10 Steps to planning a shopping center gift card campaign

By Jeannie Lewis, jlewis@magiclogix.com, @dot jeannie

If you’ve ever wondered if gift card usage is on the rise, just check out the numbers. Last year’s National Retail Federation holiday consumer research revealed that shoppers would spend an average of $155.43 on gift cards for the 2011 holiday season, the highest since 2007. And total spending on gift cards would reach $27.8 billion, boosted by e-gifting, instant delivery through social networks, and mobile options.  This year, spending on gift cards over the 2012 holiday shopping season is expected to surpass even those staggering results.

It isn’t just retail tenants that are leveraging the power and popularity of gift cards – shopping center owners are as well.  In fact, a significant trend among shopping centers is employing a gift card campaign that involves e-gift cards which integrate the shopping center website and online presence with the brick-and-mortar presence – with the objective of increasing sales both on- and off-line.

Gift cards are inherently easy, and that’s a big part of their draw. The card is simply purchased, stored, presented and tracked; it is easily modified to present new, refreshed promotions and offerings at low cost to the shopping center. Savvy centers know that marketing the gift cards is key to how well they work. Gone are the days where word of mouth alone would carry the day. Digital marketing including social media messaging, email blasts, and multimedia tacts with properly implemented search engine optimization approaches make the difference between a satisfactory gift card campaign response, and an enormous gift card campaign response.

Following are 10 basic steps on how to run a proper shopping center gift card campaign:

1.    Determine and list brands to be promoted that will best market the image and profitability of the shopping center.  For example, include at least one anchor store if possible to showcase the big names in the center. Include smaller- stores banners to provide needed exposure and to show the diversity of the range of stores represented as well. Include at least one prestigious name if possible to hold up the value of the upper-scale brands.

2.    Plan out the timing of the gift card releases to coincide with consumer shopping habits and lifestyle activities, such as around holidays, special occasions, or off-work times of day.

3.    Target the customer demographics with appropriate content in all channels of marketing.

4.    Integrate digital marketing into the campaign to include website announcements, newsletter announcements and social media announcements.

5.    Create a separate microsite for the campaign to both communicate the campaign and track corresponding customer activity.

6.    Allow, suggest and reward referrals to gift card purchases.

7.    Include automated marketing email responses to inquiries, purchases and referrals.

8.    Implement IP reverse tracking tools, Google Analytics and additional search analytics tools of choice such as Search Metrics or Quantcast to maximize data and analysis of customer and prospective customer response.  Real time data will enable improvement on campaign results as the campaign occurs.  Take advantage of the beauty of being able to change online content in seconds and be responsive where traffic is high, and build on trends in demand.

9.    Implement video marketing to maximize the richness of the communication, the customer convenience and information-sharing. Remember to include entertaining as well as informative video presentation such as testimonials, or reenactments of positive experiences with a brand, and a gift card from the shopping center.

10.    Build a sense of community into the messaging to maximize customer loyalty, and don’t forget to have fun with the most creative parts of the execution.

The common elements that divide the highly successful gift card campaigns from the average include: campaign materials to launch the gift card both online and at point of sale, planned social media messages to inform and educate the market about the gift card as well as enhance consumer experience, and the creation of organic traffic through blog marketing, streaming video, and truly interesting marketing campaign images and material to the target audience.

Staying on top of the target audience’s trends and purchasing habits is the key to creating the optimal marketing strategy that combines both in-store and digital retail marketing for the most complementary and sales-invoking outcomes.  

Jeannie Lewis is director of PR and content strategy for Dallas-based digital marketing solutions company Magic Logix.

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