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Monday, May 24, 2010

Gift cards aren't just for Home Depot anymore!

Small business has several barriers when it comes to competition.  Some are local companies or shops that cater to a very small geographic area.  After all, there can only be so many dry cleaners competing for the limited number of shirts produced by the demographics.

Another is larger competitors.  For one, national chains can operate cheaper because of their size.  A foot print of 1,000 stores provides them with the buying power to reduce costs to almost half of what the small business man is expecting to pay for supplies.  Another is the use of technology.  Sometimes the small business person just can't compete with the convenience and other advantages that a larger store has in terms of automation, marketing, and logistics.

One of those advantages is the use of gift cards.  Now, in today's technological climate, it may seem real easy for any sandwich shop or pizzeria or dress shop or even auto detailer to run out to their bank or credit card provider and sign up for that special feature of being able to sell gift cards to their customers.  After all, what better way to up sell, or re-sell services to those who don't even know they need it yet.  Gift cards have come a very long way.  You can go to one of those big chain stores and see a wall full of gift cards from all of your favorite places.  Home Depot, Applebee's, TGI Friday's, Barnes and Noble, etc.

The fact that consumers have access to "shopping" and spending money at these stores WHILE in a Walmart is an advantage alone.  Aside from having the convenience to do so, it's also free advertising.   To a small business owner trying to compete with those giants it seems a task almost insurmountable.

It's tempting as a consumer to just grab a card heading to the check out line because it is that convenient.  I've done it more than a few times while pressed for time and ideas  (think EVERY single Christmas Eve :) ).

What can the small business owner do then to compete.  Having the ability to offer  a card is one thing, and not that difficult to do.  Again, any credit card processor can provide ANY merchant that service.  However, when you consider the costs of the service, the plastic itself, and the actual marketing of the campaign, it can be overwhelming and down right cost prohibitive to the business.

Well along comes W3Giftcards.  W3 is the product of Brad Oyler and his gang of tech junkies who started out building websites and databases.  "We started out a small company just building websites for local businesses.  I quickly realized that they needed so much more in terms of help in marketing and utilizing technology to do so.  Out of that spawned W3Giftcards and we have a vision to not only offer the service, but to help facilitate the marketing for the businesses that use it." said Brad.

The service is an end to end turn key solution, and once it's up, the client can offer consumers the ability to purchase gift cards directly off of their site.  The consumer can even choose different card designs to personalize their gift.  They also provide a Facebook application where you can sell your cards directly off of your Facebook group or fan page so that clients can optimize their marketing efforts and maximize their sales.

From the merchants side, the product is efficient to use in that it allows you to access all of your orders.  You can track sales, those that have been redeemed, and where you get the most traction.   There is also a mobile phone app so that clients can validate and redeem gift cards in case there is no computer or internet connection (think pizza delivery drivers!)

Aside from the product itself, W3 has in place a marketing program to help the client maximize the delivery of the cards into the consumers hands.  Guerrilla Marketing techniques are employed and they will show you how to best market the product so you can get as many in the hands of consumers as possible.  The cost for this service?  How about Zero!  Zilch!  Setting up is free, and W3 doesn't make any money until you start selling cards.  They take a transaction fee per card and is considerably less than your standard bank card.

What excites me the most about these guys is that they themselves are local.  They understand the local economy, and the local community.  For consumers, it's another convenience to them allowing for easy purchases to their favorite local retailers.

For more info on W3Giftcards contact 

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