Online Gift Certificates

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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As greater numbers of shoppers flock to the Web, revenues from online gift certificate sales continue to boom. Where once companies experimented with online sales and received a trickle of business through this largely untapped avenue, today the biggest retailers depend on e-commerce for as much as half to three quarters of their business, at least in certain industries. While people will continue to buy their cars, houses, jewelry, and other big-ticket items primarily in person, the number of products making inroads in the virtual marketplace is simply staggering.

These days, shoppers do in fact buy things such as sports cars and diamonds over the Web, even if they insist on first eyeing the goods up close. The Internet can often get the ball rolling on extravagant purchases by presenting details such as size, color, cost, and other specs directly to the buyer. At that point, all that remains is for him or her to e-mail any questions or concerns to the seller (especially when it comes to auction sites such as eBay), then await a response. While these negotiations can drag on for days at a time, consider that some people take years to finally purchase the house or car they've been after.

Safety First

So how come places like Wal-Mart, Circuit City, and Target are still slammed during the holiday season? Well, for one thing, not everyone is completely sold on the merits of online retail. Many people, especially the technologically challenged, harbor misconceptions about e-commerce, its privacy, and its safety. Even those who do understand that online shopping is just as safe as (if not safer than) in-store shopping feel that a certain tangibility is preferable when browsing the showroom floor, which is understandable enough.

If you're among the crowd that feels uncomfortable buying online, keep in mind that you can always purchase gift certificates to bricks-and-mortar shops via the Web. Some stores will send you your own certificate through the mail made out to whomever you choose. Others will happily send credited gift cards directly to your recipients. Either way, the dollars you spend at your favorite dot-com still translate into the same greenbacks you know and love (and have used your entire life).

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