Week Five – Gift Card Q&A With Raj Jhuti – River Island

This week is with River Island’s Raj Jhuti, Gift Card & Partnership Manager

Hadie: What will the inevitable growth of the gift card industry be attributed to?

Raj: If the gift card moves to an app which can have money credited on it, it will transform the ease of just sending a Gift Card via email or SMS or in the post. The growing use of e-commerce, particularly smartphones, means consumers won’t see the fancy display units found in bricks and mortar and therefore your e-commerce site needs to showcase the Gift Card offering with some theatre, but with all technology comes fraud and risk and this requires a robust and secure fraud solution.

Gift Cards should be part of your business payment strategy, your branded currency provides in-depth CRM data which is a very valuable tool for growth and adopting to changes in consumer spending habits.

Business to Business Gift Cards is seeing rapid growth, sales being up 8.2% in H1 2020 (data GCVA Sept 20) and this area will continue to grow with more consumers accessing incentives, employee rewards, customer loyalty, promotions, flexible and voluntary benefits, Christmas rewards and insurance replacement, cashback, to name a few.

B2B market share by sales channel is 60% so proactively running a B2B gift card programme helps your brand stay current and relevant in the marketplace, particularly among your competitors. What’s more, if the competition doesn’t currently offer Gift Cards in B2B channels, your entry in this channel will give you the advantage of being first to market resulting in increased revenue in an area seeing substantial growth.

Hadie: What’s best – reloadable or eco-friendly plastic? What do consumers care about?

Raj: The Gift Card industry historically had majority of Gift Cards made from PVC plastic. This means that, while the material is durable, it does not naturally biodegrade, instead it retains its form for decades before breaking down into smaller plastic.

In order to reduce the amount of excess plastic in landfill and to become more eco-friendly, Retailers have slowly opted for a sustainable card programme. The new, green environmentally friendly cards are very durable and robust.

Does the average consumer know this? Probably not as they are only interested in receiving the Gift Card and spending it, however we can change that and educate our consumers with a positive note.

It’s important that as retailers, Gift Card industry experts and card manufacturers we all drive a push to eco-friendly cards, and we educate our customers where we have eco-friendly cards as the average consumer might not know this. This should form part of your business sustainability vision and marketing campaigns.
If your business has capability to re-load Gift Cards then promote this when customers hand back cards that are redeemed in full, your brand is on the card so it’s more valuable in the customers procession than in a landfill.
My peers will be shouting out Digital is the answer to this, yes, it is but physical cards are still going to be around for a very long time!

Hadie:Do retailers want more loyalty or gift card sales?

Raj: The 2 go hand in hand and can complement each other if used correctly as both are very important.
Every successful retailer will build a business model through brand awareness and this will then give them a portfolio of loyal customers, to become more successful your business needs to retain the customers by using a customer loyalty programme. One of the easiest ways to do that is use your existing Gift Card programme.
Why not offer your customers a Gift Card on their birthday? Your loyal customers should be transacting with you with your branded currency and have your brand at the forefront.
A Gift Card purchaser who may not necessarily be your customer, incentivise them to try your brand and convert them by giving them a Gift Card as a promotional tool.
Gift Cards should be part of your company’s complaints process, being able to instantly send a digital Gift Card says you hear the complaint, are taking it seriously, and appreciate their business, this turns into loyalty.
With more and more customers seeking excellent customer service and a unique brand experience, Gift Cards not only help you build customer loyalty, but also increase your brand awareness, provide an unmatched level of service, and even drive up sales with the uplift that Gift Cards offer.

Hadie: How would you use an endless pit of budget? What sales channels/ partnership solutions would transform your gift card bottom line?

Raj:Using Gift Cards as a promotional tool, customers love a Gift over a discount, and this can lead to unplanned purchases and drive positive consumer behaviour.
In the current climate as employers are unable to provide rewards and social events, realistically there will be no Christmas Parties/meals this year and offering a Gift Card reward maybe the best way for them to thank your employees, it’s a fast and easy way to do it and will definitely transform your bottom line.

Digital Gift Cards, mobile wallets and personalised Gift Cards is what consumers are expecting in 2020 and as retailers we must adopt this strategy to be at the forefront, if we don’t do it then we lose out to our competitors.


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