Gift cards are big business. In fact, according to a 2015 study by the Canadian Prepaid Providers Organization, gift cards are so popular among Canadian shoppers and gift-givers today, that 70% of Canadian gifters report that they prefer them to traditional gifts. What you may find more surprising, however, is the recent surge of interest of a digital gift card.

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Fueled by the pandemic, the Canadian e-commerce market has soared, resulting in skyrocketing demand for digital gift and incentive cards, far outpacing that of physical cards.

For business owners, consumers’ hunger for digital gift cards represents a vast but still underutilized growth opportunity. This article examines the myriad ways savvy entrepreneurs can leverage the power of digital gift cards to tap into new markets, propel growth, and win customer loyalty.

Optimizing Internal Marketing

One of the most significant benefits of expanding your digital market offerings is the capacity to enhance the collaboration between your sales and marketing teams. Digital gift cards, for example, can act as highly effective internal marketing tools.

For instance, your sales teams might partner with the marketing to identify what promotional campaigns are upcoming as well as what products and services are underperforming and need a bit of a boost. The marketing team, then, might create digital gift card offerings aligned with these promotions or featuring historically underperforming items. Sales and marketing teams may also collaborate to tie the creation and marketing of specialized digital cards with the company’s short and long-term sales goals.

From an internal marketing perspective, digital cards serve diverse purposes. Functionally, the simple act of redeeming a digital gift card or checking remaining balances is likely to draw customers to your company website. The result is greater visibility for product promotions and an overall increase in engagement with the customer.

The digital gift card doesn’t just funnel customers to your website, however. It’s also possible to use card offerings to market travel perks and other affiliated products and services,  and vice versa. You may, for example, partner with a hotel or restaurant chain to cross-promote your goods and services to digital cardholders. Customers may receive special hotel and restaurant discounts with the purchase of a digital gift card or enrolment in an online loyalty or rewards program, for instance.

Likewise, by affiliating your business with a partner organization’s digital card program, you’re going to multiply your market reach. You’ll drive brand awareness by tapping into your affiliate’s customer base.

Expanding Your Loyalty Program

The rapidly expanding e-commerce market isn’t the only thing driving the popularity of digital gift cards. The capacity to easily shop online offers convenience, but digital card programs also offer another advantage: affordability. And, in an increasingly uncertain economy, where fears of a global recession linger, consumers are looking for every opportunity to save money.

Strategically coupling your digital gift card program with your loyalty program can galvanize tremendous growth. Today’s customers don’t simply find a company or a brand they like and stick with it. They have to be incentivized to keep coming back, and expanding your rewards program to include digital gift cards is a highly effective way to do it.

Customers might receive a digital card that can be redeemed for a favourite product or service, or that may be applied as a store credit, after a specified number of orders. The goal, of course, is to minimize the temptation to turn to competitors for a better bargain. When each purchase acts as an investment moving them closer to their digital reward, the more likely they are to continue coming back.

Digital Cards and Data Mining

In addition to driving brand awareness, expanding market reach, and promoting customer loyalty, digital gift cards are a powerful tool for marketing research, from website analytics to customer surveys. Digitalization makes it easy, for instance, to track what consumers ultimately do with their gift card i.e. what product or service they ultimately buy with it.

Perhaps even more importantly, it enables business owners to better understand the journey customers took to get to that purchase decision. Website analytics might use clicks, page views, and time-spent-on-page values to determine what items customers considered and which ones they didn’t before making their selection.

Such insights can be invaluable for creating marketing strategies and formulating promotional campaigns, including cross-promoting products. These data also power R&D, supporting new product development as well as the revamping of existing offerings.

In addition to web analytics, digital gift cards are also highly effective in soliciting customer feedback. Offering a digital gift card for completing a questionnaire or survey provides the promise of immediate gratification, which can be far more incentivizing than the idea of waiting for a physical card.

The Takeaway

Digital gift cards are increasingly popular among Canadian shoppers today and for good reason. Digital gift cards align with the surge in online shopping, allowing customers to quickly and easily access their discounts. When used as a part of a rewards program, digital gift cards enable consumers to experience the immediate benefits of remaining loyal to their chosen brand. And that means that retailers profit, literally and figuratively, from the stewardship of their customers’ loyalty. Digital gift cards, ultimately, serve as an internal marketing tool, consumer motivator, and customer data pool all in one. And they’re often an all too little recognized asset, a resource that business owners ignore at their peril.

Blog Contribution: Amanda Winstead