(Blogger’s Note: This is the final installment in a three-part series on gift certificates and gift cards.)
We’re in the thick of it, now. Washers on sale. Laptops almost free. Chain saw prices chopped. Long lines of people, relying on pup tents fending off the cold in order to take advantage of a “sale” flooded the news shows over the past three days. What fools these parking lot protagonists of cheaper items are leading a movement of Black Friday sale-goers to find deals on items nobody really needs.
But food, ah food, everyone needs the substance to sustain those cold nights waiting in line. And what better gift to give someone. Is there a chance anyone would return a gift card to a local restaurant? Is there a possibility they couldn’t use it? Is there a chance they don’t need it? Doubtful.
Enter the gift certificate: The perfect holiday gift for relatives, friends, employees, service professionals and others who deserve a holiday show of appreciation. Add the fact that certificates are easy to get involved with and many gift certificate and gift card companies can enter your data and activate your account in two to three days make the tool very attractive.
According to restaurant consultant, John Harris “There are billion-dollar companies and small start-ups in this space and hundreds of companies.” Harris is a serious proponent of the gift card or gift certificate for restaurants looking to increase sales and profits.
One of the most recognizable gift certificate companies in the marketplace is Restaurant.com. The company, founded in 2000, not only provides certificates but also markets the certificates – sold at a discount- to the consumer. They also list restaurants they are promoting allowing you to research which competitors are offering gift certificates and their discount rate.
However, once you make the decision to go the gift card, gift certificate path, make sure you do the research on the companies that serve your areas. Here is a list of gift card and gift certificate companies provided by Harris.
Paper or Card Stock
Easy to sell in-store
Easy to sell online
Time to get up & running
1 -2 days
1 – 3 weeks
Very low cost, can now be easily put online, little to no transaction costs, very easy to implement, many consumers like the physicality, usually specific to one merchant
Medium cost with any volume, very secure, real-time, can integrate to POS, can be used as Loyalty card, convenient, quality format
Instant delivery, more consumer personalization options, is a true “green” alternative, a very popular option with consumers, mobile option is exciting
Not as secure, not integrated with POS, printing and fulfilling is no fun, still need quality design work, no online redemption
Getting set up is typically hundreds of dollars, and POS integration adds both initial and ongoing costs
Email isn’t a very elegant gift format, redemption integration not a picnic, adds transaction costs
Sample Vendors (with URL)
This is by no means intended to be a definitive list. There are many vendors in some of these categories and you should search on your own for all options. Listing a company here is not an endorsement, and no representation is made as to performance or reliability.
GiftLinx.com puts links on the merchant’s website and handles the actual online ordering, printing and mailing to the merchant’s clients, a labor-saver
FirstData.com has a deep, regulated list of quality magstripe system and services resellers
GiftTango.com provides both Email and
GiftCertsOnline.com also puts a link on the merchant’s website, and provides the online ordering engine and an option to print certificates online, but does not do fulfillment.
Swipeit.com serves the small business market directly, covers setup, system and fulfillment
GiftCertificates.com has long enabled its certificates to be provided in email form, with many discounting options
TheGiftCardCafe.com puts a link on the merchant’s website and handles the online ordering. They do not do fulfillment, but offer an “Instant” eGift via email
ProfitPointInc.com provides a wide array of gift, loyalty, credit and related card marketing and operations services
Cashstar.com offers virtual gift certificates in Email form, with many customization features for consumers. Online or in-store Redemption.