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August 2014

Study: Business Buyers Boost Gift Card Marketplace

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The B2B gift card market—encompassing employee and sales incentives, together with customer loyalty programs—continues to grow in size and popularity, reflecting ever-wider enthusiasm by recipients, according to the Incentive Gift Card Council (IGCC), a strategic industry group within the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA), which recently completed a study of more than 1,110 U.S. businesspeople and their companies to get a pulse on the latest gift card spending habits and buying trends. The research, conducted for the IGCC by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and Aspect Market Intelligence, was presented in full detail at the IGCC strategic industry group meeting in late July at the IMA's 15th Annual Summit in Philadelphia.

Other highlights of the study include:

  • 45 percent of companies are using gift cards as a reward, with the largest companies (more than $100 million in annual revenue) using them at a rate of 56 percent.
  • Of companies using gift cards, most firms (67 percent) are using gift cards as employee incentives, followed by sales incentives (38 percent), customer rewards (30 percent) and 8 percent allocated to channel incentives.
  • Researchers found that gift cards awarded as sales incentives carry the highest average value of $149, followed by channel incentives ($84), employee awards ($70) and customer rewards ($56).
  • "Open loop" gift cards—those that are issued by banks and credit card companies, and that can be redeemed virtually everywhere—dominate the types of gift cards businesses are purchasing for incentive and loyalty rewards, varying from 56 percent to 62 percent, with the largest companies purchasing the majority of open loop cards.
  • As for "closed loop" gift cards—those issued by a particular business, redeemable at only their physical locations and websites—respondents chose their top 10 favorites, leading with food and beverage cards, and followed by department stores, exclusive online retailers, music and movies, fuel, electronics, sporting goods, apparel shops, travel and jewelry and accessories.

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