Musings of a Gift Card & Payments Consultant

By Jackie Barker - Consultant, Barker Consultancy Ltd
Cast your mind back to 4th March at a hotel near the Tower of London and 2020 was feeling pretty good with just a mild threat of the impending doom ahead of us – a few elbow knocks and jokes!! Let’s not spend time reliving the past – we all know what’s happened and where we are. Needless to say, the landscape is and will, look very different in the ‘new normal’ – whatever and whenever that may be! A few stats to get us thinking… – Online sales grew 23.8% in April year on year – Retail sales dropped 19% year on year – 58% of consumers are more likely to use contactless to pay – ATM usage is down 60% – 30% surge in virtual experiences from film and fitness – Hair clippers, hair colour, dumb bells and books are among the most popular of lockdown products – 65% of people worried about online fraud or scammers – 28% have donated to charity online in the last month This confirms what we already know – The future is digital and happening faster than we thought – trends get amplified and accelerated in times of crisis. Where is the opportunity for our industry in this crisis and in the future? It is there for brands who adapt and move quickly. Congratulations to all of you who have stepped up to the plate so far. Some of my thoughts on what, I think that means for gift card are below. Do keep reading…. 1. Omnichannel – Yes, I know that word…again!! It’s an obvious one but I’m still surprised at the number of gift cards out there that can’t be spent online or, in reverse, e-codes that can’t be spent instore. Speaking to a number of brands, this has been a common frustration and previously been seen as a low priority for the wider business in general. I’m delighted to hear that given the current situation this is moving up ‘the stack’ in a lot of cases. For others to follow suit, will mean reviewing development priorities and partnering with 3rd party tech providers which may not have been an option previously. 2. Definitely digital OK, so you have a gift card that can be spent online and instore and you have a digital code that can do the same – “what next” I hear you say!! With the seismic shift to contactless payments gift cards need to follow suit. How does a customer use their gift card to pay – do they have to hand their card over at the till, is it swiped in the card reader, does a cashier have to manually enter a code, do they scan a QR code? There is an opportunity to make the customer payment journey frictionless. Mobile Wallet ……. a customer can upload their gift card and/or code into a branded app or wallet? That means: o They don’t have to remember to pick it up from behind the fruit bowl before they shop. Or search for the code somewhere in their Inbox. o They always know the balance on the card and expiry date as it’s on their phone. o It becomes a contactless payment method in store. Why would you do that? – You know who they are – An improved customer journey and payment experience – Your gift card/code becomes contactless 3. It has to be Loyalty! “If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” Howard Schultz Think about the people who have an unspent gift card, tucked neatly behind the fruit bowl in the kitchen (my house!!) or the sock drawer or wherever! There is estimated to be around £300m of unspent gift cards in circulation each year. Wouldn’t it be great to know who they are…? Are they an existing customer, or a new one? Are they part of your loyalty programme? How can you entice them to dig out that gift card and make a purchase? When they do spend, how can you ensure you know who they are – in store and online? Tie that in to the digital wallet (see above) and add your loyalty programme – you now know who has a gift card, AND if they are already a loyal customer = BIG Data Now you have a barrel of crude oil! Refine the data and you have valuable assets! (OK crude prices have dropped through the floor recently but I’m sure you get the gist!) It has never been more important to attract new customers and encourage existing ones back – gift card is one of the best marketing tools any merchant has to do just that but, if you don’t have the right product to meet customer demand or, know who those customers are and give them the experience they want, it’s an opportunity wasted! If you want to know more or need help do get in touch – Jackie@jackiebarker.co.uk

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