PITTSBURGH — Following a holiday season when Giant Eagle here saw double-digit increases in gift card sales, the retailer mailed rewards to “tens of thousands” of its “top gift card customers,” said spokesman Dan Donovan.
The mailing included a black card wallet, with a “gift card tracker” similar to a check register, an offer of two free iTunes downloads, and a thank-you note and promotional sheet highlighting 27 card offerings as “new.”
Top gift card customers were selected based on the number of cards purchased during the year and the dollar value of the cards, Donovan said.
“The gift card wallet allows us to thank our top customers for their continued business, while helping them organize and track their gift card purchases and balances,” Donovan said. The iTunes offer represents the popularity of the service and gift cards related to it, he added.
Overall, “gift card sales were extremely strong this holiday season, as customers purchased gift cards to give as gifts and to use as they purchased other gifts, all while earning fuelperks! rewards. We experienced double-digit increases over the same time last year,” he said.
The Giant Eagle program “demonstrates the power of gift cards,” said Jon Hauptman, partner at the Willard Bishop consultancy, Barrington, Ill. “Gift cards have turned into a preferred gift during the holidays, or for any seasonal gift-giving need. Giant Eagle is leveraging shopper interest in gift cards to enhance loyalty.”
Building on the offer of fuel discounts with card purchases, the thank-you gifts are another way for Giant Eagle to separate itself from the many other retailers offering gift cards, he said. “Essentially, they have taken a commodity category and they've made it highly differentiated in a very easy and straightforward way.”
“It makes a lot of sense. You'd be surprised how much weight a thank-you has, especially when it is backed with something besides a sales pitch,” said consultant Robert Passikoff, president, Brand Keys, New York.
“Ultimately, these folks have a real ROI [return on investment] mechanism that tells them whether it makes sense. They are not just doing it because it sounds good,” he said.
“Everybody is looking for ways to better engage and create loyalty bonds with the customers. That is what you are seeing. It is an infinitesimal cost to offer the added-value iTunes when you figure someone is going to come in and spend a lot of money,” Passikoff said.