Blog: How to Select an Effective Gift Card Solution?

A 10-Point Guide to Gift Card Solutions

In my previous post, I took you through ‘8 Ways You Can manage Cashflow During the Coronavirus Crisis’. If you haven’t read that yet, I recommend you check it out here. In a move away from my normal style, I offered my thoughts on boosting and protecting revenue during these most challenging times. One of my 8 suggestions was to look at implementing a gift card solution. I thought I would take this opportunity to take a deeper look at gift card solutions, and how to select a solution, and implement it for a hotel or group.

Protect and Grow Your Revenue Through Gift Cards

As I previously explained, during times of crisis, a gift card solution can be a vital way of protecting revenue if you replace refunds with future-dated gift cards for your guests. By offering flexible and value-boosted gift cards to the purchaser, you can also grow your revenue.

While creating the correct package is key to grabbing the potential guest’s attention, there is a more critical step to be performed. That step is the selection of a gift card solution. There are several options in the market. But how do you know which one is right for your hotel?

So, here is my 10-point guide to selecting a gift card solution.
Protect and Grow Your Revenue Through Gift Cards

1. Does it allow you to sell online?

Let’s be honest, the majority of gift cards will be bought online through a web shop. It must be easy for you to set up and use this web shop. The buyer experience needs to be both simple, and flexible enough to offer the correct amounts and packages.

But for a hotelier, it needs to be customizable to fit with the personal branding online. To avoid losing customers, when browsing the web shop it must have that same look and feel as the hotel website. An unfamiliar look and feel makes it easy for customers to stray.

2. Does it come with a core set of basic features?

Having the correct look and feel is key, but a web shop without the core set of basic features will soon become a headache. Once customers are purchasing gift cards, the web shop must support processes for delivery, selling and redeeming of gift cards, product administration and of course that all important reporting and accounting. This final point is critical, as without the correct checks and balances it is possible to lose track of sales, which will hinder the job of even the most diligent of revenue managers.

3. Will it enable you to sell gift cards over the counter?

While it is true that the majority of gift card sales is online, the flexibility to sell gift cards over the counter is a critical part of the solution. Make sure that the gift card solution you select, is able to support this. Over the counter sales are of course key when dealing with refunds, as offering a gift card in place of a refund is one of my top tips for protecting revenue streams in times of crisis.
3. Will it enable you to sell gift cards over the counter?

4. Can you create gift cards with zero payments?

I’m back to that point about flexibility again, but it is that crucial. You might need to create promotional gift cards on the fly. The selected solution must allow you to create gift cards instead of cash or card refunds i.e. you should be able to bypass the payment step. This indeed is another way of protecting those revenue streams.

5. Does it come pre-integration with a payment gateway?

Solutions integration has long been a pain point throughout the hospitality industry. An effective gift card solution must come ‘ready to go’. This means it is already integrated with a payment gateway. This must be a low-cost solution ready to cover the standard payment options hotel guests will use. This is to avoid lengthy waits for interfaces and new payment systems.

As well as being low-cost, the pre-integrated payment gateway must quickly deliver the money from the guest to the hotel’s bank account. Delays in payments cost hoteliers money, so they must be avoided at all costs, if you pardon the pun!

6. How easy is gift card redemption on this solution?

Gift cards that are tricky to redeem are a sure-fire way for guests to lose faith in them. The system must be quick and easy for purchase AND redemption. For hoteliers we are back to the checks and balances, and flexibility again. On the first point the solution must record all redemption activities. For my second point, the system must offer flexibility to allow the expiry date to be extended easily.

7. How soon can you go live with your gift card product on this solution?

How long does the selected solution take to go-live? Realistically the time to market once a solution is selected should not be more than a few hours, at most a few days. After all, lost time is lost revenue! As of 2020, with most solutions delivered via a software as a service (SaaS) model, there is no reason why a gift card solution should take more than a few days to go live!

8. Does it offer both physical and digital gift cards?

Don’t think I’ve gone crazy here, but don’t forget the gift cards! While an online voucher will be the most likely solution, don’t forget the requirement for physical gift cards too. Certainly, some guests will enjoy the traditional physical gift card, especially if they want to present it to someone as a gift.
Does it offer both physical and digital gift cards?

9. How good is its reporting capability?

Does the gift card solution include an easy-to-use reporting capability? Is it possible track gift cards sales by region, by sales channel, redemptions, or close-to-expiration gift cards? Does it allow an accountant to track data like debt balances or the VAT log? These are all important questions, and ones that must be answered during the selection of any gift card solution.

10. What is the total cost of ownership?

My final point is just as important as the first 9. Make sure to compare the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the solution. This must include the set-up fees, the monthly recurring fees, cost of the cards, cost of delivery and the payment gateway cost. Once all of these are pulled together, you’ll have the TCO of the solutions you are considering. Having these numbers will help you easily compare the solutions.

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Simon I’Anson is Chief Strategy Officer with Hoist Group, whose main focus is finding Hoist Group’s myriad of advanced technology solutions their rightful home in some of the world’s greatest hotels.  With over 15 years of experience in the hospitality technology space, he is sharing his valuable insights through these posts. Outside of work he is a big fan of many sports, including Rugby and Tennis, enjoys spending time with his family, and likes the type of music that should be turned up to ‘11’. You can find more about him here – LinkedIn