Post-Holiday Season Checklist for Gift Card Programs


Revel Blog | eCard Systems | February 18, 2021 |

gift cards

With one of the most challenging holiday seasons we’ve ever faced behind us, we learned an important truth about plastic gift card programs: actual physical gift cards foster a strong emotional connection between community, merchants and customers. 

As we wade into the new year, here are some check points for reviewing the recent season and how to best prepare for the year ahead.

Review Last Year’s Program

Take a minute and review your gift card program numbers from last year. While you may have had dips due to the pandemic initially, we’ve heard from many merchants that, after they modified delivery of services to meet CDC guidelines, gift card sales stabilized and, in some cases, increased. Whatever you experienced, assessing monthly sales, card inventory trends, rate of redemption after the sale, and getting an idea of new customer acquisition based on the last year can be a worthwhile undertaking. 

  • If you’re not selling cards at the rate you anticipated, you can set measurable target goals for the coming year. Promoting your cards on social media channels and on your website home page can increase sales significantly.
  • If you blew through cards faster than you anticipated, now’s a good time to re-assess quantities you typically order and have a clear-eyed view of what will work better this season.

Make A Simple Plan For This Year 

Based on your review of last year, what makes sense for  your gift card game this year? Pick just a couple of actions that are easily doable and can make a big difference.

Not selling enough?

Promoting your cards on social media channels and on your website home page can increase sales significantly. With many merchants pivoting to new ways of distributing their goods and services, primarily with curbside pickup and contactless delivery, being visible on websites has become increasingly critical to success. For example, Sweet Cow Ice Cream makes their beloved Sweet Cow logo-ed gift card super easy to find on their site, with gift cards as part of their core navigation structure. 

Are you displaying your cards where customers can see them?

Even a small action like adding visible displays for cards and envelopes at pick-up counters can spur incremental growth in consumer purchases of the cards. We hear all too often – or see firsthand – that gift cards are in a drawer behind the counter, totally out of view of customers as well as merchant frontline personnel. 

In a rapid-response society increasingly fueled by visual cues, seeing your gift cards is paramount. If customers (and your employees) don’t see them, they basically don’t exist. We have customers who can unequivocally attest to the power of displaying their gift cards on the countertop as compared to when they didn’t. It may take some extra effort initially to choose a display and accompanying artwork, if applicable, but the returns are well worth the effort. 

Review your card design. 

Do your gift cards reflect your brand in a compelling way? Have you been using the same design for years without much thought to an update? If so, the next holiday season could be a good time to roll out an update. It’s amazing what creativity and brand building can be designed into a small card. It’s a hard-working mini-billboard for your organization. If you’re not leveraging the space as an avenue for brand extension, it’s something to consider.

Consider packaging. 

Are you drawing your customers into an irresistible giving experience with packaging for your gift cards that helps inspire the idea to give a gift in the first place? Holders and envelopes for gift cards can be custom designed or off-the-shelf, but either way, they provide the recipient with the experience of actually unwrapping a gift for a more memorable gift giving exchange. 

Each of these suggestions requires a small time investment but can yield long-term results. Now’s the time to turn new ideas into products that are in-hand and ready to sell well before the holiday mad rush.

Selling faster than you anticipated?

We heard from a number of customers last season that they depleted their normal gift card supplies more quickly than usual. Customers found themselves running through gift card inventory much faster than anticipated. That experience seems to support industry projections of continued growth in gift card sales in light of the pandemic. This trend is projected to extend through the next five to eight years. What a great problem to have! 

A couple of things you might put on your list to streamline gift card sales for next year’s holiday season:

  • Increase your card and envelope orders, at least incrementally, to avoid reordering in the midst of the season when you may have to invest in rush charges to get them as quickly as you need them. If you increase your order you’ll likely get the benefit of price breaks per unit that increases with volume.
  • Order early. If you don’t use gift cards as regularly throughout the year, consider stocking up in advance of the season. We know it feels counterintuitive, but ordering (or re-ordering) early gives you a pulse on how your gift cards will sell on a regular basis. Monitoring mid-year sales will give you a window into how to best ramp up for the season before the mad rush!

Every gift card plan is unique. These are rapidly-changing times and what worked in the past may need to be updated for new ways of doing business. The good news is, there is no time like the present to give some thought to what appeals to you! 

If you’re looking for the right supplier for your gift card program, consider eCard Systems, a Revel Integrated Partner with an industry-leading gift card solution.