February 5, 2021 By SmartBiz Team

It’s well known: the 2020 pandemic has wrecked the economy. Many small businesses are struggling to navigate the new economic normal, while others are shuttering permanently.

However, there are lots of creative – and safe - strategies you can use to help you stay afloat and rebuild.

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One excellent way to drive business is to promote and offer gift cards that your customers can give to friends, coworkers, teachers, family, and more. Gift card sales were around $160 billion in 2018, and is expected to grow, especially in light of the current small business landscape. Retailers, restaurants, online sellers, or service providers can all benefit from a gift card program.

In addition to helping your business bottom line, consumers generally feel good about supporting the small businesses that are the backbone of the U.S. economy. Gift cards are an excellent way to foster that support.

What is a gift card?

In short, a gift card has a set cash value to exchange for specific goods or services from a business. Gift cards can typically be redeemed online or in a bricks and mortar store. During the pandemic, many small businesses had to close physical locations. A gift card is an excellent way to support

How does a gift card program work?

A gift card is approved by the merchant, produced, and mailed to the recipient. The receiver will activate the card, typically either by phone or online. Then, they can begin to spend the card's balance. Whenever the card is swiped, the processor confirms the card has a high enough balance to cover the transaction, in full or partially.

Benefits of a gift card program

The benefits of gift cards can be significant, helping small businesses attract new customers and build relationships with repeat shoppers.

According to a study by Fiserve:

  • 90% of consumers who receive a gift card from a small business they have never visited said they would shop at that business and return there in the future
  • 56% of surveyed consumers join loyalty or frequent shopper programs at small businesses. The same group said gift cards are the preferred way for their loyalty to be rewarded
  • Nearly four out of five consumers surveyed said if they have a gift card valued at 88 cents, they’ll visit the store to redeem it.

Reasons to put a gift card program in place ASAP include:

  • Consumers love the flexibility
  • Business support that benefits the overall community and economy.
  • New shoppers are introduced to your brand
  • Existing customers will purchase more
  • Can be used in a wide variety of ways – holiday gifts, employee gifts, or as a reward for being a loyal customer.
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How to run a gift card program

Look no further than your POS system for online gift card services. The following are the top POS systems used by small business but check with your provider if not listed below. Most have jumped on the gift card bandwagon.


Square has the functionality to allow a business owners to sell eGift cards from a website or social media pages, giving customers the option to gift from anywhere. Square eGift Cards are free to set up and offer with no hidden fees. The merchant is just responsible to pay for processing when a customer buys a gift card.

Have fun designing your branded gift card tailored to your business or you can select from premade designs.

Simply create a free Square account and configure your eGift card preferences. Then post the link to your hosted order page and start selling. All you need to redeem eGift cards is the free Square Point of Sale app. Visit Square here to get started.


Toast is a program for restaurants, an industry segment hit particularly hard by the 2020 pandemic. Through eCard Systems, you will be able to order custom gift cards, carriers, and envelopes for your restaurant.

Using gift cards with Toast POS does require adding a Gift Cards module to the Toast Suite or building a gift card program through a partner in Toast Partner Connect Toast’s own gift card service costs an additional $50 per month, though partners may have their own charges and fees.

Visit Toast now to learn more.


Shopkeeper Tools offers a simple installation process and works behind-the-scenes to generate the complex code needed to create our animated, mobile and print friendly gift cards.

All you need to do is create a gift card product and install two additional links on your gift card product page template. The app adds fields for users to enter to and from names a personal message and the interface to browse and select a design. When the purchaser receives a gift card link via email to forward to the lucky recipient, we take care of reformatting the page to create an animated, customized gift card.

There's no added fees on gift card sales for you or your customers.

Shopify’s portal has a step-by-step guide to show you how to easily add this feature to your existing Shopify plan.


Lightspeed touts its offerings as the leading Retail POS for growing businesses. Their gift cards for your restaurant will help you grow your customer base. Additionally, gift card givers are spreading the word about your business.

Gift cards in Lightspeed Restaurant act as prepaid money-valued cards affiliated with your Lightspeed Restaurant account. Gift cards are also compatible with multi-location restaurant environments. Before being able to work with gift cards in Restaurant POS, you need to first create a Gift Card payment type in Restaurant Manager.

You can then activate, recharge, and pay with gift cards in Restaurant POS.

  • Activate a gift card
  • Recharge a gift card
  • Pay with a gift card
  • Check the balance of a gift card

For more information, visit the Lightspeed information page.


Clover has two options for customer gift cards:

Physical gift cards

Over 70 design templates or upload your own custom-branded gift cards. Order in just minutes.

Digital gift cards

Buying and redeeming gift cards is easy for your customers. Digital gift cards work on any smart mobile device.

Merchants have the ability to easily issue store credit directly from the Clover POS device.

You can get the full picture of your gift card sales and redemptions with Clover Gift Card reports and there’s an easy check out process. Learn more from Clover.

Additional resources for small business 2021

With the pandemic continuing, it’s even more important to elevate your brand. The SmartBiz Small Business Blog has additional information you can use to help you rebuild or expand. Review these topical articles for actionable strategies to put in place.

How to Create a Seasonal Marketing Campaign – Take advantage of the gift-giving season and put a plan in place to capture more business.

Preparing for the Holidays in the Time of Covid – Implement solid strategies to keep your employees and customers safe while running your business.

Small Business Communications to Ease Anxiety During the Pandemic – Communication with customers and employees is key during this time. Follow these steps to help.

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