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8 tips for setting up gift certificates, for ecommerce

With the festive season fast approaching, setting up a gift certificate option on your website can increase sales. This is something I plan to add on my wedding decor site, like I had on my astrology website.

Almost any product or service — even on a B2B website — could be a gift for a special occasion. Even a government website could sell gift certificates to be redeemed for services, admission fees, or special reports.

In this post, I’ll review eight ways to offer gift certificates on an ecommerce site.

1. Use electronic gift certificates, not paper and plastic versions. Electronic, emailed gift certificates allows you to inexpensively target four types of customers: last-minute shoppers (literally on Christmas day); those who know their loved ones’ favorite brands or interests without knowing exactly what sizes, models, colors, or flavors to get them; overseas shoppers; and, in many cases, men, who often put gift shopping in the too-hard basket.

Emailed gift certificates also enable recipients to easily copy and paste their codes directly online onto your website. Compare these with paper gift certificates, which can present your customers with manual data entry problems (and calls for customer service assistance). For example, the lower case “l” looks like the number “1”; upper case “O” is too similar to the number “0.” The number “5” resembles the capital letter “S.”

2. Create a gift certificate page. Whether you provide a tab on the main navigation bar or an option in the footer, a gift certificate page makes it easy and fast for shoppers. Include a link to the gift certificate page at the bottom of each product category page and on the shipping information page.

Another clever placement area is to include copy, imagery, and a link to the gift certificate page when visitors’ searches return the dreaded “No results found” message.

3. Promote free shipping thresholds. Customers buying gift certificates might not want their recipient to pay for shipping of the products they finally redeem their certificate for.

If you have a free shipping threshold, consider promoting that in the gift certificate prices — i.e., “Buy a $200 gift certificate for your recipient to get free shipping.”

4. Offer speedy certificate delivery turnaround or not at all. I have seen websites that require four weeks turnaround for a printed gift certificate or plastic gift card.  Why so long? This is more than enough time for shoppers to go to a mall and find an actual gift. People expect fast delivery on printed gift certificates, and instantaneous delivery if they’re electronic.

5. Provide gift certificates without expiration dates. Whether you offer plastic gift cards, paper gift certificates, or electronic gift vouchers, none should have expiration dates. If they do, they must be valid for five years. Customers get upset when they discover their gift certificates have expired and it creates waste if you have to throw away pre-printed cards when the date has passed.

Another advantage is that you can email unused gift certificate recipients with promotions.

6. Use a format that will encourage recipients to open their electronic gift certificate emails. Your gift certificate recipients may have never heard of your company, causing your email to go to their junk mail folder. However, they will recognize, accept, and open emails coming from their friends and family.

Include their gift-giver’s email address in the From field, and use a subject line similar to “[Company name] gift certificate from [sender name].”

7. Provide a clear call to action. In the email, tell the recipient that she has received a gift certificate. Include (a) the amount of the certificate, (b) a link or a button to start shopping, (c) details of any brick-and-mortar shops she can spend it at, and (d) your customer service email and phone number if she has questions.

8. Send confirmation of the remaining balance. If the recipient does not spend all of the gift certificate amount, include a statement of the remaining balance on the confirmation screen and in his confirmation email. Remind recipients if they have money left, to prompt them to return to your site to spend it.

Elizabeth Hollingsworth
Elizabeth Hollingsworth
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