Why Choice Remains Crucial for Gift Card Rewards
National Gift Card's Eric Thiegs urges the industry to continue offering a balance of gift card products and ways to deliver them.
This year is looking to be a big one for incentive gift card fulfillment company National Gift Card (NGC). Already boasting North America's largest gift card fulfillment facility, with cutting-edge equipment, NGC is now expanding it by an additional 40,000 square feet and bringing in additional automation machines this spring. It is also preparing to launch its new "Plastic API" for clients looking to send both physical and digital gift card orders for more than 500 brands -- in one API connection.
Incentive caught up with NGC President Eric Thiegs to learn more about what 2018 holds for the organization, and what he sees as the biggest concerns shaping the sector in the coming year. Here is what he had to say.
What would you say are the biggest challenges facing the sector overall?
There are three key challenges facing the B2B gift card sector right now: security, visibility, and choice. The security piece is being managed by those brands and firms who are investing in technology, system, and product-type upgrades across both the merchant community and distribution networks (e.g. requiring PIN at POS, IP white listing, etc.) as well as being active in monitoring for fraud.
The visibility piece is a concern when a brand's gift card is being sold into a program without their knowledge. If a brand is unable to get a list of programs that their gift card products appear in by their distribution partners, that's a problem, but one that can be easily addressed by simply asking for the list.
Finally, the industry needs to remember that there is not one single answer in the way a rewards, loyalty, or incentive program should be structured. Choice of reward, or even the way it's delivered, remains an incredibly powerful tool to keep end users engaged in your program.
We see programs moving away from plastic and going all digital only to see a vast drop in member participation as the core audience related better to a tangible reward. Conversely, there are other programs who turn away from digital (often for security/fraud concerns) to offer physical gift cards, only to limit the freedom of the real-time rewards. The industry needs to continue offering a balance of products (open loop versus closed loop) and delivery lanes (physical versus digital) because our mission is to reward and engage the end user, and every end user is unique.
How is NGC helping to address these challenges?
As North America's largest and most automated gift card fulfillment facility, we're continually looking to keep and set the golden standard on gift card sales support, agency services, and fulfillment. For instance, we're currently in the process of expanding our fulfillment facility by an additional 40,000 square feet, we're bringing in additional automation machine units this spring, and we're launching our "Plastic API" for clients who want to send both physical and digital gift card orders through for their members on a catalog of over 500 brands across U.S., UK, Europe, and Canada in one API connection.
On top of this, we have over 60 merchants who now use NGC to host and deliver their eCode templates through our Ecode Management System and direct integration with the processors, and others who rely on NGC as their pick, pack, and ship B2B gift card partner. We're doing all of this with two tenets in mind: security and quality.
What else are you excited about for the coming year?
There are a lot of exciting things happening for NGC right now. With consolidation in the marketplace, both merchants and buyer programs have turned to us to ask a lot of questions. Things such as, "Can you host my eCode template?" Yes we can! "Can you offer me an API connection so I can send both my plastic and digital orders for you to mail or email to the end users?" Yes we can! "Can you provide me both open-loop cards and closed-loop cards?" Yes we can!
As the gift card experts who house the world's only automated gift card stacker, the only global gift card API that can service both open- and closed-loop cards with one integration, and layering in the fact that for 15 years NGC has solely focused on supporting the backbone of the B2B industry, we are fortunate in that we continue offer stability as an independent player in the gift card marketplace while bringing innovation and options to our partners too.