by Alex Palmer | December 19, 2017
With the holiday season upon us, it's a good time to look at the do's and don'ts of effective gift card use as an employee reward. Incentive caught up with Jenny Jeansonne, CPIM, board member of the Incentive Gift Card Council (IGCC) and director of partnerships and growth at corporate stock gifting site Stockpile, to discuss why the holidays are a great time to consider gift cards as an incentive tool, as well as some of the best practices that planners should keep in mind when using them. 

What makes gift cards an effective motivational tool, particularly around the holidays? 

Gift cards are a great choice and their use by businesses continues to grow. Gift cards allow employees to splurge on gifts for themselves, or can be used to purchase gifts for others which helps with gifting budgets that most people need to plan for each year. 

What are some smart strategies for employers looking to select and deliver gift cards to their employees or sales reps? 

First and foremost, the earlier the better when purchasing physical gift cards. Physical gift cards can be purchased through corporate gifting companies or in-store if time is limited. It is a great touch to add a handwritten note and place it in a festive envelope or gift card box. Hand them out during the company holiday gathering when everyone is celebrating together.

Digital gift cards are an excellent choice for companies that have more than 100 employees or if time constraints are an issue. These can be ordered from digital reward companies. Some of these companies allow you to personalize digital gift cards with photos, videos, and holiday-themed art and music. This is also a great option for remote employees.

It's always best to give gift cards that are relevant to each employee, if possible, to have a very personalized feel. If the company has less than 50 employees, then hopefully the person purchasing the gift cards knows each employee's interests and where they like to shop. 

There are hundreds of brands to choose from when purchasing gift cards for employees. If it's a mid-size or large company that has limited resources and can only purchase the same brand gift card, then consider a gift card that is relevant to all employees -- to a department store, online retailer, restaurant, movie theater, ticketing company, or a gift card for stock.

With digital cards, you can also set a delivery date to ensure they are delivered on a specific day to all employees. Some platforms also allow you to see which employees have opened and received the digital gift. It's also easier to recover the digital gift card code if it's accidentally deleted or sent to the wrong the address. With digital gift cards, you do not have to pay a postage fee which can run up to $5 per gift card sent if sending by mail. 
 
Security has become a growing concern in the conversation around gift cards. What are some ways to ensure incentive gift cards aren't compromised?

Employers should only order gift cards from an established and authorized gift card reseller or direct from the brand. That is the best way to ensure the gift cards they purchased are not compromised.