How Do Small Businesses Design Gift Card Programs that Really Work?

Several years ago, when I first relocated to the Midwest, a good friend of mine sent me a housewarming present. When I opened the envelope, the first thing I saw was a gift card to my favorite clothing store. The next thing I saw was a stack of expensive coupons printed on card stock. The coupons were hanging by a thread; attached to a receipt with a single staple.

I found a post it note nestled neatly in the envelope. It read, "Do not lose the receipt under any circumstances!"

My friend knew that moving to Minnesota meant I would have to update my wardrobe. In an effort to make sure the gift card went as far as possible, she attempted to pass on the extra rewards she had racked up over the last several months, but there was a catch. If I lost the coupons or the receipt they were attached to, I lost the rewards. Herein lies the flaw of any gift certificate or coupon-based promotion.

That's why, this template of the week installment will focus on why gift card design and loyalty programs matter.

gift cards for the holiday season

Gift card design and loyalty programs are hot topics; especially among small independent businesses. Many owners question the value of switching from gift certificates to plastic gift cards. They simply don't want to invest in the transition if it's not going to pay off. The fact of the matter is, it's going to pay off.

Gift cards have become the norm in our shopaholic society. Despite the ease and convenience attached to these little pieces of plastic, smaller businesses are resistant to the changeover. Their reasoning can be summed up in two frugal arguments:

  1. Investing in a gift card program is too expensive.
  2. Gift cards will be replaced with digital options soon enough, so what's the point of using them at all?

I'll grant you that offering gift certificates is better than nothing, but certificates also fall short of cards for several reasons.

A Glimpse at the Average Lifespan of a Promissory Note: 4 Reasons to Start a Gift Card Program

How can you tell that it's time to make the transition to gift cards? When you hand the customer a paper gift certificate, do they stare at you blankly for a moment before fumbling to fold it up and put away? Congratulations, that's fine number one that you need to develop a loyalty program and update your promotional options.

Need more than one reason to give the green light on card-based loyalty? I’ll give you four more:

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Reason #1: Durability and portability. Like it or not, we live in a handheld society. Customers have come to expect products that are easy to carry and that are able to withstand an on-the-go lifestyle. Paper gift certificates just don't make the grade. They are too easy to lose, crumple up, throw out, or forget about. Before you launch a counter argument, ask yourself this question: how many gift certificates have you lost in the trash or the washing machine? Plastic gift cards do not face the same fate.

Reason #2: Cards can be replaced. Loyalty programs are about more than attracting customers. While that is a primary goal; one of the secondary purposes of these programs is to track the card itself. If a gift card is lost or stolen, you can easily deactivate the original card and reissue it to the recipient without a problem. A paper gift certificate, once lost, is gone for good.

Reason #3: Cards let your fingers do the walking. Part of the reason gift certificates are such a hassle is that they have to be validated and redeemed in person. The advantage of the gift card is that you can shop online. During the holiday rush, it helps to reduce shopper stress if all you have to do is click a mouse. Many gift cards can be used wherever credit cards are accepted.

Reason #4: You don't have to surrender your value. Certificates have to be fully used or surrendered at the time of purchase. Gift cards can be used to make partial purchases until the full amount has been spent. They are also reloadable. This is one feature that will draw customers to an in-store loyalty program like bees to honey. They can use the cards bit by bit or save up money and rewards to use toward larger purchases. Since when can a gift certificate do that?

Still skeptical? Well, the holiday season is coming up. Why not test your luck using one of the Plastic Printers templates this year? Our templates are available for free on our website

Download the gift card design of your choice and talk to our design team to find out just how easily you can integrate a loyalty program into online and in-store transactions.

Get to know your customers better by tracking their frequent purchases, offering in-store exclusives, and customizing your marketing to reach individual shoppers. Contact us for more information today and start bringing in the big returns that gift certificates could never give you.

Category: Business card

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