Online Gift Cards and In Store Gift Cards

One of the biggest questions we get at Plastic Printers (my 9-5 job) is this.  Can I sell online gift cards the people buy in my store?  Can they work both ways? 

It’s a good question, and far more complex than you would think.  Now, my company Plastic Printers is an industry leader in gift card manufacturing.  Which also means we partner with tons of POS companies to offer their clients gift cards.

And some companies do this better than others.  But before we get into that, let’s try to understand the complexities of what you’re asking for.

Why is it so hard to get online gift cards that work in store too?

That’s simple enough.  It’s because your e-commerce solution and your POS aren’t usually the same company.  If you use WooCommerce for your website, and Revel Systems in store, they don’t share a database.  So one wouldn’t be able to track what you do in another.

Look at it as 2 separate computers.  One computer is your online store, the other is in store.  Both are run by you.  But they don’t share any information between them.  So if you sell a gift card in the store, there’s no way for the online store to know.  And vice versa.

But how do other companies do it?

That’s also pretty simple!  There are 3 ways to get online gift cards to work in store.

1.) Buy a POS System that has an e-commerce solution AND accepts those gift cards online.

Shopify is an excellent example of this.  So is Vend.  You use their POS AND their e-commerce store.  Then, because it is all one database of information, the online gift cards can be redeemed, and you can sell them in the store.  There aren’t a ton of companies that do this well.  Which leads us to:

2.) Find a company that will link your online store and POS

Sounds tricky, but really isn’t.  There are a couple of solution providers I work with that do this.

So for example, if you use Lightspeed eCommerce, and Lightspeed Retail together.  Lightspeed Retail takes gift cards.  But Lightspeed eCommerce does not take online gift cards.  So how do you connect them?

Companies like Accumula and Hyperspace can connect your stores.  This gives you a true “Omnichannel” feel.  In fact, these companies can also make your cloud based POS system work with Shopify or Magento too!  They’re your gateway to online gift cards.

So these are powerful solutions for your business. But they don’t come cheap.  So if you’re looking for inexpensive options, this might not be for you.

3.) Find a work around

This is the least ideal situation, but there’s usually a workaround possible.  Here’s what you’d do:

  • Start by keeping a list of the gift cards you sell in store, and how much they’re worth.
  • Now that you have your list, each day go to your online store and look at where you can assign discount codes.
  • Create a new discount code.
    • Make sure you mark it for a 1 time use only.
    • Make the code the same number that’s on the card.

Now you have a discount code for online redemption.  When your client goes to your website, they can enter the gift card number into the “discount code” field at checkout. This will make online gift cards work.

BUT BEWARE: There are serious limitations here.

First off, they only get one shot to use the gift card online then.  So if they buy a $50 gift card, but use the code to buy $20 of stuff, the code still disappears.  So they have to use the whole gift card when they do.

Also, you’re now responsible for removing those gift cards from your POS system.  Because nothing will stop your customer from redeeming their card online, then spending the same amount in your store.  In this system, the one linking your 2 databases, is you.

So if you’re aware of the dangers this can pose, this can be a useful workaround.  But it’s really better used as a gift card giveaway.  So if you’re going to give 10 cards to a charity to use for a raffle, put $10 on each, and make the discount codes online for them.

A few last tips:

If you’re going to sell online gift cards, you don’t want to use normal gift card numbering.  Usually we make these numbers sequential:

  • 1000001
  • 1000002
  • 1000003….

But that’s not gonna work for online gift cards.  Someone could start guessing gift card numbers then.  Which would be hard to explain to customers when they call and say their card doesn’t work.

You’ll want to use alpha-numeric codes, like:

  • AW69SVPDT0

This will allow you to keep some security.  We can generate these codes for you.  We do it all the time for Vend clients.

Also, if you have questions about this stuff, contact a pro, like us at Plastic Printers.  Or contact me, I can help you out too.  Also read our other blogs on gift and loyalty cards.