Remember presents? I can still recall a time when people used to buy tangible objects for one another, cover them with colorful paper and ribbon, and then—in person—hand that beautifully wrapped package over to another person.
Seems positively quaint, doesn’t it? These days, what our highly personalized culture demands are options, options, options, all tailored to our particular quirks, desires and demands: Don’t give me a green sweater when you know that color makes me look like the Grinch. Don’t buy me a box of chocolates when you know I’m going paleo. And perfume? Hello, remember my fragrance allergy?
The world of gift-giving is made much less fraught by giving recipients gift cards to retailers they love, and then letting them pick out what they want most. Even better, skip the physical exchange altogether and send a digital gift card. Don’t worry, they’ll take it from there.
Not only do physical, digital and mobile gift cards suit individual gift givers and recipients, but they continue to give brands and organizations new ways to engage their audiences and drive traffic and sales. New proprietary research from Blackhawk Network examines the state of consumer gift card preferences in 2018 and reveals how changing consumer lifestyles and technology are driving increased consumer interest in gift card innovations.
Key trends from the 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 consumers surveyed report interest in giving digital gift cards that can be added to a mobile app or digital wallet—especially millennials (69 percent).
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 (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 key for the future of gift cards. For brands, the research reveals that one of the biggest opportunities for growth for both physical and digital gift card programs lies with taking personalization to the next level. Technology and data gathering capabilities have aided in consumers’ expectations for personalized experiences in many facets of their lives—shopping and gift giving included. Between 30 and 40 percent of consumers surveyed would be encouraged to spend more on a gift with personalization options, regardless of whether the personalization is a message, gift wrap, video or photo.
Consumers and employees prefer gift cards as incentives. Most surveyed consumers (82 percent) would prefer receiving a gift card or stored value card over other incentive options like discounts, checks or merchandise. Additionally, 80 percent of those surveyed found gift cards to be more influential on purchase decisions than options like coupons and bonus dollars.
Wrapping it up
This trend toward hyper-personalization isn’t going anywhere, and easy-to-use payment tools and platforms like contextual commerce will just contribute to the gift card juggernaut in our economy. We may just be at the beginning of a gift card boom, as we move farther and farther from those old-fashioned wrapped presents of just a few years ago.
To view the complete findings, click here.
 “2018 State of Consumer Gift Card Preferences” is an internet-based survey conducted independently by Leger on behalf of Blackhawk Network in March 2018. The sample size included 3,030 American respondents ages 18+.