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Gift Cards – An Overlooked Revenue Stream

While offering gift cards in store is a convenience for customers, savvy retailers are also viewing them as a revenue center. Third party gift cards are actually one of the highest profit centers per square foot on the sales floor. Statistics show that the average person spends over $300 per year on gift cards; this is largely due to the fact that gift cards are the most requested gift for the last 12 years straight. This industry has boomed to over $160 billion in annual sales. In order to drive gift card sales, the first tactic is to look at the display itself. Is it worn out and ready for a refresh? Is it fully stocked with up to date cards? While assessing the fixture, one should also consider the size and placement of the display. It’s an important sales tactic to present the gift card category to the customer with as large of a display as your space can accommodate in a prominent well-trafficked area at or near the front of the store. This allows for maximum shopping content…

Preventing Gift Card Fraud

Every couple weeks or so I get a call or email about a store that had fallen victim to a gift card scam. These fraud attempts are inevitable, however prevention is possible! Fraudsters are clever, convincing, intimidating and even threatening. They change their approach and scam type frequently until something works. If only that intellect and energy were used for good. One of the scams I hear about often is, an employee fields a call from an individual that claims to be someone from Visa, Blackhawk, POS Vendor or even a person of rank within their own organization. The person calling would then claim that they need to test the system for proper data transmission, or some other reason and request to have a certain card or cards activated and be told what the card numbers are so they can verify the codes. Once they get those activated card numbers they can then deplete the card funds for their personal use. It’s important to train staff members that NO ONE not even a government official will call with any such…

Curious Co-branding

Ever see a product’s advertising that infuses another brand and think, “that makes so much sense”? Things like Taco Bell and Doritos, BMW & Louis Vuitton, Apple Pay & Master Card, Boulevard Beer & Tech N9ne, wait…what?? Craft beer and hip-hop? Oh…that’s right, I forgot to mention co-branding doesn’t have to make total sense on the surface. Sure it doesn’t hurt to mesh Yum brands with bold delicious snacks or high end luxury with glam products, but if you eat Taco Bell you probably already eat Doritos and if you can afford a BMW likewise you know about or purchase Louis Vuitton luggage. However, it’s the outside the box brand collaborations that gain exposure to markets that previously might not have been available. For the content purpose of this blog I’m going to use the combo mentioned previously, Boulevard Beer & Tech N9ne (mostly true accounts from a speaking event hosted by KCDMA featuring Pat Mullin of Boulevard). Now I understand that some people reading this will not know one, if not either of these brands, so I’ll provide a…

Voice activated "What can I help you with?"

Voice search AI and local business strategy

Artificial Intelligence is the ability of a computer system to perform tasks of human intelligence. Conspiracy theories about what Artificial Intelligence is, can do, or what it’s used for are all over the place. Humans are naturally fearful of what we don’t fully understand so we create adverse ideas and scenarios to rationalize our fear. Whether you harbor suspicions about AI or not it’s already here and making things easier. As I write this blog Google’s Smart Reply just identified the text in an email and provided me 3 options to use in response with the click of a button…boom just saved twelve keystrokes. Speaking of saved keystrokes, AI has made huge strides in the voice activated virtual assistant channel. Virtual assistants are in-home devices like Alexa and Google Home, but they’re also available on your mobile devices like Siri and Cortana. Virtual assistants recognize voice commands in many different languages with only a 5.9% error rate; meaning they understand the same amount as you or I do in a conversation now. When using a virtual assistant you are utilizing…

Various Gift Cards in a Pile

It’s A Gift Card Kinda Party

Hooray, 2018 is here! 2017 feels like it went quicker than a Scaramucci tour in the White House. Even though retrospective perception of time seems like a flash of light, that doesn’t mean much did not occur. The retail world is a constant day after day battle of retaining customers, attracting new and staying ahead of competition. It takes a conscious effort to take a look back at events, accomplishments and glance ahead, so here is a 500-word 3-minute snapshot. We all got our You Know What’s handed to us over the last couple years by EMV (Europay, MasterCard & Visa), yep those little chips embedded in credit/debit cards. Thanks to the EMV compliance mandate thousands of businesses suffered losses from the shift in fraud liability. What happens is repugnant no-good swindling victimizers take stolen credit cards or card information and purchase as many gift cards as possible. Why gift cards? Because they are a form of currency, and are basically cash. By the time a card owner realizes they have become a casualty, the thief already has untraceable funds.…

Customer loyalty program w growth arrow

Keys to effective loyalty

Loyalty programs begin with wanting to reward loyal frequent customers, however most loyalty programs fail within 2 months of implementation because there isn’t a strategy designed to support them. Recently I attended an event hosted by Spin Pizza where I learned how their loyalty program achieved success. They started by identifying that they did not want it to be a discount program. Offering frequent discounts tells the customer you’re playing with margin and they are being over charged at regular price. Reward based loyalty performs better than instant discount by more than 42%. Upon customer sign up they load the users card with points, this kind of “primes the pump” so to speak. The customer then builds additional points per visit, when certain bench marks are reached the customer gets special perks like “Spin Club Dough”, basically cash vouchers that can be used for purchases. Loyalty rewards need to be carefully analyzed to determine how tolerable the reward is to sales. As a customer it would be nice to get paid for eating pizza, but that wouldn’t be the most…

Digital face depiction

Internet Technology and It’s Crazy Capabilities

I attended a presentation on technology and consumer trends. Here’s a little of what I came back with. Ever log onto the Interwebs to browse your favorite sites and an advertisement pops up? Of course you have. Did you think it was coincidence that the ad was promoting something you had searched before? Well, it wasn’t. In fact that advertisement was specifically for you. I know you’re thinking to yourself. How is that even possible?! I knew the government was hiding aliens! No, not really, well maybe, who can really be sure. What I can tell you; is that aliens didn’t generate that advertisement; it was delivered to your screen by something called AI (Augmented Intelligence). Augmented Intelligence is a technology that analyzes 2.5 Exabytes per day. What’s an Exabyte? I know, I had to look it up too, but to save you time I’ll share. An Exabyte is one quintillion bytes, or one billion gigabytes. Gigabytes are one billion bytes, so it’s a billion times a billion times 2.5…A LOT of data. We all contribute data. The sites you…

5Reasons for Social Media

Children’s Mercy provides millions of dollars of uncompensated care to patients thanks to the generosity of their charitable donors. Children’s Mercy provides high-level care to thousands of children each and every year. They have journeyed a long way from their single bed beginning in 1897 to today, where they are building and growing relationships via social media. As with many businesses social media is a primary area of focus for Children’s Mercy. During a recent AMAKC event, members of the Children’s Mercy team outlined their 5R approach to social media. Their 5R approach was a key takeaway for me and can be associated to any business’ social media presence. This is how I view the relevance of each 5R when utilizing social media for business. Reputation: Social media delivers tons of information that affects how people perceive businesses. Companies are exposed more now than ever. It is paramount that businesses have a social media presence and dedicated personnel maintaining their platforms. Reputations are built, improved and destroyed in minutes due to the reach of social media. Referrals: Society is very…

Credit card chip as a pad lock

EMV…The New 4 Letter Word in Retail

Credit card fraud has been an issue for a long time. EMV chip technology is designed to minimize card-present counterfeit fraud. EMV chips create a cryptogram with every transaction, a temporary dynamic transaction code. If card data is stolen via data breach (see Target 2013, or Home Depot 2014) the information cannot be used to create counterfeit cards because the cryptogram expires. So why are more secure transactions such a heated issue for retailers? The EMV mandate shifted the liability onto the merchant, which is costing retailers tons of money in charge-backs. Many businesses have the equipment necessary for EMV transactions, but becoming compliant with EMV standards is proving more difficult than expected. Acquirers, processors and POS providers are inundated with stores needing the certifications to turn EMV on. Testing requirements have been streamlined from 35 scripts to only 14, however there are still countless vulnerable retailers out there waiting for their equipment to be certified. Since retailers are now burdened with the liability of fraudulent charges, individuals committing fraud are relentlessly targeting merchants that are not EMV compliant. One…

Large gift card display

Where are the gift cards!?!?

If you’re like me, and I’m sure plenty of you are, you procrastinate shopping for holidays. Or get so wrapped up in the day-to-day you forget about important events, such as Mother’s Day. Yes, I forgot about Mother’s Day. I know! I’m a bad husband and son; I’ve already come to terms with this. So it’s Saturday and Mother’s Day is tomorrow and I have no time to shop, nor any idea of what I would even shop for if I had a little extra time, which I didn’t. I needed a plan and I needed it quick. So I devise a plan to gift a $50 gift card to my Mom and wife along with a Mother’s Day card, some flowers and a nice home cooked brunch. I’m thinking this is great, I just saved my “you know what”! With that I’m off to the local grocery store because it’s really close and I’m confident it’s a one-stop-shop for all my needs. I have a small window of time to gather my goods, get back home and put everything…