Packages Services in New Program

Share this content: Inc., a supplier of gift certificates and incentive programs, formally launches another element of its corporate incentive programs in a few months.

The Communication Services offering comprises marketing materials and services to drive incentive program awareness, participation and education to help clients reach their business goals. Online travel site Expedia is a current user.

"It's not that this is something different," said Jill Ambrose, vice president of marketing at, Seattle. "However, we want to create an awareness that we do provide full-service capabilities."

The company sells gift certificates from brands like Amazon, Macy's, Eddie Bauer, The Sharper Image, American Airlines, L.L. Bean, Omaha Steaks, Saks Fifth Avenue and Merry Maids. It also sells its own SuperCertificate that is accepted by its merchant partners.

Consumers can shop by category, denomination, location and occasion in addition to merchant.

Still a work in progress, Communication Services will be aimed at firms that want outsourced marketing help with incentives programs. It also seeks to offer additional touchpoints to a client's existing incentive program or relationships. And it is suited for a firm seeking a completely branded incentive program, from acquisition to redemption. will define and create pertinent messages for its customers, along with marketing materials to communicate objectives to specific participant groups. It will create fliers, posters, direct mail, Web site landing pages, HTML e-mail campaigns and training materials.

Another feature of Communication Services will be its ability to integrate into a client's incentive program. This includes the meshing of creative, account management and technical capabilities. Incorporation of a client's brand assets and scalability are possible. will manage copy, design, print and Web development, though the client will review and approve the draft and final formats.

Take recent work for Expedia. Using Communication Services, four elements were created: the offer and purchase page; the landing page; an online card; and a custom redemption page.

The offer and purchase page is on the Expedia site. The landing page is designed to help the Expedia customer understand the incentive program. Also, the online card was created in different versions.

"When the participant chooses the appropriate cruise upgrade package that will reward them with the SuperCertificate, the SuperCertificate will be sent to them," Ambrose said. "In the Expedia program, we customized and branded their message and delivered it along with the SuperCertificate. The e-card is the customized message."

The custom redemption page is a Web site entry page with the look and feel of an Expedia page with all the required program information, but it is attached to's fulfillment system. The Expedia customer visits this page to redeem the received SuperCertificate for one of the many merchant certificates available through

Expedia used e-mail among other marketing and communications to reach prospects. only offered strategic input and creative assets for those efforts. But it developed and launched those Expedia incentive upsell programs.

Other clients are using Communication Services. A telecommunications firm is using it for an internal employee program, and some beverage marketers are using it for customer acquisition, loyalty and upsell.

Pricing is based on the combination of elements used by the client. Besides Communication Services, the other elements include strategic development and program strategy, technology, program administration, awards and fulfillment.'s push is critical for it to continue building share in a growing market. According to New York market researcher Tower Group, the market for gift certificates grew 22 percent last year to $55 billion. Projections for this year are $65 billion, reaching $90 billion in 2007. U.S. consumer awareness of gift certificates is almost universal, up from 76 percent in 2001, stored value system provider ValueLink found.

Certificates are an easy option for gift giving. The National Retail Federation estimates $17.24 billion in gift certificates were sold during the 2003 holiday season, accounting for 41 percent of all certificate sales that year. Sales in the 2004 holiday season were $17.34 billion.

Trends indicate that consumers are gradually switching from physically delivered certificates to digital versions. Digital certificates accounted for 50 percent of's sales last year, up from 47 percent in 2003.

Also, the company's average corporate incentive solution certificate's value grew about 10 percent to $85 last year, from $77 in 2003.

Founded eight years ago, competes with established players like American Express Co.'s gift checks and products from Maritz, mostly in travel and leisure. Online competition, mainly in business to business, includes and Hallmark's offering at

Communication Services is's second major initiative following a brand and online makeover in the fall.

"It's not so much of a repositioning as a concentration of focus," CEO Tim Barefield said. "We've been offering various components of this, and this is why we've decided to package it."

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting


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