*This article was originally published on August 21, 2020.
Even before the current economic downturn, many gift card program managers faced significant challenges in successfully executing strategy for critical sales channels. Forced to grow sales with fewer resources, many merchants have turned to customer engagement as the focal point of their growth strategy. B2B partnerships are a potentially lucrative and cost-effective way to grow this engagement–with an estimated market value of $26 billion in 2019–however, lack of clarity around the actual customers in these channels is often prohibitive to merchants making the most of their B2B gift card program.
And while merchants can’t control the depth of data they are given by their affiliate partners, they do have the power to adjust certain variables to foster growth within these programs. Here are five practical strategies that managers can utilize to make the most of B2B gift card programs right now:
1) Keep up to date on current trends (on both a micro and macro scale)
Recent events have triggered a shift in how consumers spend money and interact with brands. Keeping a current understanding of both temporary trends and long-term changes in the gift card industry is essential. Setting custom news alerts and connecting with industry organizations such as the IGCC, RGCA, and GCVA are two easy ways for program managers to keep a pulse on the industry.
On a more micro level, staying up to date on your brand’s own internal data (including whatever is offered from B2B partners) is imperative. Some partners offer custom automatic reports, and others provide intuitive platforms to access live data on-demand. Keeping up with B2B program sales can highlight early indicators for changing consumer trends and may spur new promotion strategies to take advantage of shifting consumer behavior.
2) Be open to new channels (no matter your size)
Ensuring your program is taking advantage of all sales partnerships is even more pertinent given the current economic climate. Often, consumers begin to seek added value in places they may have overlooked in a better economy, and sales in B2B programs increase substantially.
So, it’s time to get creative.
For big-box retailers, this may mean looking at programs historically identified as being “too small” or “too niche.” These programs can offer unexpected benefits for larger brands, like providing a channel for customer acquisition into new demographics–a surprising path to a highly desirable customer base.
For smaller merchants, getting into many traditional B2B channels can be quite challenging, often due to unreachable program requirements. Look to more innovative programs that provide a more accessible playing field and exciting opportunities like placements next to big-box competitors. (Like us at Prizeout for instance!)
3) Get clear on your goals
A B2B gift card program can support business goals in many ways, so it is important to have clearly defined goals to act as your strategic north star. Two common goals for B2B and corporate sales strategy are
- Customer acquisition
- Customer retention/Increased sales
Prioritize partnerships that put strategic power into the hands of brands. B2B affiliates should be there to give you the tools to succeed at whatever goals your brand sets for itself.
4) Communicate with partners
It’s common for merchants to sign up with a B2B partner and consider it a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. This lack of a defined approach can be costly. Maintaining consistent communication with B2B partners allows you to fully capitalize on promotional opportunities and technical capabilities. The critical thing to remember when developing a strategy is that B2B affiliates want brands to succeed on their platform, and are often willing to provide support and thought partnership.
5) Let your card art do the work
For many merchants, a physical gift card is like a tiny billboard in your pocket or wallet, but physical designs can be costly to refresh and replace. For digital programs, card art can provide an additional level of brand strategy. Digital platforms offer merchants a way to utilize seasonal and special promotional card art without an added expense. These updates can increase consumer engagement and drive sales to specific products. To learn more about what makes good card art, check out this pdf.