(Blogger’s Note: This is the first of a three part series on gift cards and certificates.)
Black Friday. It’s here. The hoopla, excitement and enthusiasm attached to this spectitude of parking lot line-ups, bewildering normal thinking people trading sleep for sales, makes this one day a historic economic barometer for weeks ahead.
We all know what the monetary projections mean. If Black Friday is a success, people will spend more for the next four weeks on themselves, relatives and the needy. If the day is darker than black, purse strings will tighten. And as crowds gather in parking lots by the light of the moon hoping to be within the first 150 people to take advantage of the Wal-Mart wide screen give-away, and wrap-around-the-building lines of people form at Target toying with each other under parking lot illuminates will we have anything to offer our customers for possible stocking stuffer?
Historically, Black Friday defines the beginning of that time to make up lost revenue in order to turn a losing year into a profitable one. It’s that four week period between now and Christmas when registers ring, sales increase, prices drop and people shop.
What’s on your menu for Black Friday should not be a major concern. What can you put on your menu from now until New Year’s that will not perish, can be purchased in a variety of price ranges, and can be taken home, left on the counter and used three weeks from now?
A gift certificate.
” The charge is underway, and a big chunk of the action every holiday season is that special currency known as gift certificates, or gift cards,” according to John Harris. Harris is a principal at Lynch and Harris, a
“Gift Certificates and Gift Cards have obvious and well known advantages, foremost amongst them being cash in the bank well before the sale that ultimately credits against it. But their less hyped advantages lie in their inherent viral marketing properties. Gifts are all about giving, of course, and there’s always a Buyer, and a Recipient involved – two consumers, not one,” Harris added.
According to Harris turning one consumer into two consumers is the very definition of viral marketing. Therefore, every single sale of a gift certificate is an outstanding shot at a viral marketing win.
Harris believes marketing will outperform product in most restaurant and retail situations.
So here are some suggestions from Harris for making the most of your gift certificate or gift card opportunities.
Issuance and Redemption Basics: Get the nuts and bolts in place for the rush. You cannot afford to make it difficult or time-consuming for consumers to either buy, or redeem, gift currencies from your business. If you’ve already got a system in place, then good for you. If not, I’ve put together a table (inset, below) that lays out the basics of the commercial gift world – the tools accessible to you to work the gift business.
- Treat Gift Buyers and Redeemers THE BEST. Sure, you and your staff treat everyone well, but the folks buying and redeeming are the best existing, and potentially best new, customers. Viral!
- Make Them Available Online. It’s a must that customers can buy them 24X7 and frankly, it’s a pretty basic courtesy. Widespread, cheap and easy; see the table of online gift certificate services (below), if you’re not already there.
- Stock Up. A one-dollar gift card can be sold for easily one hundred times that amount, or more. Not a time to get caught short on either your paper or mag-stripe gift stock.
- Train The Troops. You and your staff must be fluent in the sale, and redemption cycle, particularly the POS part of it. It costs nothing to set up some practice sessions.
- Review Your Denominations. Maybe you’ve been selling $10 certificates or cards for years, but your average check is $16. Does that make sense?
- Know the Law. Every state is different, but there’s been a flurry of both state and federal legislation in the past two years. Go to www.consumersunion.org, for a great summary.
Tomorrow: Insight on marketing basics.