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Selling the gift of flightSelling the gift of flight

Flight gift certificates are the most common and easy-to-sell gift certificates flight schools have to offer. Holidays are an especially busy time for selling gift certificates, but birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations don’t have a season. In today’s e-commerce world, prospective buyers want to be able to find, compare, and make their gift certificate purchases online—24 hours a day, seven days a week. If your school is still making shoppers call you to purchase gift certificates, you’re absolutely missing sales.

Selling gift certificates online isn’t complicated but there are some Internet security protocols that need to be followed. To start, your business needs an Internet merchant account, which is similar to other credit card processing account services.

When a shopper buys something online the transaction is routed through your Internet merchant account to a payment gateway, which verifies the buyer’s funds, then back to your merchant account, and eventually on to your business’s bank account. Of course, most of this process happens in a matter of seconds.

To be sure credit card information is handled securely, Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards must be upheld on your website or by pushing the shopper to a PCI-compliant third party vendor’s website.

PayPal and Google Wallet are two well-known payment service vendors that offer businesses Internet merchant accounts and other business e-commerce solutions. They make it possible for shoppers to go seamlessly from your website to their secure servers where the shopper enters their payment information, funds are authorized, you are notified of a sale, and then the funds are transferred (usually within 24 to 48 hours) to your account. Since many shoppers already have personal accounts with these or other similar e-commerce companies, they trust them, which means both you and your customer will feel confident that their purchases are being handled securely.

If you are already accepting credit cards your current merchant account provider may also be able to offer an online merchant account solution to you; however it is well worth the time to research Internet merchant account vendors since card fees, monthly statement fees, payment gateway account fees, and transaction fees vary considerably.

Shopping cart software is the software that creates the look and functionality of an online (Web) store, and is another option for selling products online. Shopping cart software comes in a variety of implementation options. Some shopping cart software is hosted on the vendor’s secure servers and the vendor charges monthly or annual usage fees in addition to card fees. Web store software can also be purchased to reside on your server or your Web hosting company’s server. Most shopping cart vendors offer some limited trial usage of their product so you can test it. Whatever option you chose, take your time in comparing monthly fees, and testing out the shopping cart software to be sure it isn’t difficult to use and has a method for you to offer gift certificates.

Selling online gives you both the opportunity and the necessity for creating vibrant descriptions of your flights. Think about who is buying gift certificates. Nine out of 10 times it’s a spouse or other family member who is making the purchase. It is likely that the person they are buying for has always wanted to fly. This purchase is a very special gift for both the giver and the receiver. When writing your descriptions don’t get hung up on aviation’s obsession with the Hobbs meter. Words are tools. A “one-hour” flight lesson sounds and looks more impressive than a 60-minute flight, even though they are exactly the same amount of time.

Always assume your prospective buyer will compare your offer with that of your competitors. The price is rarely as important as the “what.” What will they get to do? They get to fly the airplane—really, you need to tell them that! Is there a preflight briefing? If so, what does it entail? Buyers are well aware that they “get what they pay for”; if your price is higher than your competitors, substantiate your program’s values, benefits, and fun factor!

How will you deliver your gift certificates after they are purchased? Most shoppers don’t mind receiving their gift certificate as a PDF attachment in an email. The buyer’s email address is always collected with online purchases; however you’ll want to ask for the gift recipient’s name and email address too.

A word about the look of the gift certificate: It is a representation of your business, so be sure it’s a good quality design and easy for the customer to print. It should also include your company’s fine-print policies, along with all relevant contact information.

Ensure your website makes it easy for shoppers to find your flight gift certificates and be sure you test all navigation links before going live. Nothing is more frustrating or lethal to a sale then a link that goes nowhere.

Now, blast the news that you offer gift certificates online out to your social media network and in newsletters. You can do this several times a year, ahead of and during the peak holiday season, and then periodically at other times of the year.

Flight gift certificates are as wonderful to give as they are to receive. They make awesome birthday, anniversary, and graduation presents. By selling gift certificates online you’ll reap the benefits of increasing sales and you’ll make it easy for shoppers to point, click, and give the amazing gift of flight to someone they love.

Dorothy Schick is the owner of the TakeWING Aviation Club in Creswell, Ore.

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