Industry News | December 16, 2015 | QSR Exclusive Brief

Promoting Gift Cards Help Brands Maximize the Holidays

Retailers—both in foodservice and other industries—might think it’s too late in the game to make a big push with holiday promotions, but new insights show that operators can still boost revenue before the year’s end.

Euphemia Erikson, director of client solutions and network and security at payment solution provider First Data, says that both small and medium businesses as well as larger chains can drive profits through gift cards. Whether plastic or electronic, gift cards are among the most requested gift items for the holidays, First Data finds. What’s especially interesting is that oftentimes these gift cards are being purchased at the last minute, at least for digital versions.

“What I find fascinating is two of the biggest selling days for mobile gift cards of the year are actually the 25th and the 26th of December,” Erikson says. “It’s an opportunity that ‘I realize I’m going to somebody else’s house,’ [or] ‘I forgot something,’ [and] ‘I can send a mobile gift card.’”

First Data’s digital gift card app Gyft counts brands like Starbucks, Burger King, Captain D’s, Cold Stone Creamery, and Papa John’s among its users. And some brands—most notably Starbucks—streamline digital gifting through its own app, allowing registered users to seamlessly send a mobile gift card complete with bright, digital artwork.

But while the coffee giant’s gift card program—both plastic and digital—is well know, Erikson contends that other quick serves are doing themselves a disservice by not promoting their own gift cards.

Nevertheless, she says operators can take a few simple steps to turn things around. For one they can put signage out, even if it is simple color copies. Sometimes operators only put gift card signage inside the store, while advertising it outside, and especially at the drive thru, can increase customer awareness.

Brands can also make their employees “gift card ambassadors,” Erikson says, by encouraging them to tell customers about the offer and in term reward the staff with their own gift cards. Digital platforms can also be utilized.

“Social media is huge. There’s still time to create a banner … especially as you get closer to the holiday season and people are panicking because they haven’t gotten those gifts.” Erikson says. She adds that operators located in shopping centers can pull double duty. “Others are doing, ‘buy gift card, get a burrito,’ so they’re not only getting shoppers to buy, but they’re feeding shoppers while they’re buying their holiday gifts.”

Beyond the holiday run (starting with Hanukkah and ending with New Year’s), Erikson says retailers should plan for another surge in gift card purchases around Valentine’s Day and in May-June when consumers are purchasing for “moms, dads, and grads.”

And while consumers young and old are embracing mobile gift cards, Erikson doesn’t see the traditional plastic cards becoming obsolete; rather she thinks brands need to support both platforms to reach a greater swath of consumers.

“We tell retailers, ‘You need to have any omnichannel strategy to reach different demographyic groups,’” she says. “I think there are different segments of the population that really still love to give that physical gift. There’s something about getting that physical gift that can be rewarding. People like to put in a box.”


By Nicole Duncan

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