Earlier this week we wrote about why you should sell gift certificates, and included several plugins that can help you implement a gift card system in your store.

While it’s simple to sell physical gift cards that are redeemed in-store, as they can be treated like any other shippable product, setting up e-gift certificates or vouchers that can be emailed, downloaded, and redeemed online and/or in-store can require a bit of additional work. This is where the help of an add-on or custom code can elevate your eCommerce gift certificate offering.

Today’s case study will take a look at a store that uses a WooCommerce add-on to provide gift certificate capabilities, as well as some custom code to extend what the plugin can do.

Gift Certificates in Action: Lobster Anywhere

We featured Lobster Anywhere in our case studies on WooCommerce extensions, as they use WooCommerce Points and Rewards ($129) to incentivize and reward loyalty.

However, they also run a very successful gift certificate program that will allow customers to send either emailed or mailed gift certificates, which can then be redeemed in the online store. They use the Smart Coupons extension ($99) to set up most of the gift certificate functionality, and they’ve made some custom changes for their workflow.

I spoke with the CEO of Lobster Anywhere to get more details on their gift certificate program and the custom code changes they’ve made.

Gift certificates account for 40% of their revenue, so they’ve worked very hard to streamline gift certificate purchasing. Because the products at Lobster Anywhere are perishable, they lend themselves very well very well to selling gift certificates, as their CEO points out:

Gift cards are a big part of our business. Since seafood is perishable, gift certificate are a good gift giving choice. Lobster lovers can select their own special dinner date.

To give their customers maximum flexibility while purchasing gift cards, they provide both email and mailed gift certificates, which allow customers to select a certificate value for redemption (just like store cash).

However, they also offer product certificates, which will allow customers to purchase a specific gift “dinner” or package, which the recipient can redeem when desired. For example, the Sea of Love Dinner can be purchased, or a gift certificate for the dinner can be sent.

Offering Several Gift Certificate Types

I thought the different kinds of certificates were interesting, as most stores only offer gift certificates for certain amounts (either pre-selected amounts, or they allow customers to enter an amount). However, adding certificates for a particular product is interesting, and is great if your products are time sensitive like the lobster dinners from Lobster Anywhere.

You can order a gift certificate for one of over a dozen lobster dinners. This is shipped as a paper certificate (either first class mail or rushed via Fedex) with a description of the package and a photo of the dinner.

lobster anywhere gift product

Offering a Product Gift Certificate

This setup is great for perishable and date-based items. For example, event sites can sell a ticket certificate, and gift recipients can use it to select the show or date of their choice.

This setup is achieved by using Smart Coupons, as the product purchase delivers the coupon automatically. Smart Coupons allows you to tie coupons to the product in this way so that purchasing will automatically send the coupon.

The amount-based gift certificates are also generated by Smart Coupons.

We also offer dollar amount gift certificates, available as a physical gift card or as an e-certificate. We also refined the email template so customers can print out their gift certificates. Gift givers often like to print out a gift card and hand deliver when they are in a pinch rather than having to wait for the mail.

email dollar based gift certificates

Email gift certificates

This gift certificates work in the same way — Smart Coupons generates the gift certificate and it’s attached to the product so it’s delivered when the product is purchased. This certificate can then be redeemed in store just like a coupon code.

Customizing Gift Certificates

Since gift certificates account for almost half of all orders, Lobster Anywhere needed an easy way to manage them while viewing orders. As some are e-certificates, but some require shipping, using a different gift code structure provides and easy way to know what has to be shipped out, and what’s an online-only certificate. Lobster Anywhere customized the gift certificate code to reflect this, and they also automatically generate a new code for each certificate.

Our developer, Ian, created a special plugin for the gift codes. Right now the code starts with D + dollar amount + c + code for gift certificates, and SKU + code for gift dinners. Notes are are added to the order with the coupon code. Codes are all inserted automatically into the WooCommerce coupons.

For example — a Boston Lobster Bake dinner for two would be something like BLB2-00aa0 & a $50 dollar e-certificate would be GC50aa000

This automates the coupon creation so that each coupon becomes a one-time use certificate. For mailed certificates, the gift code is placed in to a template that can be printed, while e-certificates have the code inserted in the custom email template.

Lobster anywhere e gift certificate

As Smart Coupons emails aren’t really printer-friendly, the Lobster Anywhere team also customized these templates for easier printing with some inspiration from Tricksy Knitter:

We modified the Smart Coupons plugin to send better, more printer-friendly email. We designed a fully responsive email template that works with all major mail providers (even the terrible ones like hotmail).

They’re also working on offering more designs, such as holiday-themed certificates.

While customizations have helped them to make fulfilling gift certificate orders easier, there’s still room for improvement.

The one clunky thing with Smart Coupons is re-sending lost gift certificates. It would be neat if customers could retrieve lost gift certificates…

Also, there could be a better way for customers to see how much they have left on a dollar amount certificate or see if it was already used.

Many eCommerce plugins and extensions provide a great starting point for projects, but there’s always room for improvement. Fortunately, the ability to extend these via custom code is usually great, and can yield very cool results like Lobster Anywhere’s automatic gift code generator.

Gift Certificate Program Impact

So does the Lobster Anywhere gift certificate program yield results similar to those in our reasons to sell gift certificates? Here are some insights they shared about their program.

Reason 1: Capture New Orders and Customers

Gift certificates have helped them capture holiday sales, especially as the holidays draw nearer:

The E-certificate has really helped with last minute sales — especially for gift giving.

They’re also essential for some orders, as sending a lobster dinner can’t be done far in advance, while buying a gift certificate can be done at any time, yielding far happier gift-giving customers.

Reason 2: Increase Order Value

Lobster Anywhere confirms that gift certificate orders typically clock in at a higher value than the gift certificate amount, though for a slightly smaller percentage of orders than First Data reports (their average statistics show that 71% of gift certificate orders are for higher than the gift card amount).

We see about 60% of customers will go over the [gift certificate] dollar amount, adding extra revenue.

While some certificates are for a product and not a dollar amount, the certificates for a particular amount have given a nice bump to revenue when customers order more than the certificate allots for.

Reason 3: Offer Product Choices

The ability to offer product choice has been a huge win for Lobster Anywhere. As mentioned previously, products that are time or date sensitive make excellent candidates for gift certificate sales, whether the certificate is for a particular product or for an amount.

The ability to offer this choice has improved gift-giving, as the gift giver no longer has to spoil the surprise by getting a specific delivery date from the recipient. With gift certificates, the recipient can select their own lobster dinner date.

The choice in physical versus e-gift cards is also exercised by customers, as purchasing is split between the two.

I would say it is 60% paper to 40% for e-certificate.

Many customers like the ability of providing a physical gift so they go for the paper / mailed certificate, while those pressed for time or who want instant delivery can get an e-certificate.


Increase Revenue by Selling Gift Cards: Summary

While gift certificate add-ons for eCommerce plugins may not always be a turnkey solution, they can provide a great foundation for a gift certificate program, which can be a lucrative addition to your business. They’re a wonderful option for time-sensitive products, and gift card sales can be a fairly easy way to generate additional revenue.

Thanks so much to Lobster Anywhere for sharing these insights and stats with us! I’m keeping the lobster mac and cheese and the clam chowder in mind for a future purchase myself 🙂 .

Articles you may also like:

Posted by Beka Rice

Beka Rice manages the direction of Sell with WP content and writes or edits most of our articles to share her interests in eCommerce. Or she just writes as an excuse to spend more time jamming out to anything from The Clash to Lady Gaga. Who knows.