Banking On Gift Cards This Holiday Season

By Taylor Smithfield

Did you know the most popular day of the year to redeem gift cards is December 26th? Make sure your gift card program is ready for customers!

Have you ever received a gift card for your birthday or Christmas only to have it sit unused in your kitchen junk drawer or your car’s glove compartment? Welcome to one of the easiest ways small businesses make a buck off your forgetfulness. With a little luck, that sucker will get thrown out during spring cleaning. You may feel a little guilty — “Dang it, Aunt Erma gave me that gift card.” — but at the end of the day, it ain’t your money.

Absent-minded gift-receivers are the reason one billion dollars in gift cards go unused every year.1 Between forgetting, misplacing or a general disinterest to redeem, businesses are making bank on gift card sales. This reason alone is why you should be selling gifts cards in your gun store. If you’re already pushing plastic, great! However, there are a few tactics you may not have considered to increase gift card sales. And with the holidays fast approaching, it’s an ideal time to reconsider your strategy.

Convenience And Impulsiveness

Convenience is undoubtedly a major selling point of gift cards. When gift hunting, people are far more likely to purchase a gift card than a specific product when they can quickly grab it at the checkout counter. (This is especially true for gun stores where preference is a huge factor.) It’s the perfect marriage of two consumer motivators: convenience and impulsiveness. However, if they were planning to buy a specific gift and it happens to be unavailable, gift cards are another way to secure their purchase. By placing an “Out of Stock” card on the empty shelf with a message to buy a gift card instead, you’re providing people with another option they may have not otherwise considered.

However, these strategies work best with gift cards instead of gift certificates. You certainly can’t be as impulsive with a gift certificate (“Who is the certificate for? Oh, one sec, let me find a pen.”) Plus gift certificates are easier to counterfeit, look less professional, are more likely to get damaged and don’t fit perfectly into wallets. Need I say more? If you offer certificates, it may be an ideal time to phase them out. Neat, attractive rows of gift cards draw a customer’s eye more than a sign on the counter, “Ask me about our gift certificates!”

Gift Card Spending Psychology

Another effective strategy is to upsell customers. For example, if you reward people with a free gift card once they’ve spent a certain amount, they’re more likely to grab extra items to meet that threshold. Additionally, you can incentivize both gift givers and receivers: “Redeem your gift card this weekend and receive 15 percent off your total purchase!” “Buy a $100 gift card and receive a $10 promotional gift card!” Aside from your customers, you can also motivate employees to push more gift cards. Challenge team members to sell the most gift cards this holiday season in a contest; the employee with the highest sales receives a Christmas bonus.

Paired with a referral program, you could also offer customers a small gift card when they refer new people. Gift cards themselves are a great way to tell others about your business — especially if they’re customized with your logo. Brand awareness is a very powerful tool. Even better, you can offer cards with eye-catching designs and quippy or sentimental phrases.

Online gift cards are also perfect for people who want more design options and custom messaging. With an eGift card program, you have the opportunity to connect with both givers and receivers in multiple ways. Recipients will have to visit your site to activate the gift card, check the balance or reload the card. And more than likely, they’ll peruse the rest of your site, checking for sales and details like store hours.

Upon arriving at your store, customers armed with gift cards will be far less concerned with how they spend their money, because it’s not their money. They’re more likely to buy full-priced items, especially if they consider the purchase a “gift” to themselves. In fact, in CEB’s 2014 Gift Card State of the Union, a reported 65 percent of consumers spent 38 percent more than their gift card’s face value. Psychologically, it’s easier to spend someone else’s money, and even if they exceed their gift card’s limit, it’s still money saved.

Holiday Incentives

Have you ever considered donating prizes to local raffles or sweepstakes? Christmas is a great time to participate in a variety of giveaways. You’ll not only gain a level of exposure for being a sponsor, but whoever wins your gift cards could turn into repeat customers. The momentum needn’t slow down just because Christmas is over, either. Did you know the most popular day of the year to redeem gift cards is December 26th?2 Not only are card receivers still in the holiday spirit, they’re itching to take advantage of post-Christmas holidays sales. Many retailers offer major markdowns in January, too, attracting an influx of customers.

Other important dates to remember during this last month of the holiday season are:
Dec. 11: Green Monday
Dec. 13: Hanukkah Begins
Dec. 15: Free Shipping Day
Dec. 23: Super Saturday
Dec. 24: Christmas Eve
Dec. 25: Christmas Day
Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve

Getting The Word Out

So you’ve recently added gift cards to your inventory or revamped your current gift card program. What’s the best way to get the word out? Creating a multi-channel campaign is a great start; advertising through email, social media and in-store will effectively cover your bases. Also, think about boosting your ads so they reach more people. Snap a photo to pair with your post, perhaps a top down shot of your gift cards propped up next to a handgun or even surrounded by ammo. With Christmas fast approaching, you could tailor your message to last-minute shoppers. You’d be surprised how many panicked people hunt for last-minute gifts.

Do you offer gift cards? How do you market them around the holidays? Do you find a particular strategy works better than others? Let us know at

1 NASDAQ, ://

2 First Data,

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