Over the years, gift cards have become a staple for most retailers. People love giving them, getting them and using them. They have become more and more customized and utilized…as incentives, bonus gifts and marketing tools.
But, is your gift card program working as hard as it can for you? What does it say about your brand? Does it say… “Let me buy you lunch? You’re funny! Or dude…wake up, and get some coffee?” And, what if you give cash, what does that say? Basically, it says you didn’t shop.
So, with this in mind, what can your gift card do to say “I’m better than cash,” at time of purchase, at time of giving and at time of use? As a retailer, you need to focus on these three key transactions to make sure you are getting the most return on your gift card program.
At time of purchase
The gift card marketplace is a crowded environment. A shopper spends an average of 30 seconds there, finding that right card. Those 30 seconds are valuable time for you to make an impression and rise above the clutter. Your gift cards are mini billboards. Not novels. They must make a play on emotion and compete on simplicity.
At time of giving
A simple yet emotional connection comes into play here as well. An effective gift card carries a clear message about its benefits and the relationship between the giver and the receiver. When giving a crisp $20 bill, the receiver gets the message that the giver cares…but only $20 worth. When someone gives a gift card, the receiver should feel, “This is better than cash, because the person who gave this to me actually thought about me and knows what I like.”
At time of use
This is the time to tell your deeper story. To work your brand into the experience of using that gift card. When you do that, you build brand equity, brand loyalty and grow your customer base.
You can stand out from the sea of plastic with a smart yet simple gift card program. Just remember these four essential guidelines:
- Win on Usefulness. Make it better and easier to use than cash.
- Win on Message. Communicate more efficiently and succinctly,
at the right times.
- Win on Design. Make your designs speak to the recipient,
invoking the giver’s thoughtfulness.
- Win on Brand. The best gift card is a gift card that isn’t just a gift,
it’s a brand experience.
Brands with that “stand-apart appeal” don’t just happen. They’re built, one experience at a time. And every touchpoint you have with your customer is an opportunity to make an impression and create an experience.
One essential way to make an impression is through your digital experience—a.k.a. your website. And, with the belief that every customer touchpoint is an opportunity to make an impression, IMAGEHAUS is entering into the digital experience world.
The web is an environment of expression, choice and endless possibilities. Customers are quick to click, often faster than they think. Based on that virtual experience, they form an impression of your brand.
As in any relationship, the first impression of your online brand gives customers a perception of what your company and products will be like. Will they be smart, helpful—or frustrating? Does this first impression reinforce the single thought that defines your brand? Simply, clearly and personally? What value does your point of differentiation bring to your customer?
Your answers to these questions are key in establishing your brand and carrying out a memorable, positive brand experience. With the sea of websites out there today, your site now has to do and be more. A well-branded site begs your customer to engage in conversation. It listens, learns, and then leads by addressing their needs—first. It asks the right questions and gives the best answers.
Let’s look at it this way. The online experience is like that first dance back in high school—communication between two people, defined by action. If you don’t know how to lead your customer, they will move on to the next dance partner. And if you trip and step on their feet, the dance becomes rather painful. They get frustrated and leave. However, if you lead with confidence, purpose and personality, your customer will move in step with you and believe in you. And, believing leads to trust—the most essential dance step in building a strong brand.
We help our clients’ customers gain that belief and trust with solid answers to these 4 key questions:
Differentiation: What is the advantage of your brand over the competition?
Relevance: How do you add value to the customer’s experience?
Credibility: What is the single thought that defines your brand?
Compliance: How do you ensure brand consistency in look and feel, personality, voice and tone?
Often, people come to us and think they need a logo, a tagline, or the “look and feel” of a website. A brand is so much more than just components. Simply stated, a brand is the perception of your company based on the expectation of value.
Online, this expectation is formed more intimately through individual experiences. To be effective, your branding needs to make a strong first impression and provide a memorable, pleasant experience. An experience that will compel them to act now and far into the digital future.