Gift Certificates for the 21st Century

A century ago—pre-2000, that is—gift certificates were low-tech relics, pieces of paper bought by unimaginative shoppers for people they didn’t know that much about.


Or at least that’s what it seemed like when Aunt Dorothy, who you hadn’t seen in a decade, sent you one for a store you wouldn’t be caught dead shopping at.

Well, that’s all changed. Gift cards are flying off the racks and are welcome in anybody’s hands. Smart e-marketers know it and are cashing in on a $100 million-dollar market that’s predicted to grow by nearly 30% annually for the next few years.

Here are some eye-popping statistics reported by

  • 93% of U.S. consumers purchase or receive a gift card annually
  • Consumers spend an average of $213/year on gift cards
    83% of corporations use gift & prepaid cards for employee incentives
  • On average the recipient will spend 20% more than their gift card value
  • 90% of gift cards are used within the first 60 days

At the same time, only 16% of gift card buyers get them on the company’s website, and while 97% of the top retailers sell their gift card online, less than 3% of local businesses do. This represents a huge opportunity for online marketers, large and small.

Benefits of Virtual Gift Cards

Offering gift cards or certificates on your website doesn’t have to involve making plastic or paper versions that have to be produced and mailed. If you have a shopping cart, you already have all you need to sell user-friendly electronic gift certificates that can be emailed directly to the recipient and used within seconds of receiving them. And by generating the certificates yourself, you save production, fulfillment, and handling costs from third-party sources.

Promoting Your Virtual Gift Certificates

Drive your share of that 84% of buyers who don’t buy their cards on the company site by actively promoting yours and encouraging customers to use them. Promote them on your blogs, social media, and on your site itself. Let people know how convenient they are to use. No waiting for delivery, either. Offer site-only discounts, free shipping, last-minute deals or other incentives. Pitch them to last-minute shoppers or people who don’t know the size, color, or other preference of the recipient. If an item is out of stock, discontinued, or “Not Found,” suggest a gift certificate instead.

Have a separate Gift Certificate page that promotes their value, explains how they work, and helps customers place an order. It’s a product on its own, just like a pair of boots or a TV.

Personalize the Gift Message

Personalize the gift by showing the email notification as coming from the giver, not your company. Have a place for the sender to personalize the message. Let the recipient know what the gift is. It can be a specific monetary value or a specific item, such as “You’ve just received a bag of our wonderful cookies (a new outfit, a Maserati coupe) from So-and-So.”

Increase Trust with Alternative Options and Information

With all the security concerns these days, you want the recipient to be comfortable that their gift notification isn’t a phishing scam, so in addition to providing a click-through, tell them they can go to your website on their own and enter the certificate code there (copying and pasting cuts down on errors).

If there’s a balance remaining, tell them at checkout. They might just spend it right then. And don’t forget, the average buyer spends 20% more than the gift’s value.

Don’t Go It Alone

Don’t think you have to plan, design, and build a gift certificate program for your online business on your own, either. The pros at the Unleaded Group are experts at designing and integrating gift certificate options into your website. We have an entire department focused on the latest in shopping cart technology with an award-winning design team and industry-best content management talent to back them up.

Successful online marketing today takes a coordinated strategy that includes content, design, and technical know-how. The Unleaded Group is a global leader in high-performance e-commerce web development. We’re ready to work with you to deliver proven, tested results with creativity, precision, and ease of use that set you apart from the competition. Visit our newly-designed website for a look at the many ways we can fuel your business growth.

We’re always happy to send you a free quote for designing a site that does the job you need. Or call us toll-free today at 855.865.3233 to learn how the Unleaded Group can add horsepower to your online business and simplify your life in the process. The holiday shopping season is nearly upon us, so don’t wait to be ready with a gift certificate program that lets you take advantage of this rapidly-growing market.