By Caitlin Skulley, Director, Partner SuccessAt last month’s CashStar Innovate 2016 conference, our clients and partners gathered to tackle important topics including: What considerations and challenges do merchants and partners face as they optimize B2B? What are the critical factors for successful partnerships such as discount rates, promotion opportunities and marketing? With so many industry experts gathered in one place, it’s no surprise that many common themes surfaced during our time together.
Below are some of the key takeaways:
The merchant gift card manager position is an internal sales role.
Getting internal buy-in within your company is key to a successful program. Gift card managers need to consider all internal department stakeholders when building a strong business case for distributing gift cards. Legal needs to clearly understand the details in order to turn around contracts quickly. Finance needs to review and approve the financial flow and reconciliation reports. Marketing departments need to review and approve all branding elements. In-store operations need to be aware of gift card form factors that customers could be using in store. Last, but not least, the executive team will want to see positive results and ROI analysis. Converting these individual departments into internal stakeholders invested in the success of the program is critical. And don’t forget to promote the team’s achievement after a successful program launches to build continued support.
It’s not a one-size-fits-all model.
Merchants are wise to be strategic as to how their brand is presented by partners, while partners should be selective in determining which brands will resonate with their customer demographics. Partners that have multiple programs need to have curated eGift card catalogs so that brands can choose which programs they want to participate in. Partners need to show that they are bringing net new customers to the merchants or drumming up old customers that haven’t purchased at a merchant for more than one year. Merchants also want partners to have an open channel to share customer insights.
Customers like gift cards more than cash.
According to Nat Salvione, vice president of business development and partnerships at Tango Card, people are nine times more likely to refer a friend to a program if they receive a gift card for themselves as an incentive to do so. Word of mouth is crucial, as gift card recipients on average tell three people about their experience. Customers also want their digital gift cards instantly – either by email delivery, an automatic upload to their app or an instant pop-up on their screen to promote immediate shopping, causing a loyalty loop for the merchant and the partner.
Partners can pass merchant discounts as a ‘bonus’ to the customer.
CashStar Exchange partner Ebates, an online portal that offers cash back by shopping through their website, is a great example of this. Ebates offers their customers two options for their quarterly cash-back payout: a cash check sent via mail or an instant digital gift card. To steer customers towards digital gift cards, Ebates incentivizes them with an additional 5-15 percent cash back, depending on the brand, to sweeten the deal. This method works! Ebates campaigns show that merchants who agree to add a bonus get more than one and a half times the conversions versus merchants who only offer face value cards.
Determine the best cross-promotions via merchant-partner collaboration.
In Tango Card’s H&R Block refund bonus program, customers who use H&R Block software for their taxes have the option to convert their federal tax refund to a digital gift card instantly, instead of waiting for the check from the government. Similar to Ebates, H&R Block adds five percent on top as an added bonus. As a merchant participating in this program, Hotels.com used this opportunity to execute a promotional campaign for customers via their loyalty app and social media. The hashtag #taxrefundation drove Hotels.com customers to H&R Block to do their taxes, and in return they received a Hotels.com digital gift card to go on vacation.
As we saw at Innovate, merchants and partners are working together to enhance B2B distribution. With CashStar’s underlying technical connectivity and support, these brands are able to partner together to create effective and creative programs for the consumer’s benefit.
CashStar’s Exchange network enables merchants to expand prepaid commerce revenue opportunities while enhancing Exchange partner programs. CashStar manages the end-to-end relationships and provides performance insights, minimizing time and effort needed to drive and optimize business growth. Exchange partners include loyalty and incentive partners (i.e. Ebates, Maritz, TangoCard), Scrip and digital third-party resellers (i.e. Great Lakes Scrip, National Gift Card), social and mobile apps (i.e. United MileagePlus X) and promotional partners (i.e. PayPal/eBay).