6 Benefits of Gift Certificates for Museums, Zoos and Heritage Sites

Jul 4, 2024

Gift certificate marketing is an old trick, but it’s smart – especially for museums, zoos and heritage sites. Here are six benefits of gift card promotion.

Learn how gift cards can:

Gift certificate marketing is a tried-and-tested (but perhaps underrated) technique whereby organizations use standard retail gift cards as part of their sales strategy.

The premise is simple: instead of throwing the full force of your marketing capacity into promoting raw products, services or experiences, a portion of budget is reserved to promote gift certificates.

When already-loyal customers buy gift certificates ahead of the holidays, they become ambassadors for your brand. In the best-case-scenario, each gift card will convert a brand-new customer to your pool of regulars.

Even in the least optimistic outcome – the trend of underutilized gift certificates, which sees tokens worth $1 billion go unused each year1 – can boost your company finances. Unlike many marketing techniques, much of the upfront cost is absorbed by the consumer.

Statistics show the benefits of gift card marketing go beyond generating affordable brand lift, however. This strategy can boost margins, since 31 percent of people say they’re more likely to purchase a full-price item when paying with a gift card2.

At a time of cultural shift toward experience gifts, promoting gift cards for your museum, zoo or heritage site could be a smart way to get ahead of the status quo, too.

According to the 12th Annual Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey, the number of shoppers who planned to buy physical gifts dropped 11 percentage points to 73 percent between 2017 and 20183.

With this in mind, here are six great benefits of gift certificate marketing.

1. They Attract New Customers

If your growth strategy requires widening your customer base, then gift certificate marketing could be ideal.

There’s a good chance you know the age, gender and interests of your museum’s typical visitor, especially if you’ve drafted a comprehensive marketing strategy.

However, that’s not to say this group cannot expand – after all, there’s a good chance your typical customer’s relatives, friends and coworkers would enjoy your exhibits just as much.

Gift certificate marketing solves your customer’s problem – for example, what to buy the uncle they hardly know – and in turn provides a unique opportunity for ambassadorship.

2. You Can Promote Them Year-Round

Gift certificates are often associated with the holiday season, but they can be used all year if properly integrated within your digital marketing plan.

For instance, you might attach a permanent link to an e-newsletter, email signature or your company blog. This way, customers are more likely to land on your zoo gift card ahead of their animal-loving neighbor’s birthday party, which may fall in any month.

3. They Tie in Well with Other Types of Marketing

Gift certificates provide a useful link between all kinds of marketing efforts and your sales funnel.

For instance, consider displaying gift certificates instead of business cards at your next heritage site conference, so prospects become customers in an instant.

Gift certificates can tie in with social media marketing strategies if you include a link to conversion pages from your accounts. Alternatively, cards could be sent to influencers. The opportunities are endless.

If your small zoo relies heavily on local marketing efforts, then gift certificate initiatives can help you to reach relevant audiences digitally – after all, 86 percent of people use the internet to find local businesses4.

4. You Can Promote Them Online or Offline

Every business has its own preferences when it comes to marketing. Some are plugged into the latest search engine optimization techniques, while others might prefer good old-fashioned advertisements and installations.

Both methods can work for gift certificates. If you prefer to trade in-store, then curating impulse counters and setting them at strategic locations may work.

However, this strategy can also be executed online – so it’s a great first step towards online marketing for venues such as museums and zoos.

5. Customers Can Personalize Them

Statistics show consumers desire gift cards. In the National Research Federation’s 2015 survey, 59 percent of consumers said they would like to receive a gift card5.

Four years later, 44 percent of shoppers said they were motivated to purchase Mother’s Day gifts that are “unique or different”6. The best gifts come with a personal touch – gift certificates are no different.

Make it easy to add a personal message to gift cards, or even wrap them up in a chosen pattern, and your customers can get the best of both worlds.

6. They Can Help You Secure Customers Post-COVID

This has been a tough year for the in-person economy. Businesses in heavily impacted sectors, such as restaurants, are turning to gift cards to provide a financial boost.

In 2020, delayed spending has mattered more than ever. Heritage sites or venues with a passionate local following may be able to tap into their customers’ loyalty to shore up their finances until next season.

By connecting with people digitally, you get a cash boost when you need it most – and your customers stay motivated to pay you a visit when in 2021 or beyond.

What Do I Need to Create a Gift Card Marketing Strategy?

Sounds simple? It is – but it’s still a good idea to craft a thorough strategy document, as with any other marketing project.

A gift card marketing strategy is important because:

  • With a razor-sharp strategy, gift certificate sales can provide data insights, aiding your efforts to target a specific audience.
  • Planning well today can drive results not only tomorrow, but also months or years into the future. Incorporating gift certificates as part of a coronavirus marketing plan, for instance, is all about thinking long-term.
  • Setting targets your business can commit to helps to keep things focused and grounded, so everyone, from venue staff to senior managers, is on the same page.
  • Gift card marketing strategies help promote continuous improvement. If things don’t go to plan, your strategy document can be a useful diagnostic tool.

Once the strategy is drafted, registering as a Groupon Merchant can be a useful way to promote your gift certificates to a growing audience. You’ll benefit from customer insights and tools as well as localized exposure.


  1. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/1-billion-in-gift-cards-go-unused-every-year-heres-how-to-avoid-that-2016-12-30
  2. https://www.firstdata.com/downloads/thought-leadership/fd_giftcardmarketingguide_toolstips.pdf
  3. https://blog.adobe.com/en/publish/2018/10/19/accenture-consumer-holiday-shopping-survey.html#gs.lkwkre
  4. https://www.webfx.com/blog/seo/local-seo-stats/
  5. https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/retailers-very-digital-holiday-season-according-nrf-survey
  6. https://nrf.com/blog/3-ways-mothers-day-gift-shopping-has-evolved


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