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GiftCertificates.com Revamps Brand and Service

NEW ORLEANS — GiftCertificates.com received a makeover.

The Seattle-based seller of gift certificates and incentive solutions changed not just its Web sites but also its brand imagery.

“We decided this year to take a good look at the brand and identity because we didn't think it was very well representative of the brand,” said Kathy Gersch, executive vice president of marketing and merchandising. “Our company is not so much about the gift but the act of giving, and we wanted to integrate the human element back into the brand.”

That human element is the figure of a person handing out a gift that sits between the words “Gift” and “Certificates.com” on the logo. The old logo, in place for two years, had no icon associated with the brand.

Equally crucial to carving this new persona was the relaunch of GiftCertificates.com's business-to-business and business-to-consumer sites. The main difference was in the look and feel.

Take content. The company added case studies for clients and customers, particularly on the BTB site. Functionality was added on both BTB and BTC sites for easier purchasing of certificates.

A major improvement was in the redemption experience. Previously, consumers and business executives could search by merchant name or category. Now they can search by dollar denomination, keyword term, location and occasion.

Also, the company eliminated expiration dates on its proprietary SuperCertificates products. Customer feedback prompted that change. Its merchants continue to set their own expiration dates, or, in some cases, don't have such restrictions.

“We want to support the fact that this is about the relationship between company and employee or customer and recipient, and we don't want any disappointment in that,” Gersch said.

The changes follow the February launch of GiftCertificates.com's incentive management system. This technology lets GiftCertificates manage its customers' large incentive programs. Concepts and handling participation to disbursing the rewards and measuring results are some of the services.

Founded in 1997, the privately held company has a fulfillment center in Omaha, NE. This warehouse stocks physical gift certificates and e-mail versions for merchants offering certificates through GiftCertificates.com.

Average order size is just under $100 on the BTB site and $70 for consumer service.

“The biggest trend we've seen is around the digital electronic certificate,” Gersch said. “The acceptance of that is growing at a pretty rapid pace. The trend is toward e-mail. A couple of years ago, the vast majority of our product was physical. Now with our SuperCertificates, it's about 50:50. Previously it was 75:25.”

The SuperCertificate is GiftCertificates.com's proprietary offering. Customers also can buy certificates of merchants like Macy's, Amazon, Marshall Field's, TJ Maxx, Blockbuster, Barnes & Noble, J. Crew, Hard Rock Cafe, Gap and Old Navy. They are among the hundreds of retailers offering certificates via GiftCertificates.com.

Gersch said the department store category was the most popular, with specialty apparel second. The incentive and rewards business is valued at roughly $121 billion a year. Of that, company-to-company gifts account for $2.5 billion, largely due to the holidays. Customer acquisition rewards are almost double, at $4.8 billion.

GiftCertificates has formidable competition from established players like American Express Co.'s gift checks and products from Maritz, mostly in travel and leisure. Online competition, mainly in BTB, includes www.incent1.com and Hallmark's offering at www.giftcertificatecenter.com.

Unsurprisingly, the market environment mattered as much as internal concerns as GiftCertificates launched a new personality.

“New tools allow us to better serve our customers end-to-end,” Gersch said. “We see ourselves as incentive solutions providers, not just the provider of the rewards itself.”

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