You’ve decided that you want to offer gift cards. What qualities and capabilities should you look for in a gift and rewards partner? As you begin your search for a program and a partner, be prepared to answer questions such as whether you want to give customers the ability to choose the card value; how you want to sell and distribute cards; and whether you want to include rewards in your gift/loyalty program. Here’s our checklist of five attributes to look for in a gift and rewards partner.
A Partner, Not just a Provider
Look for a gift and rewards partner with an established track record and a rollout and training methodology that’s been proven over time. Seek a partner that is willing to take the time to consult with you on details such as card design, launch and marketing plans, program rollout, and employee training. The best partners will be willing to listen and understand what makes your business unique, and develop gift and incentives programs that not only fit your business but get results. They will also offer plans and pricing that fit your budget.
Full Range of Sales Channels and Distribution Options
Look for partners that support both gift cards and rewards (not all do). A rewards program can help drive sales, increase card replenishment revenue, and, ultimately, loyalty. Look for a partner that can support your customers’ buying preferences such as online purchase through your web site or gift card mall; online replenishment, and automatic reload, as well as physical cards alongside eGift / virtual cards, with the ability to transfer the balance from the physical card to a virtual wallet. If you have a mobile app (or are thinking of releasing one) that you want to integrate with your gift and rewards offering, be sure to consider a partner that can support this integration as well, so you can accept gift card payments and show rewards status through your app, and thereby interact with your customers where they manage their lives: on their smartphone.
Highly Customizable Rewards
Merchants need to continually raise the bar when it comes to incentives and rewards, so they can offer rewards that are more enticing than those of their competitors. Gift and rewards vendors with a robust back-end rewards engine can help you fine-tune your rewards based on any number of parameters and customer incentive triggers that work with your sales and financial model and help you meet your goals. And if all this sounds complicated, it doesn’t have to be, when your partner offers experienced consultants who work with you one-on-one to understand your needs and devise a program.
Comprehensive Solutions Beyond Gift & Rewards
A seasoned provider will understand that gift and rewards programs don’t operate in a vacuum, and they will have developed a broad range of offerings related to gift such as integration with point-of-sale; customer intelligence (customer relationship management – CRM), engagement and marketing; virtual or mobile gift card; stored value/wallet; both value-based cards and item/product-based cards (which are great for employee appreciation or employee holiday gifts); the ability to develop a mobile app and online ordering; and marketing campaign management.
All the Essentials
Partners that make the short list should offer:

  • A track record of success including recognizable brands as clients.
  • A reliable platform: 99.99% or better uptime.
  • Support for high transaction volume.
  • Continually improving controls with regard to fraud prevention.
  • Options and packages that suit your budget and can grow with you.
  • A responsive, dedicated account and technical support team, preferably based in-country, to consult with you, answer your questions, and resolve issues, should any arise.
  • Robust, all-in-one gift card sales reporting and rewards tracking tool that is easy to access and understand.
Gift cards are in high demand. In fact, 89% of consumers surveyed expect gift cards to be available for purchase.
I hope that this checklist informs some of your decisions as you think about what kind of loyalty program to offer and how to find a partner that can help you implement it. 

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