Digital gift cards are quickly gaining ground as consumers discover they’re an easy alternative to traditional plastic cards. Where conventional gift cards have limited flexibility and distribution potential, the digital variety can be offered in many denominations, delivered directly through social networks, and paid for by one person or several people (handy for group gifting). Recipients use the digital gift card online just like a regular card, or they can store it in a mobile wallet (Apple Passbook and Samsung Wallet, to name a few) for later use.
However, the digital gift card evolution brings a number of barriers to entry—necessary infrastructure technology and associated payment or ecommerce systems among them—that are difficult for many small businesses to overcome.
Digital Gift Cards: A Marketing Tool for Small Business
A new solution from eGifter aims to change all that. Tyler Roye, CEO, says his team gathered feedback from small business owners about the features and functionalities they wanted, and then used that input to conquer the challenges that often prevent smaller organizations from launching their own digital gift card program.
Designed to integrate with existing ecommerce platforms and point-of-sale systems, eGifter allows many SMBs to avoid hefty infrastructure costs and disruptive upgrades. But that’s just the beginning of the power eGifter puts in the hands of small shops.
According to Roye, the digital gift cards bring new opportunities to the table. "The digital gift card is really a light, nimble offering that travels well over social networks, over mobile devices, and it's easier to stitch into a lot of creative marketing." Social sharing and mobile commerce are changing not only the way consumers spend their time, they’re changing how they spend their money. Maximizing those marketing avenues is a top priority for businesses of every size.
Small and midsized businesses can tap into powerful marketing possibilities once they add a digital gift card to the mix. "What’s nice about a digital gift card, especially one with infinitely variable denominations, is it's really like a brand’s own currency," Roye explains.
Big Features for Small Business
The eGifter platform currently serves some of the largest retailers in the country—Groupon, TGIFriday’s and Regal Entertainment Group among them. But rather than scale down the functionalities often associated with big-business solutions, Roye says of the new SMB offering, "We added all sorts of things—like personalization features, animated e-greeting cards with video messages, and of course that whole group chip-in aspect." Group gifting options are increasingly popular with consumers, and SMBs can now entice customers with the ability to easily share gift costs with friends and coworkers.
The platform also includes a host of marketing features, such as card link bonuses. "You buy a $25 gift card for a friend, and get a $5 or $10 promotional gift card for yourself," Roye explains. Likewise, while sending specialty or loyalty offers to existing customers is standard practice for many businesses, eGifter takes that concept to the next level.
"We give them a tool to do a lot more than just send it out to those customers," Roye says. The platform leverages proprietary algorithms against social graph data to try to identify the closest friends of the SMB’s fans and customers, and then makes it easy to share special offers with those close friends.
The platform can analyze and sort relevant data by gender, age, and location. "All of this of course is based on inducing them to choose the social login options," Roye says, referring to Facebook and other social connections built into the platform. It’s a feature that’s particularly useful for small businesses trying to drive walk-in traffic within a specific area. "It doesn’t do me any good if the sharing takes place with my Facebook friend who lives across the country," Roye says.
The company plans to add mobile payments at some future point, something Roye says smaller business owners are interested in but many are still unsure about. "They feel like mobile payments can do a lot of things for the business going forward," he explains. But as the technologies continue to evolve and coalesce, SMBs are hesitant to invest too heavily into a solution that may not serve their needs. Roye says eGifter allows them to get ahead of the curve. "When they’re ready to deal with frictionless mobile payments at the point-of-sale, our technology will be part of that experience," he says.
These are the kinds of solutions that big brands love, and they’re certainly one sector that eGifter serves. But the company now delivers this power at the local and small business level. "We’re bringing big data social marketing together with some geo-targeting capabilities, and we’re packaging that all around a gift card and special offer delivery platform," Roye says.
It’s something large retailers do often, but historically it's been more of a challenge for SMBs. The eGifter platform shifts the conversation. "These smaller brands need to get over the hurdle of and incorporate digital gift cards," Roye says. "And it's really not that difficult. In fact, we make it pretty easy.
Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from foodservice to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.
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