldn’t physically spend time with them. This has increased gift cards being seen as a viable gifting option, rather than the traditional stereotype that they’re a lazy or last-resort option. 34% of consumers plan to buy more gift cards for the holidays, with the figure rising to 58% if you only look at those in the 55+ age group. 

This isn’t a temporary trend in the aftermath of Covid19 restrictions, it’s the “new normal” of gifting. 

Guaranteed engagement from target audience 

The customers purchasing gifts over Black Friday weekend may not be your usual audience. There will of course be gift buyers who are familiar with your products and industry niche, however there will be many who are not and are trying to find a great gift for someone who either does know your brand or is familiar with the kind of products you sell. 

Purchasing a product may make a less aware customer more hesitant to checkout, as it can be uncomfortable buying something you’re not familiar with. Gift cards on the other hand are easier, as they don’t require the customer to have any familiarity with your products. They can give their recipient something they’ll enjoy - the option to choose what they’d like from a brand the gift giver thinks they’d like. You’ll then have the opportunity to really engage the recipient as a customer, as in order to get their final gift they’ll need to browse your store and go through your customer experience. That makes it much more likely for them to make a future purchase, and you’ll be able to make them part of your retention marketing funnel to encourage that. 

Flexible, easy, and unlimited

Managing inventory over Black Friday weekend is no easy task. You can forecast ahead of time and be as prepared as possible, however you can’t ever accurately predict what may affect your inventory closer to the day. It may be that your deals are far more popular than you expected and you run low on inventory faster than anticipated. Perhaps you’re experiencing inventory shortages as a result of supply chain issues, and you’re working with a more limited stock than planned. Whatever the case, you won’t run into these same issues with gift cards. 

Gift cards are unlimited, customizable, and flexible. You won’t need to manage their stock levels or keep tabs on them, making for a very low maintenance option to include as part of your BFCM strategy. Moreover, if given as a gift the card won’t be redeemed until after the holiday season buying your team time if you are experiencing any inventory issues.

Gift cards have the potential to increase order value 

When a customer buys a product, they’re buying it at whatever price you have set. That might be $15, $125, $655, etc. Prices vary depending on the product purchased, that much is obvious. However when you buy a gift card, you’re buying a fixed amount of cash value. Typically this will be in increments of $5 or $10, sometimes higher depending on the typical cash price of your products. When a customer purchases a gift card, they’re guesstimating the cash value their recipient will use, and it’ll frequently roughly match whatever cash limit they’d planned to spend on a product. For example if the product they thought to buy is $27, they’ll either buy a $25 or $30 gift card. But what happens once the recipient redeems that gift card?

More often than not, gift card recipients spend more than the cash value of the card. In one study, 58% of those surveyed said they spent in excess of their gift card. The average US consumer spends $59 above the value of their gift card, and this average is growing year-on-year. We’ve already covered how gift cards can bring those interested in your products to your store, and this also makes it more likely that they’ll spend above the gift card value as they explore your store and find products they want that the original purchaser may not have looked into.

How to use gift cards over BFCM

Gift cards are desirable to customers, and beneficial to businesses, however we still have the issue of BFCM being very product-led. That’s why you need to find clever ways to incorporate gift cards into your Black Friday plans that are driven by the customer purchasing journey.

Out-of-stocks

Things move fast over Black Friday weekend. If you’ve allocated inventory to your sales, then depending on traffic there’s a strong chance you’ll sell out of some of your best selling items before the weekend is over. Your stock position may also depend on what’s happening with the supply chain, and in this case you may be running low on stock of certain items leading into BFCM. In either case you don’t want a customer to simply leave your store, and that’s why it’s important to have a plan for out-of-stocks. 

Many customers around this time of the year become worried that their gifts won’t arrive on time, and this makes them more likely to seek out a competitor if they’re faced with a simple “back in stock” notification prompt. They won’t want to take a risk, and with gift card purchasing already popular around the holidays it makes sense to offer them a gift card as an alternative if the product they want is out-of-stock.  

Govalo’s out-of-stock integration can automatically display the option to purchase a gift card once an item runs out of inventory, making for a better customer experience and taking advantage of consumer desire for gift cards.

Gift card with purchase

If you want to reduce discounting but still offer a great Black Friday incentive, then running a “free gift card with purchase” promotion can be an excellent way to deliver that BFCM value and secure future spending. According to Shopify, 62% of gift cards purchased this way are redeemed by someone else and we’ve already covered how the majority of gift card recipients spend more than the value of a gift card.

You can scale this depending on cart value, e.g. spend $100 get a $10 gift card, as well as setting conditions such as one gift card per purchase or one per customer to prevent bargain hunters exploiting the offer. 

Discounted gift cards

Another option is to offer a discount on the gift cards themselves. Customers already want to buy them, so why not give them an extra incentive to do so over Black Friday? This also helps to secure your stock position for the rest of the holidays, as you’ll pull some customers away from product purchases and more toward gift cards. It could be something as simple as 10% off the total value of the card, or more complex such as “Get an extra $5 for every $25 spend on gift cards”. Either way, you’ll encourage more customers to purchase cards, and then reap the reward of future spending.

If you want to really drive value in the customer experience when purchasing a gift card, you can also offer them the option to delay sending the gift card to its recipient. Rather than printing off the card to include in a card, or remembering to forward a code to the recipient, you can use Govalo to allow your customers to choose the date they want the recipient to receive their gift card.

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It’s undeniable that gift cards can add more value to your customer experience. It’s what your customers want to see, it saves them stress over the holidays, and it benefits your store in the long-run. Give them what they want, and incorporate gift cards into your BFCM plans.