Why you should sell gift certificates (and plugins that can help)

When you’re launching a new eCommerce store, you’ll probably focus largely on your product line, followed by your fulfillment workflow and online storefront. You may not be thinking about what other products you could offer, or how you can expand your catalogue with minimal cost and effort.

Gift certificates provide the ability to do just that: expand your catalogue. Best of all, there are no extra inventory costs, minimal fulfillment costs (if any), and they can be an excellent supplement for holiday shoppers or gift-givers. Today we’ll cover:

  • Three reasons to offer gift cards
  • Plugins to help you create a gift certificate program

I also have a case study centered around selling gift certificates posting on Wednesday of this week, which highlights some of the reasons outlined here.

Three reasons you should already sell gift cards

Gift cards can make a tremendous addition to your shop catalog without the need to expand your product line. Not only do customers look to purchase gift certificates around the holidays, but it also helps them introduce new customers to your shop, keeping existing customers happy and helping you acquire new ones.

The only investment you’ll have to make to sell gift certificates is to add a gift card plugin to your store. Fortunately, many eCommerce plugins for WordPress have gift certificates or voucher add-ons that can help you achieve this with a turnkey (or close to it) solution.

Let’s start with some reasons to sell gift certificates and statistics you should know about gift cards, then I’ll include a list of helpful plugins.

1. Capture new orders and customers

First Data puts together some great insights and case studies on gift card and gift certificate usage each year, so their Consumer Insights into the U.S. Gift Card Market is a useful read.

For example, their research tells us:

More than half of consumers bought at least one gift card for the holidays [in 2011], something for retailers to keep in mind as the holiday shopping season approaches.

Gift cards are a popular holiday choice, but they’re also great for birthdays, anniversaries, and other gifts. By offering gift cards, you can capture orders you wouldn’t otherwise get from gift givers who are specifically interested in sending certificates or cards.

Gift certificates also help you capture new customers. When someone is gifted a certificate for your store, they’ll typically visit your store to redeem it, giving you the opportunity to turn them into a loyal customer in the hopes of a repeat visit, future purchase, or word-of-mouth referral.

This is actually how I’d originally found Etsy, as I was given a gift certificate for it as it became popular, and I revisited the site to make my own purchases and send gift cards to friends.

2. Increase order value

This is one of the best reasons to include gift certificates in your store: gift card purchases typically exceed the gift card amount. Customers tend to want to use entire gift certificate amount, and will frequently order items that exceed this amount. First Data’s research backs this up:

…the majority of gift card recipients (71 percent) spend more than the amount of the card.

Basically, by selling a gift certificate, you have a 7 in 10 chance that you’ll also get additional revenue out of that sale.

Gift certificate amounts have also increased. First Data found that:

The average value of a closed loop card [certificate specific to one store] purchased in 2011 rose more than 23 percent year over year, from $34 in 2010 to $42 in 2011.

Not only can gift certificates yield additional revenue when redeemed, but the amount purchased for gift certificates tends to increase over time.

3. Offer product choices

Gift cards are a win for both the purchasers and the gift card recipients. Gift card givers love them because they can show thoughtfulness by giving a gift for a specific retailer rather than cash, but gift-giving is still easy.

When asked why they choose to purchase gift cards rather than a gift, 83 percent of respondents said that gift cards make gift-giving easy, and more than half said they save shopping time. Almost three quarters of consumers liked the ease of mailing gift cards to recipients who live far away.

First Data

Gift cards also have a higher perceived value than gift certificates:

When asked whether they would prefer a gift with a value ranging from $20 to $45 vs. a $25 gift card, the vast majority preferred the gift card — even compared to a gift at a higher price point.

Gift recipients also appreciate the choice that a gift card affords them. Rather than going through a returns process for unwanted gifts, they can choose their own gift, and are encouraged to do so with a gift card rather than cash.

Gift certificate-giving is split between e-cards and physical cards, so offering both may not be a bad idea. Most customers like to print out a card or voucher, or receive one in the mail, so they have a physical “gift” to give.

Since selling gift certificates can be a great benefit to your store without forcing you to add products to your catalog, how can you create a gift card system?

Gift certificate add-ons for WordPress eCommerce

While you can achieve a gift card solution with custom code, there are some pre-built add-ons that can either create a gift card system for you, or provide a starting point for customizing your own gift card solution. Here’s a list of major platforms that have add-ons or integrations you may find helpful to create gift card, gift certificates, or e-card systems.

Selling gift certificates with WooCommerce

WooCommerce offers several gifting and gift certificate solutions for eCommerce merchants.

Redeeming certificates online: Smart Coupons ($99) is a comprehensive solution for both coupons and gifting. You can create a store credit system, send e-gift certificates to customers, and gift certificates can even be sent to multiple recipients.

To sell a gift certificate, you can create a “store credit / certificate coupon”, and use the product price instead of a coupon amount. Then, tie this to a product (i.e., a gift certificate product available for $25, $50, or $100), and the certificate will be valid for the purchase amount and sent to recipients.

You can also allow customers to purchase a custom gift card amount by combining Smart Coupons with the Name Your Price extension ($49), which will allow customers to enter the desired value.

Redeeming certificates in-store: If you’d like to sell vouchers or gift cards to be redeemed in-store or in-person rather than online (such as tickets, pick-up slips, or redeemable certificates), you can also look at the PDF Product Vouchers extension ($129). This will let you sell vouchers than can be emailed and / or printed when purchased. They’ll be tied to a product and can be sold for fixed prices, or can be used with Name Your Price as well to allow customers to enter a purchase amount.

Selling gift certificates with Easy Digital Downloads

Surprisingly, there’s no turnkey integration for gift certificate purchases in Easy Digital Downloads. While one has been on the roadmap for sometime, this is the topic of several past forum posts.

However, there are a couple of workarounds that you can use instead.

Redeeming certificates online: To allow customers to purchase gift certificates online, you can use a manual creation process to add store credit to customer accounts, which won’t provide a certificate code or automatic email to customers, so you should disclose this up-front. You can create a product with a set price, and without a downloadable file, that customers can purchase for store credit, and then use the Points and Rewards extension ($59) to issue store credit to the recipient. This requires you to:

  1. set up the product with your pricing points for gift certificates
  2. gather the recipient email at checkout (this tutorial is helpful or you can use the Checkout Field Manager ($49))
  3. potentially a new customer account for the recipient
  4. manually assign a credit for the purchase amount to the recipient using Points & Rewards.

This isn’t ideal, so some custom code could probably connect the process for you automatically. Here’s a helpful tutorial on creating store credit as well.

You could also use the Custom Prices extension ($19) to allow customers to purchase gift certificates in the desired amount.

Redeeming certificates in-store: Easy Digital Downloads also sells a PDF Vouchers extension ($49), which allows you to sell printable vouchers that can be redeemed in-store or in-person rather than in your online shop.

Selling gift certificates with WP eCommerce

WP eCommerce recently released a gift certificates extension ($49) that’s currently in beta testing. However, I’m not a fan of the fact that you have to manually edit theme files to use the plugin.

This plugin can be used to redeem certificates online, as a unique code will be generated when the gift certificate is purchased. This will also be added under your “Products List” with the unique code. Gift certificates are treated like store cash, so part of the certificate can be redeemed, and the rest will be saved.

They could also be redeemed in-person, as you’ll be able to see the amount left on the certificate in your admin, and can manually delete certificates if they’re used in-store.

Gift certificates with WP EasyCart

I haven’t used gift certificates with WP EasyStore, but documentation on gift cards is fairly straight-forward, and they’re built into the core offering. I don’t believe that gift codes are automatically sent to recipients, but they can be manually emailed or printed by the gift giver. They can be redeemed online during checkout.

Gift certificates are also treated like cash with EasyCart, as they can be partially redeemed and saved for later. Cards can be viewed from the admin so you can see the remainder, and I’m not sure if they can be deleted if redeemed in person.

Gift certificates with WP eStore

You can generate online redeemable vouchers for your store using the Voucher Add-on ($39). This will allow you to set up a voucher than can be printed or emailed, and the voucher can be used like cash in your store. If redeemed for less than the voucher amount, the remainder can still be used at a later time.

You could also use this in-store by accepting the voucher and checking the number against the list of issued vouchers in your admin. This list will show you which vouchers have been issued and which have been redeemed. I’m not sure if there are manual actions that would allow you to redeem the voucher via the admin, but I’m guessing you can delete the voucher if redeemed in person.


Selling gift certificates in your WordPress eCommerce store is a great way to increase revenue without adding anything to your product line or catalogue, as you can instead capture gift orders. Gift certificates can provide extra value as well when redeemed by the recipient, as they tend to spend more than what the voucher is worth when redeeming it.

There are several solutions available for WordPress eCommerce stores to sell gift cards that can be redeemed online, in person, or both. While each may not be a turnkey solution, they’re relatively inexpensive ways to expand your offering to capture more revenue, and I’m excited to bring you a case study next of a store that’s successfully generated 40% of its revenue from gift certificate sales.