giving

Gift Cards: In Theory, Easy. In Practice…

I have a funny story to tell you.

This May, my brother was having a tough time after his childhood pet passed away. He lives in Boston, and I wanted to send some sort of condolence his way. The new Mad Max had just started

The gift of the ultimate cinematic experience.

The gift of the ultimate cinematic experience.

playing in theaters, so I found a movie theater close to his apartment, and proceeded to order a gift certificate online. Instead of following through with my original plan of buying a card and having it mailed to his apartment, I decided to go paper-less and ordered a digital certificate, which would get sent directly to his email. He could go to the movies that night, and I’d basically be Sister-of-the-Year. Boom.

Unfortunately, there was some room for user error. Long story short, I ignored the multiple warnings to double check the recipient email address, and now some random person with Gmail has a e-gift certificate to an AMC in Boston. You’re welcome. 

Fast forward a few months, and my dad (successfully) used a similar strategy to order my brother’s birthday present (a gift card to a menswear store in Boston). He was looking for a gift of professional clothing, but didn’t want to be responsible for size, color, or even the article of clothing (maybe Stephen needed a tie and not yet another button down shirt), and it made more sense to get a gift card to a store in Boston rather than in Maine.

These anecdotes prove a few different things: a) that I’m an impulsive shopper, b) that my dad is better than me at online ordering, and c) that my brother gets a lot of email gifts. But let’s take a step back. What role to online gift cards play? In a), online gift cards helped fuel my spur-of-the-moment desire to send comfort to a loved one far away. In b), ordering a gift card online allowed dad to purchase something thoughtful that he was able to research, and remove any sort of responsibility in a clothing related decision making process. In c), my brother, who lives slightly more than a stone’s throw away, is able to receive gifts that he can use where he lives, not where we live. Dad and I didn’t physically have to go into a store in Boston, and it was awesome (well, minus the part where I wasn’t visiting Boston).



From a business and marketing perspective, this got me thinking about online gift cards. Why do people buy them? Why do businesses sell them? Here’s what I came up with:

Why give a gift card online?

Location. Maine to Boston doesn’t necessarily cover a lot of ground, but one of the benefits of purchasing a gift card online is location. Giving a friend in Colorado a gift card to their favorite local burrito place when you live in the Catskills is completely possible now. How cool is that??

Convenience. If my whole gift certificate debacle had been successful, my brother could have gone to see Mad Max. He could have also gone to see Pitch Perfect 2. He could have waited until November. He could have brought a friend or gone alone and bought a ton of popcorn and candy. With a gift card option, the user can cash in when it’s convenient for them. It’s different than buying him two tickets to the 9:00 p.m. Mad Max showing. What if he can’t go then? What if he’s sick, but feels the need to drag himself to the movies because of these tickets? Gift cards take off a lot of pressure from both ends.

Low-Pressure. Remember those old “Oh, you shouldn’t have…you really shouldn’t have” commercials? Well, the cool thing about gift cards (besides being “free money”) is that you take the pressure off yourself. Don’t know someone’s shirt size? Can’t remember his favorite color? With a gift card, you’re putting the ball in the other person’s court. The recipient can go out and get exactly what s/he wants, and it’s all thanks to you!



Should you sell gift cards?

Pretty much all the larger corporations sell gift cards on their website (whether through email, physical mail, or both). However, only 3% of small/local businesses sell their gift cards online. What?!? These businesses may offer gift cards, but you have to physically go into the store to purchase them. Honestly, sometimes I am just feeling a bit lazy and would rather order a gift card online than walk down the street, wait in line, purchase one, and walk back.

Another statistic that might appeal to businesses: 72% of customers will spend more than the value of their card (usually around 20% more). Over 50% of gift card recipients will make multiple trips to completely redeem their gift card, and who knows, they might bring a friend or two to shop with. The bottom line: you’re getting more bodies in the door and more money in the bank. 

Amazon offers gift cards to hundreds of business that are deliverable via email, print, or mail. But, what about the people who would rather purchase from a smaller business?

Amazon offers gift cards to hundreds of business that are deliverable via email, print, or mail. But, what about the people who would rather purchase from a smaller business?

If you do…

The good news: it’s really not that difficult to set up. You’ll need a few different things (we outline them in greater detail in this blog post, so I’m just going to gloss over them here).

First, you need a form that accepts payment and a secure certificate. You’ll also need a way to accept that payment, usually via a third party system. We use Stripe, but Paypal is common. Then, it’s a matter of putting the form on a page on your website, making it pretty, and making sure the instructions are clear. Clear enough that people won’t accidentally send a non-refundable gift card to a rando and still be bitter about it…

Alright, to be honest this was 90% user error.

Alright, to be honest this was 90% user error.

For “extra credit,” mobile friendliness is a huge bonus. Millennials are leading the way with online gift card purchases. Personally, I like the convenience of multi-tasking and if I’m in line at the grocery store, I can kill two birds with one stone by ordering a gift card on my phone while waiting. How’s that for multitasking?

Gift card sales online have been on an upward trend for the past few years, especially for small and mid-sized businesses. They’re easy to set up on your website, and are incredibly convenient for the donors and recipients. People love to shop local when given a chance, trust me! If you have any questions about selling gift cards on your website, feel free to email us or leave a comment on this post. Always happy to help!



Marketing Monday: Giving Tuesday 2014

Not matter how you feel about giving money, donating, tithing, or volunteering, I think we can all agree that it’s fun that online has their own version of Cyber Monday in the way of Giving Tuesday. Sure it’s a poke at the consumerism of the season and vaguely self congratulatory but it’s hash tag heart seems to be in the right place.

givingtuesdayhomepage

It started a few years ago as a hashtag and a way to raise awareness about non-profit causes but now they’re a lot more organized. There is a website and coordinated efforts between Crowdrise (an online donation platform), Indiegogo (an online fundraising platform), the White House, and others.

If you look at the Giving Tuesday logo, you’ll see it’s a pretty clever mixture of a hashtag and a heart. Nice!givingtuesdaylogo



Whether you give your time or money or both, Giving Tuesday asks that we all give something today.

Leading up to this event, we have seen lots of marketing efforts in the way of educational videos and the use of the hashtag #UNselfie on especially the more visual social networks like Instagram to raise awareness about giving to those in need. Here are some things last week already showing up:

unselfieinstagram

Despite being a global idea, the Giving Tuesday website is highlighting campaigns in specific geographic areas as well:

minicampaignsusa

It also seems as if organizations have taken this time to use this time to educate their user base. This Heiffer International post and accompanying infographic I thought were particularly good examples of taking the opportunity to have a conversation:

mcupload_529cf3d74253c

So we hope you consider doing something, online or offline, for Giving Tuesday. It’s a great sentiment and something we could all stand to remember this time of year where we spend lots of money to realize we could spend some of our finances and effort on something that makes a bit more impact than that scarf your brother probably won’t even like anyway.

(And if you know someone who needs one, we’re doing online donation forms for dayz.)

Happy #GivingTuesday!

Marketing Monday: Haiti Earthquake Relief Efforts

Know of a company or individual marketing themselves well online? Let me know about it and they could be featured on Marketing Monday!

The human spirit is often most inspiring in the middle of terrible events. The earthquake in Haiti was certainly on everyone’s minds this past week. I was personally quite proud of the role that internet marketing and in particular social media played in not only raising awareness but fundraising around this tragedy. Here are a few ways that the internet moved efforts along:

Social media resulted in pressure to give.
I think we can all agree that sometimes, peer pressure can be good. In the case of the Haiti earthquake, on Friday afternoon, I felt like the only person on Twitter who hadn’t donated to the cause. And I felt guilty, which made me finally make my own donation.

In addition to regular media coverage, social media was able to bring up-to-date and user-generated information about the latest news in Haiti.

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