8 Ways To Boost Online Gift Cards

There’s an article in Forbes about how companies like Home Depot, The Container Store, and CVS are adding electronic gift cards to their Websites. Well, it’s about time. It shouldn’t take a lot of analysis to see that gift cards can be a lucrative piece of online functionality. Why wouldn’t you help customers just give you money?!?

If you are deploying online gift cards, here are some ideas for improving the experience:

  1. Merchandise it. Make sure that customers can find a clear path to gift cards from the homepage.
  2. Make it easy to do multiples. Consumers often shop for several people at one time around the holidays, so make the process easy to generate several gift cards in a single session.
  3. Allow flexible amounts. Don’t lock customers into specific amounts for gift cards (which replicates some offline gift cards), since there’s no reason to fit into their budget. 
  4. Schedule delivery. Don’t make customers wait until the day before a key event to buy a gift card. Allow them to buy it any time they want, but schedule delivery for a later date. 
  5. Create delivery options. Some customers may want to send the gift notice directly from the company, but others may want to email it themselves or hand something to the recipient. Think through these options; even consider offering gift cards through the (regular) mail.
  6. Encourage gifting. If your company has a rewards program, think about giving customers some type of credit when they buy gift cards. Otherwise, you may want to offer some other incentives for this highly desirable customer behavior.
  7. Enhance the giftee experience. When someone receives a gift card from your company, it should be the start of a special experience — that fully reinforces your brand. So design the entire experience. A happy recipient will encourage more gifting!
  8. Don’t forget usability.  Poor usability can drag down any gift card offering. Make sure that your gift card functionality is very easy to use. In particular, watch out for the top issues we found in our evaluation of 100’s of Web Sites: text illegibility, inefficient task flow, and obscure privacy/security policies.

The bottom line: Try and capture every gifting opportunity.

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

4 thoughts on “8 Ways To Boost Online Gift Cards”

  1. Very good post. Re: ideas, I would like to see more done to improve the gift card giving experience from the sender’s point of view. Sometimes I would like to send a gift card, but it seems a bit crass to send a gift card with a dollar value on it, so I’d value any solutions that make the gift card seem more gift-y. I think it would be great if companies, when sending out gift card announcements to recipients, also included a few common gift items at that price point in the email. e.g. “With your $50 gift card from Home Depot, you could get this 21 piece wrench set, or a Black & Decker Dustbuster model 1234, or use it toward your purchase of any of Home Depot’s 10000 items etc.” While you’d have to design the notification well to make it clear that you’re sending money, not a gift, I like the idea of making gift cards seem more “gifty” and less crass, particularly from the giver’s viewpoint.

    For inspiration, check out the Heifer Foundation, a nonprofit. Instead of sending someone a note that says, “I’ve given $50 in your name to fight hunger,” you can say, “I’ve donated a sheep in your honor to fight hunger.” While the gift card situation is not really the same (since you really can use the gift card to buy anything), this approach does go far toward making a dollar value donation seem more “gifty.”

    1. Sue: Great idea. This type of thinking and product innovation comes when you examine the experience from the perspective of a specific user (in this case, the giver or the receiver). The resulting ideas (like yours) represents one of the key principles of Experience-Based Differentiation: Obsess about customer needs, not product features. Don’t think about it as a “gift card” as much as an opportunity for people to give a gift to other people.

  2. I’d like to add three suggestions:

    – Ship cards for free: It really does leave carts abandoned when you get to the checkout to find that your $100 dollar sub-1 oz. piece of plastic is going to cost. Some already do this but others still want you to pay for it. No thanks, I can pick one of these up from a kiosk at Duane Reade with no shipping fee.

    – Don’t charge fees: Companies should eat the silly Hallmark design charges (Home Depot for instance) or just offer a limited number of designs and get on with it. Companies should also not charge mark-up fees on cards. Thankfully this is not commonplace any longer but it still does exist.

    – Along with no fees, get it over with already: Just poking around Home Depot required an inordinate amount of clicks. Even with “stock” designs it was a click-through nightmare. Gift cards are often the last resort gift to get people something, anything, other than cash – quick checkout options need to be provided.

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