Feature Article - May/June 2012

IGCC Roundtable

Digital, Real-Time Delivery Top Trends in Gift Cards

By Deborah L. Vence

Another year of birthdays, holidays and other special events have gone by—with gift cards still shining as one of the most desired gifts for consumers and rewards for company employees.

In 2012, in fact, gift cards have become the most popular gift among consumers shopping for friends and relatives and the tool of choice for businesses hoping to motivate employees, customers and partners, according to a new B-to-B and B-to-C study commissioned by the Incentive Gift Card Council (IGCC) and completed by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF).

Research for the study revealed a number of key findings, including the fact that prepaid cards (a preloaded debit card that allows the cardholder to use it for the purchase of goods or services) now are the most frequently used reward in corporate incentive programs; prepaid cards are being used as incentives across the spectrum, from spot rewards to holiday bonuses and for merchandise, dining, travel and entertainment. Moreover, the majority of incentive planners also believe that prepaid cards can be more meaningful, personal and effective than cash, while almost half believe that, dollar for dollar, they are the most effective reward available. More than 75 percent believe that they are among the most effective of all rewards—especially in driving loyalty and engagement.

Closed cards still are the most commonly used type of prepaid card in incentive and reward programs, but are losing ground to open cards, while restricted cards are a distant third, according to the study.

As shown by the research, gift cards aren't showing any signs of slowing down.

And, overall on trend this year, industry experts say, are digital gift cards, mobile gift cards and real-time delivery.

To probe further into these trends, Premium Incentive Products magazine spoke with top industry experts about the latest trends in gift cards, their benefits as well as the do's and don'ts of gift card incentive programs. The experts are: Dennis O. Borst, president and COO of Los Angeles-based Patriot Marketing Group, Foot Locker Gift Card Sales; Alex Calicchio, president of C2 Consulting Services; and Andrew Dodge, vice president of business development, SVM Cards, Des Plaines, Ill.