Give Me Your Best Buy

By Christine Neuberger

Paper or plastic? Take your pick. Best Buy Co. Inc., the nation’s largest electronics retailer, offers both paper gift certificates and plastic gift cards for use as sales-incentive rewards. But unlike many major retailers, Best Buy has no plans to eliminate its paper certificates. “There’s still a demand for paper,” says Rich Olson, manager of Best Buy’s corporate incentive program. “The personalized certificate reminds a salesperson why they won.”

Best Buy will personalize paper gift certificates by including the names of both recipient, and corporate sponsor or program as well as a greeting and a personalized message of up to 100 characters. “If a company has a sales campaign with an organized name and goals, typically they’ll want personalized paper certificates. There’s still a market that wants to tie the certificate back to the program. We think the business is substantial for certificates.”

Paper lends itself to presentation more easily than the plastic gift card, Olson says. But the appeal of each product can depend on the targeted demographic. With an older demographic, recipients may feel more comfortable with the traditional paper certificates, while plastic gift cards may energize a younger crowd better, according to Olson. But in this electronic age, no wonder plastic gift cards are rapidly gaining popularity. Gift cards look like credit cards but work like gift certificates. The cards generally bear a magnetic strip that keeps the unused dollar value. The recipient makes purchases on the card until it carries a zero balance. Best Buy offers plastic gift cards that can be reloaded with dollar value.

Plastic or paper, recipients like how these motivational keys open the door to a retailer with 413 brick-and-mortar locations as well as online shopping. Indeed, Best Buy just launched shopping at bestbuy.com in 2000. Stay tuned, too: holders of gift cards and certificates can redeem them on the Web later in 2001, Olson says. Wherever they spend their winnings, top performers appreciate the way that certificates and cards empower them to pick the award they want, says Olson. “Why give a salesforce a TV when you can leverage an entire Best Buy Store and give what we call “the power of choice”? And the power of choice doesn’t expire; Best Buy gift certificates and gift cards are good forever.