By Jason Mineo-Goggin, Senior Product Manager
The first foray most retail and restaurant brands make into prepaid commerce is through consumer-facing gift cards. However, one of the simplest ways to offer gift cards is through a B2B (business-to-business) program, which is often overlooked until certain buying behaviors are observed in-store or businesses and distributors begin knocking at your door.
Opportunities in the B2B space range from small business managers seeking to reward their employees to large-scale, cross-promotional opportunities with mega-corporations. By addressing these needs, more cards can get into more wallets with minimal purchase friction and, in the end, this drives more feet through your door.
Getting out in front of these opportunities can position you for growth with minimal effort. However, choosing how you enter the B2B prepaid commerce space requires weighing your available bandwidth for such efforts against how much control you would like to maintain.
Self-Managed B2B Prepaid Commerce Programs
If you’re feeling scrappy or have limited resources, testing the waters may be the way to begin. Testing a B2B program can be as simple as using existing consumer card inventory to manage a gentle stream of B2B orders. However, these programs can become more complex and – if you’re using consumer B2C cards – more expensive, rather quickly.
Managing an internal program can be advantageous as you can tailor the approach to meet your needs. However, it can become resource intensive as it grows. While initially maintaining relationships with a processor, fulfillment house and a small stable of clients can be doable, it takes a significant amount of human capital to move beyond your initial offering and grow the B2B program. With growth comes more order management, marketing and client demands. The incremental time and resource costs can be absorbed in an organization that has available management and technical capacity, but can lead to stale programs and unhappy customers when the team can no longer handle the demand.
Technology-Assisted B2B Programs
While still a form of self-management, a technology-assisted program can alleviate much of the heavy lifting associated with a purely internal program. By working with a software provider that specializes in providing white-labeled, B2B gift card solutions, you will have a market-facing presence that solves for a wide array of common needs out of the gate. Allowing a provider to manage the technology end can enable your team to focus on program marketing and managing your client base.
Software as a service (SaaS) solutions include functionality that addresses the most common B2B needs. SaaS solutions simplify client registration and management, offer discounting and approval controls, provide access to promotional resources, and allow your clients to order for themselves. SaaS offerings also provide certain levels of customization, including visual branding and data collection. Most important of all, SaaS solutions allow you to scale efficiently, so you can grow your gift card business without needing more resources.
Resellers and Distribution Networks
Using existing resellers and distributors is another way to grow your reach. It also enables you to have a more hands-off approach to your B2B program. By teaming up with a network, you entrust industry experts to offer your gift cards to a wide array of partners that may range from large scrip and rewards providers to smaller businesses. As such, this already proven list of purchasers is often the quickest route to market.
There is a tradeoff in working only with networks. You give up flexibility in your offering, because you are subject to the tools and marketplaces the networks offer. However, the return is immediate in access to buyers with minimal or no marketing.
For organizations that do not have B2B programs, the most important thing to do is to get started with B2B. There is no one path to success. Self-managed, technology-assisted and reseller/distribution network programs are all viable options. By choosing one (or more) based on your needs, resources and budget, you will be on the way to getting more of your gift cards into more wallets!
For more information on starting your B2B prepaid commerce and gift card program, The Gift Card Network’s Gift Card 101: B2B Overview is a great resource.