How Can Retailers Make Gift Cards Go Farther?

While gift cards are sometimes considered “the gift to give when you don’t know what to give”, the fact is they remain a perennial favourite with consumers. Research shows that they remain the most popular item on wish lists, and the majority of recipients spend more than the card’s value. Almost a third, meanwhile, buy more expensive items when shopping with a gift card.

However, considering their tremendous economic impact—US$160 billion annually—the gift-card experience has changed little over the years. Arguably, e-cards have had an impact on the retail landscape, but almost three quarters of gift cards are still physically purchased in-store—and overall, the purchasing and redemption process has remained relatively static.

What if retailers made card redemption more personalized? Staff could, for example, recommend items to shoppers in line with the card’s value. By appealing to shoppers at the receiving end, this kind of customized service would drive more purchases at the giving end.

More retail food for thought: Give recipients of e-cards a way to automatically send thank-you messages. By easily connecting giver with receiver, the whole process becomes much more personal. Even better: Offer dynamic, engaging ways to ‘unwrap’ an e-card—personalized by the sender in the same way as other types of e-cards.

And of course, these innovations could be applied to corporate gifting too. A 2018 Forbes article puts the annual value of corporate gifting at US$125 billion. The same personalization that appeals in a B2C context is an important differentiator in B2B giving.

While the popularity of gift cards will almost certainly continue to grow, retailers are missing out on opportunities to make more of them. And it’s clearly in their interest to do so—not just from a revenue perspective, but also because gift cards help streamline retail processes: Gift cards almost guarantee shoppers will get what they want. That means a lower rate of returns—a huge plus any time of year, but especially at holiday time.