The Spirit of Digital Giving with eGift Cards
Whether you see gift cards as lazy last resorts of obligated gift givers or as the best way to let recipients get exactly what they want, they bring in big money for the businesses that accept them. According to Deloitte University’s annual consumer shopping survey, gift cards and gift certificates comprise the second most popular gift category for the 2016 holiday season, behind only clothes by a tiny margin. A full half of the shoppers polled said they intend to buy gift cards.
That’s good news for restaurant operators. According to discount gift card website Gift Card Granny, restaurant gift cards are the most popular of all categories, making up more than a third of gift cards sold. It used to be that shoppers had no choice but to stop by a brick-and-mortar location to pick up a gift card, but gift cards are no exception to the fact that the internet is now the most popular holiday shopping venue.
EGift cards are digital versions of the practically-same-as-cash plastic currency. The giver pays for the card online and it is delivered to the recipient via e-mail or a text message. EGift cards can almost always be redeemed in person and often online.
Customized Restaurant eGift Cards
Despite their lack of a physical form, many eGift cards can actually be made much more personal than their plastic predecessors. Givers often have the choice to include a message or a picture, and vendors often provide a number of graphics to choose from to accompany the gift’s bar code or serial number.
Gift Card Girlfriend, aka Shelley Hunter of Giftcards.com, ranked 200 vendors by how personal gift givers could make their cards in terms of customized design, messages, photos, and video. A good number of those cards are from national restaurant chains.
Not surprisingly, the top restaurant company on Hunter’s list is Domino’s, the pizza giant that has all but reinvented itself as a tech company in the past decade. Among the criteria that bring Domino’s eGift card service to the top of Hunter’s list are the number of designs available (as many as 50), the ability to add photos and audio messages, and the ability to use the gift both online and in stores.
Other chains on Hunter’s list include Dunkin Donuts, Subway, and Cracker Barrel – all of which allow purchasers to customize their gift cards with photos, deliver them via email, and redeem the card for internet purchases and in person. Take a cue from these chains if you decide to offer eGift cards and give guests flexibility in how they can customize and use their cards.
How to Offer eGift Cards at Your Restaurant
Offering restaurant gift cards online can help level the playing field for independent restaurateurs trying to compete with national chains. Here are some tips that will help you implement and promote an eGift card program.
Contract With an eGift Card Fulfillment Company
The quickest way to start selling eGift cards is to partner with a company that specializes in the service. Here’s a rundown of many of the most popular eGift card companies and the services they offer.
• The popular reservation service OpenTable offers eGift card services to its existing customers. Gift givers may choose the recipient’s favorite restaurant from a list of participating businesses or choose an option that allows the recipient to decide where he or she would like to redeem the credit. If you’re already an OpenTable customer, the restaurant eGift card program may be the quickest way to begin offering the service.
• National Gift Card offers fulfillment services for all types of gift cards, including digital ones. They serve both small businesses and large corporations.
• First Data’s Clover® gift card program offers solutions to integrate customizable eGift cards into many existing point-of-sale systems.
• GiftFly is a company that deals exclusively in eGift cards and digital promotions. These services can help you offer digital gift cards as well as coupons, giveaways, and promotional deals.
• Among its other digital marketing services, Coverboom fulfills digital gift certificates that can be branded with your company’s logo and one of a number of custom designs from a graphics library.
Leverage the Power of Social Media
The digital nature of eGift cards makes them perfect candidates for a social media marketing campaign. Posting that you offer the service may be enough to drive sales among your followers looking for unique last-minute gifts. You may also consider investing in paid social media advertising to help broaden the reach of your efforts.
Offer In-store Promotions
Get the word out that you offer eGift cards via in-store materials like banners and table tents. Train wait staff to simply ask guests if they’d like to add a gift card to their transaction before they receive their bill. Consider working in promotions that involve giving away gift cards with modest $5 or $10 values. Those denominations make great stocking stuffers and can inspire guests to spend more on gifts for others on their shopping lists.