The tools you need
There are two ways to add egift cards (or online gift cards, or digital gift cards) to an online store. First, there may be an in-platform way to do it, or you may need to get a separate plugin or app.
Each platform, plugin, or app will have unique instructions on how to set up gift cards in your shop. Therefore, instead of writing out a bunch of (mostly inapplicable) information, I’ve included instructional links to the most popular apps and platforms instead.
Here are the step-by-step instructions for three popular eCommerce platforms:
- WooCommerce (this one is offered through Green Stick’s partnership, and therefore features a super thorough, step-by-step guide, as well as the benefit of our award-winning customer success team standing by to help should you need them.)
If you’d like a separate tool to add to your existing website, check out these options:
Types of gift cards
Let’s back up a bit. If you’re not sure that egift cards are for you, know that there are different options available. First, let’s talk about gift certificates, physical gift cards, and finally, digital gift cards.
1. Gift certificates
A gift certificate is simply a piece of paper issued by your business that is redeemable for a set amount. While this is the easiest option to issue, it’s also the least secure, and can be the least convenient for your customers.
Seeing that the gift certificate is just a piece of paper, it can be easy to copy or manipulate. Furthermore, if the customer only wants to use a portion of the money, it can be confusing for both the customer and for your employees. Most often, the protocol is to strike out the original price with a pen and simply write the new amount underneath. This isn’t the most professional look to go with.
However, if you’re really wanting to keep things simple, there are tools that offer beautiful and professionally-designed templates, along with the option of ordering the certificates from their printers.
Two of the best include:
- Canva (which can be used completely for free or with a paid account for more design options. You can also print on your personal printer or order the finished certificates through the website)
- Vistaprint (which is free to browse, but must be ordered and printed through the website)
Before printing and selling your gift certificates, make sure you’ve thought of a way to track the ones that you sell. This could mean including a number at the bottom of each certificate (one good way to cut down on potential fraud and manipulation with the certificates) or just establishing how you’ll record gift certificates in your accounting, as well as purchases made using gift certificates.
2. Physical Gift Cards
Gift cards are more secure and professional than certificates, and they can be easily used up bit-by-bit, rather than all in one go like gift certificates. The best bit, however, is that setting them up doesn’t have to be as complicated as it may initially seem.
The key is to work with a user-friendly app or website. Even better if you can find one that integrates well with your business’ existing system.
If businesses are already using Square, they can very easily issue both physical and digital cards through the platform.
Some other possible suppliers include:
- Plastic Printers
- Your local bank (This isn’t a mistake! Some banks offer gift card services for their business clients. Enquire at your branch to see if this is an option for you or your clients.)
Each one of these suppliers will have a unique process for setting up your gift card system. Furthermore, they all have clear support materials and teams to make that process as easy as possible. Simply browse their sites and contact for more information.
It’s important to note that, while this may not be business owners’ first thought, in these socially-distancing days it can be helpful to suggest the option of selling physical gift cards online and offering to mail them to recipients. Especially if they are being bought as a gift, this allows buyers to cut out their trip into the (potentially risky) public, instead of having business owners do the work of delivering the gift card. For this reason, you should offer the option of including a little note with the purchase of a gift card and that you package it nicely to enhance the customers’ experience.
3. Digital Gift Cards
Simply put, digital gift cards (egift cards, online gift cards) are gift cards purchased and redeemed online.
There are a few select options, however, that allow for purchase online, and then the possibility of redeeming both in-store and online. This isn’t particularly common, but Square is one option that does have the capability for this.
Like physical gift cards, digital gift cards generally don’t have to be used up in one transaction, but rather can be spread over multiple transactions over a range of time.
4. Open-loop vs. Closed-loop gift cards
One more note on different kinds of gift cards: though this distinction doesn’t fit with the other three categories, you may stumble upon the terms “open-loop” and “closed-loop” while researching gift card options.
“Open-loop” simply means a gift card that can be used at any store that accepts credit cards. It is not limited to a certain store or chain of stores.
You may have seen Visa or Mastercard gift cards available for purchase at your local grocery or big box store that isn’t specified for any single store; this is an example of an open-loop gift card. These are also called “prepaid cards”.
“Closed-loop”, in contrast, is a gift card that can only be used at one store (or chain of stores). This is what you want when you’re arranging gift cards for yourself or your clients.
Set and train your staff on your gift card policies
As with any initiative your business sets up, it’s best to have policies set before a situation arises that requires a decision to be made without them. Make sure your business has something to refer a customer to before a dispute or question arises.
Some topics to cover in the set of policies include:
- Lost or stolen cards
- What gift cards can be used for (e.g., probably not purchasing other gift cards)
- Refunds on purchases made with a gift card
- Refunds on gift cards
For more ideas on what policies may apply to your business’s specific business setting, search for the policies of other businesses in the same vertical. Two great but very different examples of policies to refer to include:
Gift card legalities
Finally, it’s important to know you’re not breaking any laws while offering a gift card or gift certificate options. For example, one common law is that the amount of money on the card cannot expire. For more specific guidelines for your region, check the link below:
Setting up online gift cards really doesn’t need to be complicated. Make sure your business can keep up with the big guys, no matter their size. And make sure you stand out from the competition to go to with all the tools and knowledge to make that happen.