Checkout Tactics

6 Pointers for Selling Last-Minute Gift Certificates

For years, gift certificates have been a difficult sell for the majority of small online stores. Despite consumer-advocacy laws that now require retailers to impose no fees and that limit expirations on gift certificates and gift cards, consumers are often reminded (especially during the holidays) that a good percentage of these popular gifts are never redeemed, which lessens their appeal.

In recent years, gift certificates and cards have even become a popular trading commodity on eBay and specialty sites, sometimes selling for more than their face value.

It’s not, however, the selling-off or non-use of gift certificates that turn off most buyers. For most, they want to make sure the recipient can choose from a wide selection of products. This is why mega sites like Amazon and eBay sell hordes of gift certificates each year.

For smaller merchants, that doesn’t mean efforts to gain additional income before year’s end is worthless. It’s all about the marketing and ease of both purchase and redemption.

Gift certificate offer, from

Gift certificate offer, from

6 Pointers for Selling Gift Certificates

Consider the following when pushing gift certificates as last minute holiday gifts.

  1. No shipping required. Remind shoppers that there’s no ship cost involved. As Dec. 25th creeps upon us, online sales typically drop for stores that aren’t heavily discounting expedited shipping.
  2. Instant delivery. Use words like “immediate”, “email delivery” and “print yourself” in email blasts and on the site. Consumers will either want the store to email the certificate to the recipient, or they want to print it and include it in a card. Be sure to offer both options.
  3. Never expire; no restrictions. Make it abundantly clear that gift certificates don’t expire, and are good on anything you sell. Gift givers can take comfort in knowing that the recipient doesn’t have to make an immediate decision.
  4. Give more for the buck. By discounting (even if by just 5 percent), or offering a higher face value, people will be more apt to take advantage. Sure, some may buy gift certificates for themselves, but a sale is a sale.
  5. Market prominently. Unless you’re offering free shipping (or a similar, stellar deal), use prime real estate on each page to hype gift certificates.
  6. Simplify the ordering process. If possible, give consumers an option to click a link to the gift certificate purchase page, and immediately check out. Last minute shopping can be frustrating, so you want to make it quick, easy and painless. Also make it easy for people to purchase multiple certificates.


Remember that gift certificates are, in most cases, guaranteed money in the bank. You just need to keep in mind that by accepting money now, you may be shipping product by certificate redemption a year or more down the road.

Pamela Hazelton
Pamela Hazelton
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