Charming Charlie grows sales with online digital gift cards

As part of its effort to establish a consistent omnichannel shopping experience, fashion accessories retailer Charming Charlie implemented an e-commerce digital gift card platform to improve customer engagement and increase sales.

The 10-year-old retailer, with 340 stores in 42 states, expanded its relationship with Stored Value Solutions to implement the program last year. Subsequently, online gift card purchases grew at an exponential year-over-year rate in the winter holiday shopping season.

A retailer's e-commerce platform designed for easy navigating and transacting on mobile, tablet or laptop can play a big role in determining repeat visits. "Shopper loyalty and repeat visits—both online and in-store—are increasingly predicated by the shopping experience, and on being able to shop anywhere, anytime, through any digital device, with ease and fluidity," Mark Schatz, SVP and managing director of SVS, told FierceRetailIT.

"Offering e-gift cards online is a way of expanding on that freedom, as it allows shoppers to prepay for their friends' memorable shopping experience." Because there's a receiver as well as a giver of e-gift cards, it also doubles a brand's customer base, he said. "Additionally, the e-gift card capability added an important new dimension to their data redemption and analytics."

The retailer wanted to create an omnichannel experience for gift cards that would work seamlessly across all channels, from integrating the back-end systems and updating videos and processing the transactions to customer-facing elements such as advertising, notifications about the gift card, providing abundant choices for customization and personalization, and an intuitive completion of the transaction.

"SVS was willing to work with us and be flexible enough to provide the right solution for Charming Charlie's needs,"said David Torres, the retailer's director of e-commerce technology, told FierceRetailIT. Besides improved sales, one of the benefits was "ease of the administration of our online digital gift card component."

The retailer had been running an in-store gift card program with SVS for two years when the executives decided to integrate the card program into the website and mobile app, Schatz said. Motivated by the upcoming holiday shopping season, it only took three months to make the necessary decisions and get the technology up and running. The first test run occurred in the third week of August 2014, and the e-gift card program was fully operational and integrated across platforms by the first week of September 2014.

"Our new ability to offer gift cards online for purchase and redemption helps reduce overhead, increase visibility and overcome geographic limitations," said CIO John Hnanicek in a statement. "The e-commerce implementation was flawless and the added functionality makes our customer experience effortless. We love the proactive guidance, strategic support and consultative approach that SVS provides."

As a next step, Torres said Charming Charlie is "currently working with SVS to replace our existing plastic gift card e-commerce offering to take advantage of the flexibility of the SVS platform."

Charming Charlie wanted to develop its signature brand profile by providing its customers with an option that took its brick-and-mortar gift card offerings online, Schatz said. "The e-commerce platform massively broadens the opportunity for giving gift cards in a multitude of formats. From SVS's point of view, it was important to get this capacity up and running flawlessly across all mediums in a very short time, even against a deadline," he said.

Younger consumers are starting to accelerate their purchases of gift cards, Schatz said, adding that 58 percent of people ages 18 to 35 said they would spend more on gift cards this year compared to a year ago.

"Pair this information with the well-researched idea that millennials prefer to engage in experiences rather than buy material goods and the e-gift card concept has found a new customer base," he said. "Charming Charlie will be looked at as one of the first forward-looking retail companies to take the plunge and come up with the ideal omnichannel shopping experience for gift cards."

For more:
-See this SVS press release

Related stories:
62% of shoppers want a gift card
70% of retailers embrace omnichannel
Sephora unveils innovation lab, launches new digital initiatives
Walmart tests gift card exchange
Amazon, Blackhawk expand gift card capabilities

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