*This article was originally published on December 3, 2020.
It’s no secret that gift cards are one of the most powerful tools that businesses can use to grow sales. As many cities and regions emerge from lockdown, merchants need to capitalize on every opportunity to bring customers in and drive sales. For most merchants, implementing creative ways to use gift cards as an agile B2C strategy makes sense, but what about B2B? The gift card has evolved to become an essential consumer-facing tool. Still, it often seems as though B2B gift card programs and strategies have remained the same, even during times of significant change in consumer behavior. The stagnation in B2B strategy has made many businesses hesitant to enter this sales channel that is full of opportunity.
One of the biggest reasons for this lack of action is that traditional B2B programs are not designed to be agile. Many programs require cumbersome, and often time-intensive, processes to develop and roll out promotions. In common practice, when a B2B program develops an opportunity, the account manager will reach out to the appropriate brands, these brands must then review to approve or deny and communicate back with the account manager, who must subsequently pass on that information to implement. Seem efficient? It shouldn’t.
Many B2B programs operate with so many brands that they must develop a specific promotional calendar with little room for flexibility. Additionally, they tend to focus on the largest and most well-known brands, giving very little attention to smaller retailers. These factors can make the idea of launching and managing a B2B strategy overwhelming and seemingly not worth it. However, when a merchant selects the right B2B partners, this channel can offer an exciting opportunity for growth—especially during times of shifting consumer demands, expectations, and behavior.
The secret to a successful B2B strategy is the same thing that drives a successful B2C program: creativity. The gift card can be a brand’s most agile tool, so B2B programs must allow merchants to highlight their gift card programs in ways that make sense for them. What does it mean for a B2B program to be developed from a lens of creativity and innovation? And how can brands identify B2B partners that will help support their individual goals rather than putting them on the traditional conveyer belt?
Ultimately, brands need to seek out B2B partners that put control back into their hands.
The most agile B2B programs should tailor each merchant’s experience to reflect their unique brand strategies in order to optimize performance. This is done most successfully through striking a balance between self-service portals and personalized account management. Portals with self-serve capabilities to update assets, launch promotions, and access real-time data can help brands make on-the-fly changes that can have a large impact on overall sales. And while portals are becoming cornerstones for B2B success among merchants of every size, having access to a responsive account manager is also vital. The partnership between a merchant and a B2B program is precisely that— a partnership.