Smaller businesses often have trouble finding a product designed for their size, and gift cards are no exception, says Mike Fletcher, general manager of InComm Digital Solutions.
"There are business that make less frequent gift card purchases, and there is a need to address those clients," Fletcher says. "The business-to-consumer gift card space doesn't have enough function; and the API [application programming interface] solutions for larger retailers are too robust. Our new corporate store sits in the middle."
InComm, an Atlanta-based prepaid card and transaction services company, has opened a business-to-business virtual store that combines a number of different gift card functions in an effort to provide scale and a single point of contact for retailers. InComm hopes to reach smaller retailers by combining sales, fulfillment, input, data capture and reporting into a single system.
Small businesses may want to purchase gift cards as incentives or to cover specific expenses, but the bulk gift card market requires staffing or technology resources that are beyond the budgets of these companies, Fletcher says.
"By using our store, an HR manager can go into their account with a retailer and can make or submit orders, and set preferences for amounts, etc.," he says.
The business-to-business store's services also include co-branding, corporate accounts with access to discounted gift card purchases, customized gift card ordering forms, redemption tracking and tools that manage the value of the cards.
InComm has been testing the gift card store for the past few months, and formally launched it last week. The company has been upgrading its overall gift card technology in the past year, launching an in-store digital sales program that allows consumers to buy digital gift cards and other virtual items alongside physical items at retail locations.
InComm's focus in streamlining the backend processing of gift cards is in line with where the gift card industry is moving, says Aleia Van Dyke, an analyst at Javelin Strategy & Research.
"When gift cards first came out, they were no more than an electronic substitute for a gift certificate and thus the card was incredibly basic," Van Dyke says. "But that's not so much today. Increasingly, consumers are opting to buy network-branded gift cards that can be used anywhere normal payment cards are used, and so the card management must be more similar to a traditional card rather than a simple gift card."
Gift cards make up a substantial part of a consumer's wallet, Javelin says. While about 70% of consumers have a major credit card, debit card or store-branded credit card, 36% have a gift card usable at specific merchants and 19% have a general prepaid gift card. Gift cards are also being stored on mobile phones and used online at an increasing rateJavelin expects a 10.6% compound annual growth rate for online retail gift card volume from 2013 to 2018, "and there must be increased investment in the technology used to manage the cards," Van Dyke says.