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Why Retailers Should Utilise Digital Gift Cards

digital gift cards

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner, which for retailers marks the busiest time of year. However, with a bit of normality returning in 2021, in comparison to last Christmas’ lockdown, retailers will have the opportunity to make the most of spenders – including customers looking to purchase gift cards.

During the wave of COVID-19 and in the aftermath that has followed, attitudes towards gift cards have changed for good and it’s time for retailers to get in the know. In fact, recent research from Blackhawk Network revealed that 68% of people agree that being able to buy a digital gift card in-store would be beneficial and 59% of consumers stated that they had already bought digital gift cards this year. It’s clear it’s time for retailers to step it up. Physical offerings are simply not enough, it’s all about digital. In order to continue to drive sales this Christmas, it is essential that retailers tap into this omnichannel approach to gift card programmes. This means providing customers with what they want, at the right time, in the right place – whether it be in digital or physical form.

Digital is still number one

Consumers have become very accustomed to online shopping over the past 18 months. Even with physical stores re-opening, shopping digitally is still coming out on top. Recent research from Deloitte has revealed that whilst holiday retail sales are likely to increase between 7% and 9% in 2021, e-commerce sales will grow by 11-15%. The fact is shopping from your phone or laptop offers reliability without wasting time. Something which proves invaluable during Christmas when retail is notoriously manic. 

Finding the perfect gift is no easy feat, especially with recent supply chain issues. It is easy to spend hours searching the rails for a top in your friend’s size or the perfect piece of jewellery for your partner but still come up blank. This can leave customers feeling frustrated and cause them to lose faith in a brand as they leave the store empty-handed. 

But this doesn’t have to be the case. According to research from Blackhawk Network’s EMEA Consumer Research Report 2021, 70% of consumers are likely to purchase a gift card this Christmas, with almost two-thirds (59%) planning to purchase online. Gift cards can provide retailers with the perfect gifting solution this festive season. And why not offer both physical and digital gift cards as part of an omnichannel approach? In doing so, retailers are better positioned to offer consumers a choice that caters for whether they want to shop online or in-store. What’s more, consumers are also left with the confidence that they won’t be stuck gift-less if they can’t find what they want. 

Back to ‘normal’ but busier than ever

After several months of being restricted to our homes, many have found themselves even busier than before, in an effort to make up lost time with loved ones. Christmas has always been a time of extremely high footfall in-store, but now with the extra plans to contend with, last-minute shopping might be the reality for many. Gift cards and eGift cards are an excellent way to reach these customers, with 30% admitting to buying a gift card as a last-minute purchase rather than a planned purchase. Therefore, by employing an omnichannel approach to gift-card offerings, retailers can reach a wider audience of Christmas shoppers who don’t have time to search the shelves or are simply too late to find exactly what they want. 

Moreover, gift cards and eGift are an excellent way to self-gift this year.  When we think of Christmas gifting, we often think of gifting others, but many purchase gift cards for themselves around Christmas time. For example, it is the perfect time to stock up on gaming credit, just in time to stay entertained over Christmas weekend. Interestingly, for last-minute purchases bought for self-use, 83% had purchased online, compared to just 31% who had made a purchase in-store. By not tapping into an omnichannel approach, retailers miss out on appealing to a large percentage of people currently buying online and guaranteed customers who already buy in-store.

The most wonderful time of the year for variety

Despite the impact COVID-19 has had on consumer buying habits, confidence in shopping is being restored. With confidence returning, attitudes to shopping have changed, particularly around gift cards. The most important takeaway for this Christmas is the need for an omnichannel approach to gift card offerings. It’s about targeting and reaching the right customer, in the right place, at the right time. Whether online, in-store, digital or physical, whoever they are buying for and how they are doing it should be a seamless experience. In the lead-up to Christmas, a peak time of the year for retailers, gift cards strategies should be high on the priority list to truly revamp sales both at Christmas and beyond.

Physical and digital gift cards

As you can see from the popularity of gift cards as presents, there is no better time to invest in both physical and digital gift cards, encouraging returning customers and loyalty at the same time.

Author: Anna Uprichard, VP, Commerce, EMEA at Blackhawk Network Europe

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