October 31, 2019 — 7 min read
Why brand relationships are vital to employee benefits and incentive providers
Adam Hobbs
UK Managing Director

Gift cards have emerged as a staple for employee benefits providers the world over. On one side: rewards from hundreds of household brands, ideal for recognising employee contributions big and small, delivered with a personalised message. On the other: an intermediary in need of versatile rewards that are rapid to send, easy to deliver and simple to manage. It’s a match made in perk heaven.

WeGift’s own partners in the employee benefits and reward & recognition space have been heaping praise on eGift cards in particular. Digital rewards come with numerous benefits, including:

  • Open value – Due to the flexible pricing of eGift cards, it’s possible to reward all contributions from within a workplace or another environment. Direct integrations allow the purchasing of rewards with the correct value for their precise application, rather than something that has been pre-denominated. 
  • Security: Being sent via email as opposed to physical mail, there is much less chance of an eGift card being intercepted.
  • Speed – Clients of employee benefits providers have grown tired of waiting days for their physical gift cards to arrive. eGift cards are delivered instantly and can be redeemed in seconds.
  • Management – Leading solutions put stock management, invoicing and analytics all under one roof. They provide just one contact for the entire reward library, rather than one for each, and improve cash flow due to the lack of an inventory. 

There are plenty of considerations to take into account when choosing an eGift card provider. Do you go with the best reward library? Perhaps the simplest tool to use? In our view, one of the biggest attributes (and also opportunities) is found in the tools that let you build direct relationships with brands. 

You can always create ties with retailers in-house, but at a considerable cost to your time and money. Let’s rewind for a minute and look into the importance of building those direct connections. 

Why do I need a direct partnership with my eGift card brands?

All employee benefits and rewards & recognition providers should appreciate the value of being a strong link in the supply chain. It’s something that can put your service in front of brands that need partners to drive their volume at key periods. 

Direct brand partnerships provide more flexibility and insight into the retailer which enables you:

  • Run exclusive promotions: If you want to organise a Father’s Day campaign with a specific brand (e.g. iTunes, Nike, Google Play, Uber Eats, Hotels.com) you’ll need their permission first. A supplier who does not encourage direct relationships will not be able to enable this.
  • Negotiate better commercial terms: Let’s imagine you’re selling a high volume of eGift cards and want a 5% discount rather than the 3% you’re getting. This is only possible through direct relationships, which sidestep the intermediaries that get in the way of your preferential rates. 
  • Improve security: Using a provider without direct relationships is a risky move. If a relationship breaks down between your supplier and a retailer, it’s near impossible to contact the retailers directly to get the same rewards, on the same terms. By using a provider with direct partnerships and transparency at the core of their offering, the retailers know who you are. You own the partnership, making it easy to get the rewards you need, without interruption.

“Great. But surely I can do all of this on my own?”

Any employee benefit or reward & recognition partner can form their own direct relationships with retailers. The door is open for their custom, and provided the necessary volume is being met, there isn’t much reason to close it.  

Of course, there are several different factors that prevent you reaching your partnership goals. These have very much fuelled the reputation of eGifting platforms, which make sense from a time, cost and management perspective. They are:

  • Sales volume: Some retailers are happy to receive orders from any provider, regardless of how big they are and the sales they drive. Nevertheless, for other brands (particularly the household names, who tend to be conscious of the groups representing them) this might be a little tricky. Smaller agencies often struggle to build ties with companies a lot bigger than themselves. In some cases, the numbers just don’t add up.
  • Recruitment: Theoretically, recruiting new brands is a sales conundrum; another puzzle for the business development executives to crack. Nevertheless, finding the right person to talk to is no mean feat. eGifting and rewards can be entrusted with any one of a line of people, each belonging to different departments. They could be in marketing or sales. Rewards could even have its very own department, under an incredibly obscure name. Having the time and resource to find crucial contacts is something that very few agencies have.
  • The management headache: Direct partnerships mean bringing your eGift operation in-house. You’re then left with different processes for reconciling invoices, making payments, managing stock and promotions. Every relationship is bound by its own service-led agreement and points of contact. Multiply that across hundreds of brands and you start to realise how difficult it is to build and maintain an eGift card network. Multiply that by tens of markets, and you’re faced with something that is almost impossible to scale. 
  • Time: Across all facets of managing direct partnerships with brands, there is a caveat; namely, the hours involved. It takes time to build a network of retailers from scratch – an everlasting mission to give your users what they want. You also need time to negotiate contracts and manage hundreds of different processes across your network. We’ve estimated the monthly outlay of managing brand relationships at 90 hours per month. With in-house management, evidently, there is a cost.  

How do eGift providers solve the direct relationship puzzle?

Time, recruitment and management all represent obstacles to the building of brand relationships. Fortunately, there is another way of getting into direct contact with quality partners.

Through a single API, WeGift can power the backend of any benefit provider’s eGifting platform. The technology provides instant access to rewards from an unrivalled selection of brands. Better still, each of these come as a result of a direct relationship, which is handed to you – the provider. 

We are completely transparent and facilitate communication with any brand you wish. This makes it easy to negotiate discounts on cards, manage promotional efforts and get yourself seen by household names.

We also remove all of the manual elements of your partnerships by offering a single set of processes for invoicing, payments and ordering. You have just one contact for over 500 brands (that’s us, by the way) but with all the tools for reaching out to them individually. Not only this, you can even run your existing direct partnerships – with the same terms and processes – through WeGift. 

And that’s without mentioning the little touches, like the use of a single, email-based method of delivering rewards (again, as opposed to hundreds of different ones) to give your clients, and their eGift recipients, a consistent, quality experience. 

Final thoughts

There is no one way of creating and managing brand relationships. Every employee benefit and reward & recognition partner is forced to wrestle with a stack of considerations for each route. And while many have aspirations for in-house brand management, the decision between hiring a team of specialists vs a technology provider – representing price equivalent of one salary – has a clear winner.

Even the biggest agencies are turning to eGift providers as a way of saving time and money. And given that much of the unlocked resource will go on supporting their growth, we’d expect plenty of their competitors to quickly follow suit.