The ABCs of Redemption Stores

What’s a redemption store? Put simply, it’s a company store where customers, employees or team members pick out one or more things that they’re receiving for free. The most common redemption store – and the one that’s probably been around longer than any other – is the holiday gift store.

Holiday gift stores are a fantastic way for a company to let employees pick an end-of-year gift for themselves. They’re often filled with incentive products – think Bluetooth speakers or high-end backpacks, for example – but they can have traditional logoed promotional products and apparel as well.

It branches out from there. Corporations have plenty of reasons to give gifts to their employees any time of the year – for special events, meeting sales goals or just a general thank you. Note that a redemption store differs from what most people call a points or rewards store; such stores often stay open year round, and users can accrue points (or other “alternative” currencies) and spend them on a wide variety of branded products and gifts.

It’s helpful to think of a redemption store as a more targeted shop, spun up for the specific purpose of redeeming something quickly. Ideally, a redemption store removes a lot of the friction of the normal e-commerce shopping process and gets the user in and out in just a minute or two.

In fact, if there is one unifying characteristic of good redemption stores, it’s speed. Redemption is not an extended shopping process; it’s usually choosing between just a few options and completing the order quickly. Be careful with repurposed “generic” e-commerce shops that still require a user to navigate to a category and complete a traditional checkout process – redemption stores almost never need payment methods, and having to go through a payment page and check a “free” option or enter a code at the end of the process can make for a clunky experience.

Packing a gift for shipment.

What a Redemption Store is:

  • Compact: Usually 3-10 products/gifts
  • Seasonal: Often available for just a month or two
  • Private: A code or link accesses the store
  • Secure: Once the gift is redeemed, the code or link can’t be used anymore
  • Quick: Fast checkout eliminates typical e-commerce checkout headaches

All that said, it’s not unusual to confuse a redemption or popup store with the traditional points and rewards stores that many companies run, most often year-round. So it’s worth remembering all the things that a redemption store is not

What a redemption store isn’t:

  • It’s not a traditional “Reward” or “Points” store
  • Purchases never need additional approval (for the recipient, they’re not really purchases!)
  • With certain exceptions, most of the items in the store should have a similar perceived value
  • Users don’t accrue points or currency to shop multiple times
  • Users don’t browse through many categories and products

Redemption stores in real life

We’ve established that redemption stores need to be fast. But that process – getting a code/link, picking from a list, entering your address and boom: you’re done – has all sorts of other cool applications as well. In fact, there are tons of things that redemption stores do better than any other kind of e-commerce experience. If your customer needs to give away anything free and quickly (think online order form), a redemption store might be your ticket:

New hire

Employee onboarding: New hires often receive kits or packets when they come on board at a company. A new hire redemption store makes this process quick and easy. They can pick the size of a company t-shirt or polo they need, grab a cool mug or tumbler and be done in a minute or two. Can a traditional company store handle this? Sure, but it’s often going to be filled with instructions and exceptions – “pick only one from this category, then one from this category, then enter ‘onboarding’ as your coupon code” – which can be incredibly cumbersome and confusing for a new hire. A redemption store only provides a few simple choices, making the process bulletproof. Demo: Employee onboarding store.

Uniform fulfillment: When employees need new uniforms or workwear, there is no easier way to handle the selection and distribution than a redemption store. They’re probably picking the garment for their particular role, then choosing a style and size. Why make them go through a traditional purchase process? Demo: Uniform fulfillment store.

Team uniforms and equipment: While there are plenty of “uniform pickup” programs for sports teams, they tend to be very limited in scope – pick a size and enter your name and number. A redemption store can handle all that, but allow for more flexibility in selection.

Build your own bundle: Some e-commerce stores have bundling capabilities, but they’re often cumbersome to use, requiring users to pick from endless menus and navigate irritating error messages when the selections don’t add up correctly. A well-built redemption store avoids all that with automatic bundling. Need to pick three different products out of five to make your own bundle? A redemption store can update you as you make choices, showing exactly what you have left and allowing you to easily back out a choice when you change your mind.

Other considerations

Fulfillment: Redemption stores are often (though not always) stocked with pre-purchased products or gifts. If you’re dealing with any kind of volume, you’ll want a redemption store that can integrate directly with a fulfillment company or warehouse.

Start and stop dates: Many redemption store run only during a limited timeframe. Make sure yours can be set up to open up and shut down at predetermined dates. And if you’re going to shut down after a month or two, make sure you note it on the store so that users don’t come back disappointed after it’s been closed!

Simplifying the process: While almost all redemption stores will have a simple way to enter the store – usually by entering a redemption code – some redemption store platforms also include the ability to include the code in the link sent to the user. That means that the user doesn’t even have to enter a code; it’s part of the URL. It’s one less step for them to take and one less thing for you to worry about.

Tax considerations: We’re not accountants or tax lawyers here, but we can tell you that you or your customer should always take a look at the tax implications of redeeming gifts for free. You or your client might still be liable for sales tax on those items, so keep an eye on your state’s approach to handling this issue.

Ready for more?

Here are some resources you might find helpful:

  • ABCs of Company Stores: All the knowledge and training you need to get started with company stores.
  • ABCs of Reward Stores: The lowdown on points, rewards and incentive programs.
  • ABCs of Popup Stores: Learn about pop-up (or “flash”) stores for temporary programs like holiday stores and fundraisers.
  • ABCs of Single Sign On (SSO) Stores: Discover the fun, somewhat complex world of Single Sign On (SSO) and how you can build a company store that supports it.
  • eBlox Blog: 10+ years of Identity Marketing magazine articles, in-depth feature discussions and more.
  • SAGE Blog: Great general resources on promotional products and technology.
  • Counselor: ASI’s online magazine for ad specialty industry professionals.
  • PromoCorner: Articles, videos and news for the industry.
  • Resource Center: Lots of educational materials, presentations, videos and general training stuff to help you sell and manage company stores.