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  • Writer's pictureHolly Glowaty

How Gift Card Connects to the Latest eCommerce Trends: A Quick Conversation with Holly and Dez

Here at K+H Connection we have been diving into the trends we are seeing with eCommerce brands lately. It has been very interesting to see how branded currency plays into their D2C strategies in different ways than we see with more legacy brands.

Holly: Lately I am finding that I’ve been having more conversations around digital gifting vs digital gift cards when I go to conferences. 

First of all It’s not about one or the other, because these tools can have very different use cases and purposes. Once again, I think we are having this conversation because the term “gift” is in the title- which is why we always preach branded currency, right? 

Specialty retailers seem to find success with this digital gifting model. They are looking to create something more experiential, not transactional. But the buyer may not know the specifics like size/color for the gift recipient so you can purchase a pair of shoes and the recipient will be notified that they are getting shoes, but then prompted to pick size and color. In the background is a gift card holding the value of the gift and shipping. So this decreases time to redemption for the gift card (cutting down on fraud and liability) and also cuts down on the amount of returns. I like that they see this as something MORE than just a gift; they are also accounting for how it supports shipping costs, liability etc.

Dez: When you stop and think about it, digital gifting is a logical extension of a retailer offering either a physical or digital gift card but much like how the conversation is shifting from how digital vs physical cards to digital and physical being important, so is the combination of digital gifting and offering a gift card. At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to make it easier for the customer to say yes, and having a variety of alternative purchasing options beyond traditional products makes it easier to say yes.

New technologies like GiftNow provide another option for digital gift giving beyond a digital card. It may be tempting to think that if you have one option, either a digital gifting option or a digital gift card, then you don’t need the other. Unfortunately, this assumption may cause you to lose out on sales.

Holly: I agree. I think we also have to stop and look at what a digital gift card can offer; especially as the holidays get closer. A digital gift card can do so much for a retailer. It can be a last minute gift after shipping deadlines have hit. It can be the perfect “product” to promote on mobile for a quick and easy purchase to that audience. It can also be a great way to test out design and messaging. Digital gift cards offer tons of information about your customer that traditional gift cards do not. (Don’t even get me started on what they can do if attached to an account- that could be a whole other discussion!)

Dez: This is a great time to bring up contextual engagement actually. That’s another trend we are seeing and branded currency can play a big role in that.

Holly: I totally agree. After going to a D2C conference I was looking up all these brands, and now my Instagram is about 5 posts from friends, followed by ads from these brands I was looking up! So they are for sure getting to me where I am. Some of them are offering discounts, and some have the "shop now" prompt. I would love to see a “Claim for $5 eGift Card Now" offer. I would totally click on that!

Dez: That’s a great example showcasing the fact that social media is no longer one of those things that is nice to have—brands know this. And for teams that oversee the gift card and loyalty programs, having a connection and place is the social media strategy is essential. There are numerous ways to use gift cards in for promotional purposes including rewards to drive engagement not only on the social media platform but to support additional business goals such as a reward for completing a customer survey.

Further, many brands utilize creative gift card imagery to drive sales during key times. With the holidays coming, it’s no secret many retailers plan on promoting digital gift cards after shipping deadlines pass; why not promote these offerings on all channels?

Holly: It’s also important to remember that one of the biggest consumer trends we’re seeing is that everyone wants to share their experiences across social media. Think about what kinds of designs could encourage consumers to share a picture of their gift card—this is a natural extension of gift cards creating an initial brand experience.

With the increasing trend of consumers wanting to share all of their exciting moments, brands have the opportunity to engage in a new level of social listening to see how their customers currently experience the brand and what else they would like to see. 

Dez: The final term that keeps coming up is escheatment. What is it? How do they handle it? To me, escheatment is one of those words where when you hear for the first time, you have no idea what it means but also don’t want to ask for the definition.

Additionally, it’s such a nuanced law that many small business and newer merchants may not fully understand what it means or have misunderstandings about it. In fact, one of the most common questions we hear is if escheatment applies to even small programs (it does).  For brands looking to manage the escheatment process, the first step is understanding your brand’s specific requirements, and that often means talking with legal. 

Holly: Someone asked me about the “end of life” for a gift card recently; and I realized that many people just don’t even know the term escheatment. I certainly didn’t until I was in this space! So it is worrisome that some eCommerce retailers are turning on gift card capabilities without understanding the legal reporting requirements.

Dez: I completely agree. If you stop to think about it, the larger retail landscape looks completely different than it did even just a few years ago, and the conversations we’ve been having recently with our partners is showcasing that branded currency hasn’t only kept up with the changes, but served as fuel behind many of the innovations. Now, the important thing to remember is that even with the new trends, it’s key to remember the basics—at the end of the day, it’s about the customer experience, having a clearly defined purpose for each element of your branded currency strategy, and staying aware of what’s happening in the industry. 

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