Five Tips to Increase Gift Card Sales This Holiday Season 

With data showing that 65 percent of gift card recipients spend approximately 38 percent more than the face value of their cards, restaurant brands should be taking action to optimize their gift card programs for the holiday season.

The holiday season is coming and gift cards are still the present du jour. For this reason, brands across all industries should be putting thought into how they will optimize their gift card programs.

Until the last few years, gift cards had long been the ugly duckling of gift-giving. They were derided as lazy and impersonal. This attitude has shifted, however, particularly with the advent of smartphone technology. It’s easier than ever to for both customers and brands to keep track of gift cards and redeem them online. Gift cards practically eliminate the need for packaging and can be sent via email when purchased digitally, which is no doubt a handy feature for the last-minute shopper. They are also especially appealing to younger demographics who prefer to use mobile payment methods. 

The power of gift cards is in the numbers. Global e-gift card sales are expected to reach $300 billion in 2019, with most of those sales occurring during the fourth quarter, and customers who opt to purchase gift cards will spend an average of $44.83 per card, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). The trend of giving and receiving gift cards is expected to continue as online shopping and digital gift cards become even more popular. By 2024, global digital gift card sales are projected to hit $698.2 billion. Holiday spending trends also show that having the right promotional strategies around gift cards will help brands maximize the customer purchasing experience. 

This is all excellent news for restaurant brands, as gift cards can be powerful marketing tools. Here are five ways operators can increase gift card sales this holiday season.

Create a Seamless Gift Card Purchasing Experience

Brands should design their e-commerce websites in a way that makes it easy for customers to purchase and redeem gift cards. Whether customers are on a desktop or mobile site, the option to purchase a gift card should always be clearly visible. Since gift cards make excellent stocking stuffers, not to mention solid gift choices for the workplace, customers should be able to easily find them on the website and add them to their online carts. 

Include Gift Card Messaging in Marketing Efforts

Marketing emails leading up to the holidays should tout the ability to purchase gift cards. When creating Black Friday and Cyber Monday marketing sequences, for example, brands should make sure to include gift card-related information and also highlight the benefits of using gift cards in their establishments and on their websites, especially ahead of and during the holidays when transaction frequency is highest.

Tie Gift Cards into a Promotion

Creating timely promotions to encourage gift card sales can be a win-win strategy for brands of all types. For example, restaurant concepts can offer a complimentary appetizer for customers who spend a certain dollar amount at that establishment. Additionally, brands should consider offering promotions that apply exclusively to purchases made with gift cards. Offering such promotions will drive up the overall spend per customer and give the customer an incentive to return after the holidays. 

Reward Existing Customers who Purchase Gift Cards

By rewarding customers who purchase gift cards, brands can give those customers a reason to buy from them and not their competitors. Customers can receive a coupon for a discount off their next meal or have points added to their loyalty rewards. Starbucks, for example, rewards users who order through the brand’s mobile app, while brands such as DSW have a points system seamlessly integrated into their POS systems. 

Seek Out Third-Party Distribution Networks 

Many big-box retailers such as Safeway and CVS sell gift cards for a variety of businesses. Brands can partner with such distributors and take advantage of any programs they may offer. This will result in higher brand visibility and make it easy for customers who opt to purchase gift cards in person. 

Gift cards carry their value even when the momentum of the holiday season has wrapped up, which is why brands need to make gift card purchasing easy for their customers. In doing so, brands reward existing customers and create new ones—and encourage strong post-holiday sales.