News • 18.07.2018

State of consumer gift card preferences in 2018

Lifestyles and technology are driving increased consumer interest in gift card innovations

Gift card; Copyright: panthermedia.net/orson
Source: panthermedia.net/orson

Blackhawk Network, a global financial technology company and a leader in connecting brands and people through branded value solutions, today released findings from the 2018 State of Consumer Gift Card Preferences survey.* The research, which is based on the responses of more than 3,000 U.S. adults, outlines trends in consumer gift card preferences and highlights consumer and employee preferences for gift cards as incentives.

"Gift cards hold mass appeal, and offer a seemingly endless range of options—physical, digital and mobile—giving brands and organizations new ways to engage with their audiences," said Talbott Roche, chief executive officer and president, Blackhawk Network. "As consumer gift card purchasing and usage preferences continue to evolve, there will be more opportunities for merchants to drive traffic, sales and loyalty with their own gift card programs. Businesses can prepare themselves by considering consumer insights and embracing the changes coming to our industry."

Key trends from the 2018 State of Consumer Gift Card Preferences research, include:

Interest in digital gift card options continues to grow.

  • The research found that although the surveyed consumers currently purchase more physical gift cards than digital ones, digital gift card purchases are poised for continued growth.
  • More than half of the consumers surveyed report interest in giving digital gift cards that can be added to a mobile app or digital wallet, especially millennials (69 percent) and smart phone users (59 percent), who are nearly three times more likely to be interested than those without a smartphone (17 percent).

"Despite growth in digital, the demand for physical gift cards is still strong and, in many cases, preferred," said Roche. "But even as consumer attitudes shift toward digital gift cards, there is still a need for both mediums as part of consumers' omnichannel journey. A big opportunity for both physical and digital growth lies with brands and organizations taking the personalization of gift cards to the next level."

Millennial shoppers want to be engaged wherever they are through contextual commerce.

  • Allowing consumers to seamlessly make purchases in the environments or on the social platforms they use regularly—called contextual commerce—is one way the gift card industry is changing.
  • When asked about gift cards sent via social media platforms or messaging apps, 60 percent of 18‒34-year-old consumers surveyed revealed they would be interested in receiving a gift card through a social networking platform or messaging app, like Facebook, and 54 percent would be interested in giving one.

Personalization is important to the future of gift cards.

  • Technology and data gathering capabilities have aided in consumers' expectations for personalized experiences in many facets of their lives—shopping and gift giving included. When consumers are purchasing physical and digital gift cards to give, there are numerous opportunities to provide custom, personalized options, including photos, video or written messages.
  • Between 30 and 40 percent of consumers surveyed would be encouraged to spend more on a gift for personalization options, regardless of whether the personalization is a message, gift wrap, video or photo.
  • More than 60 percent of consumers surveyed feel a greeting card or a gift card personalized with their own message makes a gift feel more thoughtful.
  • The study found that consumers surveyed are also interested in a variety of other gift card innovations. For example, 44 percent would be interested in receiving a gift card that can be used to play the lottery; while 60 percent would be interested in receiving a gift card that can be used for multiple brands within a specific category and 64 percent would be interested in receiving one that can be used at a variety of local restaurants within a specific city or metro area.

Consumers and employees prefer gift cards as incentives.

  • Most surveyed consumers (82 percent) would prefer receiving a gift card or prepaid card over other incentive options like discounts, checks or merchandise.
  • Eighty percent of those surveyed found gift cards to be more influential on purchase decisions than options like coupons and bonus dollars.
  • When it comes to loyalty, more than half (52 percent) of consumers surveyed report that gift cards would keep them engaged in a loyalty program over other options like merchandise, discounts and airline miles.
  • Employee gift card incentives are also extremely popular among employees across generations. Consumers surveyed reported that gift card rewards from employers are comparable in popularity to cash rewards. Sixty-nine percent of employees would like to receive a gift card as a reward from an employer, compared to the 73 percent that would prefer a cash incentive.
Source: Blackhawk Network

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