Feature Article - May/June 2013

IGCC Roundtable

Mobile, Social, Virtual Top Choices for Gift Cards

By Deborah L. Vence


Q: What is the importance of a gift card's trophy value?

Calicchio: There are a wide variety of gift cards for program managers to select from so select gift cards that resonate with your recipients. Gift cards are easily incorporated into any loyalty, rewards, recognition or points-based programs. They have the ability to create a special experience for the recipient by providing him/her with a gift card from a merchant they may not normally frequent.

Normally, a recipient would be more likely to communicate to their friends and family about an unexpected gift card reward that they received at their workplace than a cash bonus. It's a great opportunity for an employer to make it a special event.

Killian: We want recipients to use their gift cards for something they do not have or something that they do not usually do. Get them something special. This created what we call a higher "perceived value." This feels good to an employee and, thus, the trophy value seems higher by allowing recipients to do something special and out of the ordinary.

I would much rather communicate to my friends and family about an unexpected gift card reward I earned at my workplace than a cash bonus that I earned.

Knight: A great value as the recipient selects what they want. Many merchants are multi-channel, so the recipient is able to redeem online, through a catalog or in a retail store.

Van Witzenburg: That's debatable. I think it's what that recipient does with that gift card or their experience with it is what determines the value. That goes back to earlier answers about what cards are being offered. Different cards and denominations will dramatically alter the impact. The gift card must fit the program or it could result in little or no value at all.

Marcell King: Let's face it. If a brand isn't already popular with consumers, it's hard to hand out that brand and have it be considered meaningful. Alternatively, you can have a popular gift card, but if the value is too low the employee won't feel appreciated. Trophy value is really based on balancing two critical things: what does your employee like, and what denomination will make them feel like you are truly rewarding them.

Q: Are there certain types or categories of gift cards that you see as being the most popular right now (i.e., restaurants, entertainment, etc.)?

Calicchio: The gift card "experience" is still very popular. It allows the recipient to pamper themselves or their family and continues to resonate as a great experience long after the event takes place. Events such as a spa treatment or dinner at a restaurant they've never experienced before are always well-liked.

Killian: iTunes are great for the younger to middle generation. Movie passes are great for the younger generation. Who does not want a Starbucks gift card? Male recipients love home improvement. I recommend gift cards that are good at several merchants, not just one, so that there is some flexibility. Ask your audience who they like.

Knight: I am seeing an increase in the outdoor industry. Families are getting back to basics and spending time with the family to preserve family traditions in hunting, fishing and camping and together time.

Van Witzenburg: The large nationwide retailers will always have an advantage when it comes to volume. These brands are highly sought after simply due to the fact that they satisfy large company programs. These programs need to be relevant and transferrable whether you are in Miami, New York, Seattle or Phoenix.

Marcell King: The popularity of certain gift cards can vary widely depending on the demographics of the program participants (i.e., affluent credit card program members), the type of program issuing the gift card (i.e., mobile app for shopping), or the reason for issuing the gift card (i.e., special promotions where the dollar value of the card is typically lower, but still needs to be considered "of value" by the recipient). Across a variety of partners, retail, e.g., consumer electronics, department stores, and home improvement make up the largest categories of redemption followed by restaurant and entertainment.