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Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008 at 10:25 am

Redeeming Holiday Gift Card Redemptions

By Brendan Regan
October 14th, 2008

gift cardWith the shaky economy weighing on all our minds, this Holiday Season could be make-or-break for a lot of eTailers.  So, like Bryan Eisenberg mentioned in a recent blog, the time to innovate is now, and relying on the status-quo isn’t wise.

So as you ramp your sites and marketing up for the Holidays, do you have a few innovations up your sleeve?

Let’s face it. Despite the economic troubles, people are still going to want to give gifts, and find the best gifts they can for their loved ones.  They’re just going to be more cautious and spendthrift.  So empathize with that sentiment as they shop with you.

Encourage them to take their time and find the right deals.  Advise them to buy multiple items to save on their overall shipping spend (Amazon has always ruled this game in my opinion).  Heck, if you’re really bold, cross-sell them with similar items that cost less…it’s sounds crazy, but they might convert instead of abandon.

For a more concrete example, think about gift cards.  A certain percentage of gift shoppers will always end up giving gift cards, and that means a certain percentage of your early-2009 traffic will be gift card redeemers.  The buying path for gift cards is usually OK, but have you optimized it?  Do you plan to test and optimize it in the weeks leading up to the Holidays?

Now think about the card redemption process, which I think has even more room for improvement.  Here’s the experience I’ve always had when redeeming Holiday gift cards online:

  1. Receive the card, note how much is on it.
  2. Sometime between and 12/26 and 7/4, decide to redeem it (I’m a notoriously bad procrastinator).
  3. Look on the back of the card for redemption instructions.
  4. Following the instructions, type in the URL and land on the homepage.
  5. Now I’m overwhelmed with thousands of products to choose from and no assistance offered.
  6. I poke around a bit, maybe try to search by price range, and maybe buy something.

Boring.  Uninspired.  A bit tedious.

Here’s a dream of a better experience:

  1. Receive the card, note how much is on it.
  2. Sometime between and 12/26 and 1/31, decide to redeem it (Made a New Year’s Resolution about procrastinating less).
  3. Look on the back of the card for redemption instructions.
  4. Following the instructions, type in the URL and land on a unique landing page or a microsite, 100% dedicated to gift card redemption. No distractions.
  5. I can select the value of the gift card and be shown ONLY relevant price range items, or receive a few friendly suggestions of ways to spend the $, or find out how other shoppers have been spending their gift cards.
  6. The checkout flow is customized to my unique task of checking out with a gift card.

Those are just a few changes that seem achievable.  Pair those changes with optimization, and you might turn 1-time gift card redeemers into repeat purchasers.
If anyone wants to share their innovative Holiday Season ideas, feel free, but we understand why you wouldn’t necessarily want to give up your competitive advantage . :)

Can anyone give examples of extraordinary 2007-08 Holiday gift card experiences out there on the Web?

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Comments (18)

  1. Brendan,

    What you describe appears to be a good customer experience, which I’m sure customers will appreciate. Since I’m a big believer in striking when the iron is hot, I’d like to suggest testing one more step:

    Offer gift-card redeemers the opportunity to purchase another gift card in a thank you e-mail or as part of the check-out process. Given that their experience was a good one, they may be inclined to purchase a gift card for friends, family or whatever. I think it’s worth trying…

  2. I am interested in selling gift card but was unsure as to who to use, like Paypal. Or have my own internal system do them.

    Any suggestions?

  3. I do a lot of holiday promotion of GPS deals. I hadn’t thought about a post that explicitly offers gift cards or gift certificates, but I think its a good idea.

  4. [...] Gift Card Redemption Better In article on October 19, 2008 at 5:11 pm Brendan Regan’s post on how etailers should manage gift card redemption is so good I’m re-producing it [...]

  5. I work for Sterling Payment – if you are interested I will be happy to send anyone information about gift cards – I have set up many retailers and ecommerce sites with gift cards. theresa.mark@sterlingpayment.com

  6. By the way, if you want to order gift cards for the holiday season, now is the time to do it or they will not arrive in time. Theresa

  7. Caricature King has offered gift cards for some time. Maybe this gift season they will prove more popular, as in the past people have wanted to order the product and experience the joy of giving the unique gift

  8. I thought the eGift Card idea from Pizza Hut was pretty cool. Sure, pizza seems like a lame Xmas gift….but it could be a good stocking stuffer. Mostly I just thought the ability to purchase it & have it received immediately was smart. I always end up scrambling around on 12/24.

  9. As a side note coupon shopping is way up this year. With the economy going down the drain, many consumers and looking to pinch every penny they can.

  10. [...] types of visitors will also depend on why they are at your site. You might consider having a unique landing page for gift card holders, or use a personalization tool recognize a repeat visitor and show recently viewed items on the [...]

  11. [...] types of visitors will also depend on why they are at your site. You might consider having a unique landing page for gift card holders, or use a personalization tool recognize a repeat visitor and show recently viewed items on the [...]

  12. Hi all, just found an older but relevant post on UseIt related to wish lists and gift cards. Good for a quick review: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/wishlist-giftcards.html

  13. I’ve always been a fan of products like techbargains.com and other sites which track coupons. They seem like a great marketing angle too. I think Dell makes a killing off techbargains.

  14. At times websites can be very confusing as they try to cram too much information on the 1 page. The giftcard scheme easily located on a separate page is a brilliant idea as you will know exactly all the details you need and can redeem it. Other shopping websites please take note.

  15. I always forget about the gift cards, as they sit in a draw and expire

  16. I thought there were some state laws that says that gift card balance that expire has to go somewhere that is not necessarily to the issuing company. Having all the expired gift cards being booked as profit is insane margins.

  17. Gift cards are not supposed to expire anymore. They do, however, lose value with time.

  18. What you describe seems to be a good customer experience, which I’m sure customers will appreciate.
    I’m interested in the sale of gift cards but not sure as to the user, such as Paypal. Or maybe my internal systems to make them.

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