There was an interesting discussion recently in one of the groups I participate in. A company had offered electronic gift cards and now they were facing a lot that hadn't been redeemed.
The easy thing to do would have been to do nothing - that's pure profit in their pocket for every gift card that's never redeemed.
But they knew the easy thing wasn't the right thing. Unused gift cards means the giver's money didn't go where they intended, it means that the recipient didn't benefit and it means carrying that as a liability because at some point in the future, the gift card could still be redeemed. Unused gift certificates are also a missed opportunity to gain a new customer and word of mouth.
So they were trying to figure out their options. Could they email the recipient? Maybe. But they didn't really have a relationship with the recipient. They didn't want to run afoul of the CAN-SPAM laws. Worse yet, if there was some kind of delivery problem the first time around, there's no guarantee the recipient would receive it this time either. And maybe the recipient didn't like the company issuing the gift card, or didn't find anything they liked. That would make the email unwelcome and possibly risk the recipient flagging it as spam.
Another participant on the list had a brilliant idea:
Email the giver instead.
They had a financial relationship with them so it's well within the guidelines of CAN-SPAM, there's a better chance they'll receive the email and it shows that you're looking out for them. Even if you stay on-message and avoid any other sort of cross-marketing, this is going to build loyalty, credibility, trust and that will definitely lead to future sales. It shows that they have the customer's best interest in mind. No one wants to give a gift and find out that the recipient tossed it in the trash or Goodwill pile.
If the gift was a mismatch, the recipient may have originally planned to just not use it and not say anything to not appear ungrateful. But now enough time might have passed that if the original giver were to contact the recipient to say "Hey, did you receive the gift I sent a few months ago?" there's enough time that even if the answer was "Um, no, I never received it" but intstead "I didn't want to use it" it might be easier at that point to give them the bad news of a mismatch because they're open to the conversation.
Of course, there are additional tactics that ought to be considered:
(1) An automated confirmation to the giver when the recipient redeems the gift card.
(2) Make it really easy for the recipient to send a thank you when they redeem the gift.
(3) Make it easy to donate the gift to charity if it's a mismatch (or regift it to someone else)
(4) Automate the "your friend never redeemed their gift card" emails
(5) Examine why and when people aren't redeeming gift cards to determine if there's a problem with how the gift cards are presented to recipients or if the card price points don't line up well with the offerings in your store (no one likes receiving a gift card for $25 in a store full of $15 or $50 items)
But most of all, I am very impressed at the company's decision not to take the easy route - and their customers will be as well.