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What the Crystal Ball Says About Gift Card Trends

By Jason Wolfe | Published December 11, 2013 | Google+

Online traffic for ‘gift card’ related terms continues to go up this year over last year. As you can see from the chart below, the rate of increase for online gift card terms has not skyrocketed like the term ‘coupons’ did in 2008 or 2009, when saving money with online coupons became chic. But in the coming year or two, I think you will see the trend sharply increase. One of the statistics I discovered this past summer is that about 90 percent of gift cards are sold offline—in retail stores, convenience stores, grocery stores, and the like. Other indicators I found showed that traffic – and thereby future orders – are moving online.  We think that, by 2018, the tables will be flipped, and 90 percent of gift card (or digital gift card) sales will be online, versus offline.

gift card trends

Visa Gift Card Interest

The interesting thing about online gift card sales and searches is that people are really seeking out Visa Gift cards and Amazon gift cards in large quantities. It stands to reason that people are looking for gift cards that can be used to buy a wide variety of merchandise. While Amazon sells everything from groceries to electronic gizmos, Visa gift cards are virtually limitless since they are accepted wherever Visa debit cards are accepted.

The top gift card related search terms are:  gift cards, gift card, buy gift cards, visa gift cards:

gift card trends

But more interestingly is that people are now actively searching for ‘discount gift cards’ and how to ‘sell their gift cards’.  We have seen this sub trend within the gift card space sharply increase.  Almost like the coupon searching increase in 2008 and 2009.  As you can see below the term ‘sell gift cards’ is a Breakout term and growth is over 1000%.  I think this is because of the economy, and how people would rather have cash than the gift cards stacked up on their dresser or in their wallets.


Breakout Terms

Quickly rising terms are:  iTunes gift cards, sell gift cards, and Amazon gift cards.

gift card trends

Moving Away from Gifts

As we see an increase of people looking online for gift cards—or to sell their gift cards—we are also seeing less interest in the term ‘gifts’.  This means that less people year, over year for the past 8 years, are searching online for basic gifts.  I am not sure why, and I don’t pretend to be an expert in data or trends, but I’d have to surmise that people are interested in buying more gift cards, and less general gifts.

gift card trends

The Crystal Ball

So what do these trends mean, and where are things headed?  I don’t know, exactly. If I had a crystal ball, I’d use it to have world peace and ensure that no child goes to sleep hungry. But, what I do know is that people are looking more for gift cards and less for gifts which tells me that, over time, gift cards (and whatever the gift card turns into) could further erode the need for people to search for specific presents. The next generation gift card needs to be delivered quickly, delivered for free, personalized, available in a wide variety, and meaningful. I believe those five things can all be accomplished digitally, with less and less reliance on plastic. I also think buying a gift online– paying for it to be wrapped, shipped, and delivered—will seem old and outdated in five years.  There will be a next generation gift card, and a next generation gift process.  Stay tuned!

~~ Jason Wolfe

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