Gift cards are America’s favorite gift. According to Deloitte, 43% of all gifts delivered in the past holiday period were gift cards, making it the #1 gift item for the season. They’re simple, easy, and convenient to both give and to redeem. But throughout the past 20 years since they were first introduced, they have come a long way, offering a wide range of possibilities and thus continuing to enhance the love affair between American consumers and these little plastic cards.
You Chose the Amount. Shoppers often struggle to find the right gift that will match both the giver’s budget and the recipient’s desire. Gift cards come in various dollar denominations, and websites like GiftCards.com offer the ability to load any amount on the card from $20 to $500, making it easy to satisfy both parties.
Convenience. Gift cards are available at thousands of establishments from grocery stores to drugstores, to the stores and establishments themselves, to a number of websites. Distribution is omnipresent. Digital distribution is the fastest growing channel for gift cards, today amounting to about $10 billion annually. This channel provides the advantage of buying 24/7 from the convenience of your home or mobile device.
Variety. The possibilities are almost endless. Today gift cards come in all shapes and forms: open-loop Visa® gift cards accepted at 99% of establishments, group gift cards for weddings or baby showers, local gift cards to millions of mom-and-pop establishments, store chain gift cards to all of the major mall stores, spas, or restaurants, or virtual gift cards redeemable online anywhere Visa® is accepted.
Personalization. Often considered impersonal, personalized gift cards now offer the possibility of delivering the most personalized gift. Consumers can easily upload a meaningful photo of, say, a granddaughter, to any gift card, load any dollar amount, and have a personal message embossed on the card. This raises the value of the gift well beyond the face value on the card, and it’s likely to never leave grandma’s wallet.
Last-Minute Gifts. How many times have you found yourself in a bend by forgetting your in-laws’ anniversary? No problem, e-gift cards offer the possibility of same-day delivery of a Visa® e-gift card that can be redeemed at Amazon, iTunes, Expedia, or virtually anywhere online.
Always the Right Gift. First Data research shows that 93% of consumers prefer a $25 gift card than an actual gift of equal or higher amount. Irrational? Not quite. After all, what are the chances that Aunt Suzie will get you the right blouse, in the right size, color and fabric? Pretty slim. A gift card allows the recipient to buy what she wants; her favorite blouse, in her favorite color and fabric, in the right size and fit.
Ease of Use. Gift cards are essentially like plastic cash. Walk into a store, select the merchandise, pull out the gift card, period. Enough said.
Shop Anywhere You Want. Open-loop gift cards don’t lock shoppers into a particular store or product category and are redeemable anywhere Visa® or MasterCard® are accepted. This allows us to use the gift card on anything our hearts desire, a new pair of shoes, dinner, or simply to fill up the gas tank.
No Returns. Returning merchandise can be a hassle at best, embarrassing at worst. Heading to the store with, or sometimes without, a receipt to exchange merchandise can be quite an inconvenience. Often gifts collect dust in a closet because consumers procrastinate dealing with the hassle or simply forget to toss the gift in the car trunk. A gift card fits in your wallet and allows you to go to a store and buy what you want whenever you’re ready. No receipts and no arguing with store clerks.
High Ticket Items. So you crave a $700 iPad for your upcoming birthday, but your parents are not able or not willing to shell out the entire amount? You can easily set up a group gift card that allows you to invite, via e-mail or social media, Uncle Joe, Aunt Pattie, Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, Dad, your older sister, and your best buddy to pitch in for that gift you really want!
As gift cards continue to evolve and leverage new technologies, apps, features, and distribution channels, their popularity is only likely to grow and continue to win consumers’ hearts and wallets.
~~ Carlos Tribino