Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gift Card Changes--The Story Behind the Story

Most of our customers knew that our gift card program at Schwartz was facilitated by the American Booksellers Association. Cards purchased at one store could be redeemed at another. It was a program that worked well for us, and we were happy to continue it at Boswell.

Well, times changed. The original intention of the national gift card program was to compete with chain stores. But a few things went wrong:
1) The cost of actually taking a card from another participating store was rather high (a percentage of the transaction went to servicing the program) which led to
2) Not as many stores participating as projected which
3) Somewhat defeated the purpose of the program, as you might not find a general bookstore in Minneapolis, for example, that participated.
4) In addition, someone had to hold the liability for stores that went out of business, and that was not great for our trade association. (Note to Jill: I hope I said this correctly. Feel free to comment or email me, and I will fix.)

It's also much easier to go on a participating store's website and buy the gift card. If you have a cousin in Austin, you can click to Bookpeople's site and complete the transaction. This wasn't really an option when the program started.

So all the independent bookstores are off on their own. There are a lot of options, and part of the difficulty is just making decisions. We decided to go with IBID/IRT our inventory provider, who has been processing gift cards for 15 years. Want to use them too? Contact Mike.

We also had to get a new card designed, so we returned to designer Joe Lisberg at Deep Sea Studios. We worked with him on a color palette and the basic icons, including our just-the-b's logo he already designed. He came up with some great solutions, we narrowed them down, asked for some tweaking, and here is the final product, which we are rolling out shortly after June 1st.

As we mentioned in our event calendar, these transitions never go perfectly smoothly. We expect there will be up to two weeks (June 1-15) when we cannot redeem gift cards. It's also possible that we might have a short period of issuing paper gift cards.

But here's the most important take-away. Our old gift cards will still work, as soon as the serial numbers are transferred to the new system. Both our old cards and our new cards have no service fee, and do not expire.
Now's the moment when you finish this and feel compelled to buy a gift card from us. Isn't it funny how this works?

1 comment:

Taylor said...

The gift card design is great!