1 February 2022
10 tips for a successful US gift card program
The gift card market in the US is set to be worth $221billion by 2024, up from $163billion in 2019. That’s money that could be spent in your downtown instead of with the big, national retailers. But with thousands of gift card programs running in the US and a limited marketing budget, how do you make your gift card program a stand out success? We’ve got 10 marketing ideas to ensure a strong start to your downtown gift card program- and help you to maintain that success right through the year.
Make it local: The difference between your downtown gift card program and every other program is your place and your people. Marketing your new program is a chance to make your district and the people who live there shine. When you’re signing up businesses to the program, identify traders with strong stories to tell. Ask yourself, why is the gift card program important for our downtown and who is it going to help? They are the people you want to feature in your marketing.
Seasonal schedule: With a gift card, there is always a holiday occasion to plan for. Whether it’s Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday or summer programs to target tourists, develop your seasonal campaign schedule for the year, kicking off with the nearest holiday to your launch date.
Limited release: Build desirability and exclusivity for your gift card program with an initial release of cards or with a limited edition gift card pack that includes additional offers from your merchants. A limited release can work well when you have all other elements of your marketing strategy in place.
Marketing in action: As part of a strong, co-ordinated campaign, an initial release of 5000 cards sold out in just 4.5 days for this gift card program.
Events: Events can help to bring your campaign to life. A pop up shop in your downtown to sell gift cards for your launch event, VIP late night opening for Valentine’s Day, a Halloween trail with things to spot in your stores. Get all of your merchants involved, and think about how you can add extra value for the customer- making their life easier at key purchasing times.
Marketing in action: Taking an empty store, the Cambridge Gift Card program in the UK turned it into a temporary shop to publicise and sell physical gift cards during the holiday period. Window graphics included a QR code to buy the gift card online when the shop was closed.
Influencer campaign: Like with anything new, your challenge is to get people to buy your gift card for the first time, and this becomes easier if you’ve addressed the potential worries they might have. Identify 3-5 influencers in your area with strong engagement on their posts, ideally across different demographics. Reach out to the influencers to work with you, and give each an aspect of the gift card to create posts around such as ease of redemption, choice, benefits to the local economy and the purchase process.
Marketing in action: This gift card program thought beyond typical influencers, giving locals tools and training to share their gift card experience on social media.
Offers: Another marketing idea that works well for a launch is a limited offer, which can encourage people to try your gift card program. Ideas might include, buy a gift card for a certain amount and receive a ‘top up’ amount free or a free gift when you purchase a gift card. Link your offers to your launch or seasonal campaigns, and partner with businesses for your rewards, such as the chance to win a free pamper weekend with every mother’s day gift card purchase.
Corporate sales: An effective b2b marketing campaign can really boost the success of your gift card program. Target large, local employers for corporate sales, particularly around launch and key sales periods for employee rewards like Christmas.
Marketing in action: By making corporate sales integral to their marketing strategy, this gift card program achieved over $200,000 of sales in its first month.
Video: As the medium of the digital age, video can be used to tell your peoples’ stories to great effect, engaging your target audiences. 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every day, with a similar number on Facebook. A launch video can help to introduce your gift card program, but regular video content can work as part of your overall strategy. Increase engagement by making your videos mobile first, and remember that many people watch videos with the sound off so captions are essential.
Marketing in action: Combining their launch with a seasonal campaign and making the city, its people and businesses the stars, this gift card program beat national retailers to the top spot for best Christmas retailer video.
Competitions and giveaways: When you kick off your gift card program, building up a database for email marketing is key. Competitions (with opt in for future marketing) can be a great way to do this. Look for competition opportunities with local media, or run across your own social channels. Competitions and giveaways can also work well at your own events, or to support other local events, such as giving away a quantity of loaded gift cards at a local charity event you have a presence at.