Gift cards, certificates, and vouchers are great way to drive new and recurring revenues for your business. Did you know, however, that there are very specific rules and regulations around the issuing and redemption of gift cards? Have you planned for and taken the appropriate accounting steps to manage your gift card revenues? Not to worry. We've done some of the leg work for you and put together a list of things you need to know as you get ready to sell gift cards, certificates, and vouchers.
Gift Card Benefits
There are a lot of benefits to selling gift cards to new and existing customers. As online customers become more sophisticated, they are expecting to be able to purchase gift cards directly from merchants and be able to redeem them both online and in-person where appropriate. The benefits to you, as a tour or activity business, include:
- Higher booking value – 40% of customers who use a gift card spend more than the face value of the gift card. Customers overspend by an average of 33% according to Moneris.
- Breakage – 20% of Gift Cards are never redeemed and cards with a balance of less than $15 generally go unused.
- Attract new business – Gift Cards are a great way to introduce new customers to your business. In addition, these new customers will be visitor your website or store front with the sole purpose of booking one of your experiences.
- Branding – Gift Cards, whether virtual or tangible, are a great way to keep your brand top of mind.
- Interest bearing – Sometimes it can be days, weeks, or even months before a customer redeems a gift card. In the meantime, that money is collecting interest for your business.
What customers want in a Gift Card
- No activation or maintenance fees
- No expiry date
- Redeemable online or in-person
- Redeemable for any tour or activity
- Stored value so it can be used multiple times
- Replacement available for lost or stolen cards
Look before you Leap
Before you decide to offer gift cards, certificates, or vouchers to your customers, make sure you understand your obligations and your customers' rights.
Know Gift Card Rules
The first thing you need to check are the laws regarding gift cards in your country and/or state or province. Every country and, in the case of the U.S. and Canada, each state or province has slightly different laws regarding gift card expiration, fees, and escheatment. Before you sell a gift card to someone, you need to understand what you can and cannot do with that gift card. A quick search on Google will help you find the laws for Gift Cards in your region. If you are unsure about your legal obligations regarding gift cards, be sure to seek appropriate legal advice or talk to your local government finance or consumer affairs department.
Your Gift Card Terms
Once you know what your local gift card rules and regulations are, you need to put together your gift card terms. It is a requirement in all regions that your gift card terms and conditions be readily available to all customers who purchase gift cards. These terms can be shown separately or as part of your general terms and conditions. Regardless of where you choose to display your gift card terms, they must be publicly accessible by your customers. If you are looking for well worded gift card terms, I recommend you take a look at the Gift Card Terms from Blurb.com.
Understand Gift Card Accounting
Are you aware that selling gift cards incurs a liability for your company? According to Accounting Tools, "The initial sale of a gift card triggers the recordation of a liability, not a sale. This is a debit to cash and a credit to the gift cards outstanding account." When you sell a gift card for $100 to a customer, that money does not immediately become income. In fact, those funds should be kept aside in a separate account (Gift Cards Outstanding) and only transferred to Sales once the gift card is actually redeemed. In the case of escheatment laws, you may even be required to remit unused gift card cash value to the government after a certain amount of time. That would be hard to do if you've already spent the money. I recommend you speak to your accountant and make sure you understand your financial obligations before you start offering gift cards.
Using Gift Cards to Promote Loyalty
One way to use gift cards is to use them as a loyalty reward for customers who have purchased with you in the past. Instead of providing a discount on your tour, provide your customer with a gift card that has a value that can be applied to the booking. Given that gift card numbers are unique, you can even use the gift card number as a loyalty number and add value to cards as required.
Monitoring Your Gift Card Program
Once you have your gift card program up and running, you'll want to keep a close eye on the funds you receive and your outstanding gift card balance. Be sure to keep your gift card purchasing customers up to date. Market to them at key times of the year, for example at specific holidays like Valentines Day, Spring Break, National Holidays, or Religious Holidays. Promote your gift card program through email or through local partners.
Ready, Set, Go
Now that you know the basics, you can take advantage of the Gift Card features available in Rezgo. We take care of the technology and best practices so you can focus on what you do best, making people smile!