Digital gift cards have emerged as a way for brick-and-mortar businesses to supplement their cash flow and provide their local communities with a way to support them during the COVID-19 crisis.
However, not every local business has a solution for selling gift cards online. As part of Shopify’s COVID-19 response, we’re offering gift card support for all plans, along with an extended 90-day free trial, to make it easier for local businesses to make the pivot to selling online.
Selling digital gift cards is one of the fastest ways for a brick-and-mortar business to start selling online and secure immediate cash flow. Here’s how it works:
- You create a simple online store and share your URL with customers who want to support you.
- Customers can then buy and pay for gift cards through your new online store.
- Purchased gift cards are then delivered to your customers by email.
- All active gift cards can be tracked and managed in Shopify as customers redeem them in the future.
- As you launch new products that can be purchased online or make your products available for local delivery or pickup, customers can redeem gift cards at checkout. By default, the gift cards you create never expire.
Below, I've created a guide for setting up your own gift card store in under 30 minutes. Once you’ve launched, you can consider improving the look and feel of your store or work on ways to bring the rest of your business online, such as with a "buy online, pick up curbside" delivery option.
💡 Note: Before you set up your store, you'll need a logo for your business and a few photos that represent your brand. If you don’t have any on hand, you can source royalty-free stock photos from Burst.
Setting up a simple Shopify store to sell gift cards
1. Start your 90-day free trial
The first step is to visit shopify.com to start your online store with an extended 90-day free trial.
Here you’ll choose your store name, which will become your domain, or, the URL that your customers will go to when they want to purchase your gift card.
By default, it will be yourstorename.myshopify.com. In this tutorial, I’ll be calling my store “katiescafeonline” and so my URL will be katiescafeonline.myshopify.com. You can buy a domain later if you would like (e.g. katiescafe.ca), but it’s not necessary to get started.
After you've created an account with Shopify, you’ll answer a few questions to complete your setup. Once completed, you’ll be logged into your very own Shopify store.
To get access to the gift cards feature, you’ll need to select a plan. The Basic plan should be just fine for now. You'll also need to add your credit card or PayPal address. Since you’re on a 90-day free trial, you will not be billed for the duration of the trial period, and we’ll send you a reminder before your trial ends.
2. Create your gift card
With your store setup and a plan selected, you can now create a digital gift card by going to Products > Gift Cards, or by clicking here. You can then turn on the gift cards feature by clicking the Sell gift cards button and then Edit product.
From there, you’ll be able to customize your gift card product:
- Title: What your product (gift card) will be called. I called mine “Katie’s Cafe COVID-19 Relief Gift Card” to make it clear what it is customers are purchasing.
- Description: Where you can describe your product and how it will help your business with COVID-19 relief. Explain how customers can redeem their gift card. Be specific and clear. If you’re not sure yet, be upfront about it.
- Media: You can use the default image to represent your gift card or quickly create a custom image for free using a tool like Canva’s gift certificate template.
- Denominations: Here you can set the different amounts that customers can purchase. The default amounts should be fine. Customers can always buy multiple gift cards if they want.
- Product availability: This is where you’ll select which sales channels you want to sell your product on. For now, you can select “Online Store”. You can set up additional sales channels later.
When you’re done, hit Save and your gift card will be created.
3. Customize your Shopify store
With your gift card ready, the next step is to set up your online store.
Our goal here is to launch quickly and start selling, so I’ll only be covering the essential elements for creating your homepage. You can always go back and improve the look and feel of your online store later.
To start customizing your store, go to Sales Channels > Online Store > Themes (or click here). For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll be using Debut, which is Shopify's default theme (i.e. website template), but you can also click “Explore free themes” for more options.
When you’re ready, click Customize to be taken to the theme editor, which will let you edit the “homepage” of your online store.
Your homepage design is split into several “Sections” on the left-hand side, such as Featured Productor Testimonials, which you can add, remove, hide, or reorder to design your homepage. You can play around with the sections to design a homepage that feels right to you, but for this tutorial let’s keep it simple:
- Click on each section and click Remove section to permanently remove them until you’re left with one Image with text overlay section. You can also click on the “eye icon” to quickly hide each section if you want to add it back in later.
- Click on the Image with text overlay section to start editing it. Add an Image that reflects your business that customers will recognize.
- Fill out the Heading and Text to communicate what you want to your customers about the status of your business or what your current plans are. When you’re done editing this section, click on the back arrow in the top left corner to exit.
- Click Add section and select Featured product—this will let you highlight your gift card in its own section on your homepage. Here you can edit how you want your gift card to display.
- Make sure you turn on Quantity selector, so customers can buy multiple gift cards if they want, and turn off Variant labels. Click the back arrow in the top left corner when you’re done.
- We now have a basic homepage. You can add more sections as you see fit, such as an Image Gallery or Testimonials. When you’re satisfied with your design, we only have a few more tweaks to make before we’re ready to launch.
- Click on Header to edit the top part of your online store (where it says your store name). Here you can add your logo and make other customizations specific to your theme. Click the back arrow in the top left corner when you’re done.
- Finally, click on Theme settings to customize other areas of your online store to add more polish. I’d recommend featuring any social media profiles you have, adding your logo as a favicon, and customizing your checkout with your logo as well. None of this is required but it helps make your site feel professional and trustworthy.
- When you’re happy with your store, click Save and then use the Shopify logo in the top left corner to finish your setup.
- Last step! In the Themes view, click on Settings in the bottom right corner and then click on Payment Providers (or click here to go there directly). Scroll down and select Automatically capture payment for orders so that you don’t have to manually choose to capture payments when customers buy a gift card. If you decide to sell other products in your online store, you may want to revisit this choice. Click Save when you’re done.
4. Launch your store
We’re ready to launch! To do so, head to Online Store > Preferences (or click here), scroll down to Password protection, turn off the Enable password option, and hit Save. This will remove the password page from your online store and make it accessible to the public.
You’re ready to start marketing it through social media, email, word of mouth—be creative! Shopify has lots of great marketing features too that you can explore.
In order to get paid you will need to set up a payment provider and complete your account setup by filling out your business and banking information so you can receive your payouts. You can learn more about getting paid in our help docs.
5. Manage gift card sales
Now that you have built and launched your store, it’s time to explain what happens with your gift cards when customers purchase them and what you can do with them.
Gift card orders will appear under Orders >All Orders as customers buy them. Since your store is set up to capture payments automatically, you don’t need to do anything here when new orders come in.
To see a full list of your active gift cards, head to Products > Gift Cards. Each gift card is tracked here so you can see the customer’s information, their current balance and when they purchased it.
These gifts cards will be redeemable through your Shopify store at a future date, even as you add new items that are available online or for pickup.
Next steps to consider
Now that you’ve set up a simple online store and know how to create and customize a gift card, here are some ways you can take it even further.
Creating a custom image for your gift cards
A custom gift card image that reflects your brand will look more professional and personal. Even if you’re not a designer, you can quickly create one for free using Canva’s gift certificate maker and replace your gift card image with it on your product page.
Discounting your gift cards to reward customers for bigger purchases
One way you can reward loyal customers for helping you through this time is by giving them a discount for purchasing a gift card for a larger amount. Not only does this increase the amount of immediate cash flow you can generate per sale, it’s a nice way to say thank you to your customers.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your most loyal repeat customers. These customers often spend hundreds of dollars with you throughout the year. Incentivize them to support your business now by offering a discount when they purchase a gift card.
You can create one discount to apply across all you gift card denominations, or have discounts that apply to specific denominations or purchasing thresholds. It’s up to you how you want to reward your customers.
Let’s walk through an example by creating a 15% automatic discount applied across all gift card tiers. Customers will see this discount automatically applied at checkout, but remember to also communicate it upfront on your product page:
- Go to Discounts > Automatic Discounts in Shopify (or click here).
- Click Create Discount and choose Automatic Discount so customers can get the discount without entering a code.
- Choose your discount type (Percentage, Fixed amount, Buy X get Y). In this case, I’m going to pick Percentage.
- The Value section will change depending on the discount type you select. Since I chose percentage, I’m going to set the Value to 15% and have it apply to Specific products, searching for the gift card product I created.
- With the Minimum requirements option, I can set the purchasing threshold for applying a 15% off discount. In this case, I want it to apply to all my gift card tiers, so I will set it to $0.01.
- Under Active dates I can set a start and end time for this discount. Since I can manually remove it later, I’ll set the start date to today and leave the end date blank and hit save.
- Now that my discount is active, I need to go back and update my gift card product description to highlight the offer for customers and call out that it will be applied at checkout. (e.g. "We want to give you 15% off the purchase amount for a gift card, as a show of thanks for lending us your support through these challenging times. The discount will be applied at checkout.")
- Finally, I’ll want to test my discount to make sure everything works correctly.
Using the Buy Button to sell your gift card on another website
If you have an existing website that your customers are familiar with or you simplyt want to sell your gift cards on another website, you can do so using Shopify’s Buy Button channel.
A Buy Button can be embedded on another website to allow your customers to purchase your products there. You can install the Buy Button sales channel to create one, customize the color and layout, and then generate an embed code that you can copy and paste into another website.
Bringing the rest of your business online
Selling digital gift cards is a quick way to bring your retail business online. But it's only a helpful buffer while you adapt your operations for the way people will shop during the COVID-19 pandemic and even after.
Here are some of the next steps you might want to consider:
- Add other products to your online store.
- Set up a “buy online, pickup curbside” delivery option for customers.
- Customize your emails to your customers.
- Add a custom domain so your store has a professional URL.
- Advertise your store online.
- Download our mobile app to get order notifications on your phone.
- Explore our themes and app store to further customize your store.
- Add your staff members.
- Determine if and how you might issue refunds.
We're here for you. If you'd like additional help, please contact our support team. We're available 24/7 to offer guidance—anything from moving your retail business online to advice on navigating your current business challenges.