Virtual cash for pizza
Papa John's was the first to unveil a virtual gift card strategy through its early December partnership with gift card supplier CashStar. That puts them ahead of the game if CashStar founder David Stone is correct in his projection that 30 percent of the $1 billion gift card market will be virtual within five years.
 
Here, Papa John spokeswoman Linda Nuss talks about the company's strategy of introducing the product now, and the surprising demographic that uses it.
 
1. What thinking or research led Papa John's to go with online gift cards?
 
We have seen our gift card program grow significantly over the past several years. However, as third party retailer space becomes more competitive, we needed to look outside of retail for places to grow the program. Online gift card provides us the opportunity to reach customers who aren't current Papa John's customers or are delivery Papa John's customers. It also is an extension of our focus on digital.
 
We believe that the gift card industry will continue to move toward a digital (or online) platform. Online gift cards also reduces the cost of administering the program because there is no need for plastic card production. We also see online gift cards as part of the "green" movement, reducing plastic waste in the environment.
 
2. Who is buying this means of gifting -- young people? Older, affluent people?
 
Right now, everyone is purchasing online gift cards. We have grandparents sending their children and grandchildren e-mailable gift cards. Parents love being able to e-mail their college students a Papa John's Gift Card that is delivered immediately. It is a great way to surprise and delight anyone who loves great-tasting pizza.
 
3. Where are the cards getting the most visibility -- social networks, AOL banner ads, etc?
 
Since we just launched online gift cards Dec. 7, we are still building awareness. We are promoting the service in all of our marketing channels, which includes Facebook ,Twitter, display advertising, e-mail blasts, our pizza box boxtoppers, etc. Wherever we can promote it, we will.
 
4. Is there anything else about the CashStar program that you like or has taken you by surprise?
 
One of the best features of the CashStar program is the plan ahead, which compliments our plan ahead ordering. Customers can order a gift card today and have it delivered months from now. We have customers who in mid-December scheduled Valentine's Day gift cards for delivery on 2/14. And, best of all, customers will be able to redeem it for a heart-shaped pizza.

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