As Gift Card Uses and Applications Evolve, Shopper Demand Remains High

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New research from the Retail Gift Card Association reveals shoppers increasingly leverage cards for self-use, are incorporating into mobile wallets, and embrace new card options

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“Shoppers appear to be embracing new options, all the while maintaining a demand for traditional plastic gift cards – 76 percent plan to buy them this year.”

Americans now buy and redeem gift cards across all retail channels, have found new uses for them, and are embracing novel gift card offerings. According to new shopper research from the Retail Gift Card Association (RGCA), consumers are increasingly interested in gift cards to local neighborhood or boutique retailers, incorporating gift card storage into mobile wallets, and buying for self-use. Americans’ affinity for gift cards remains high; roughly three quarters of U.S. shoppers plan to buy plastic gift cards this year and one quarter will buy egifts.

This spring, the RGCA surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. consumers on their use of gift cards and their preferences for giving and redeeming cards. The survey also explored shoppers’ willingness to embrace newer options like localized gift cards, integration into mobile wallets, gift card exchanges, and more.

RGCA’s major findings include:

•Gift card self-use is an emerging option. More than one in three U.S. shoppers buy gift cards for both gifts and self-use. Six percent of Americans buy gift cards only for self-use – not as gifts. The top reasons for self-use are to qualify for special loyalty deals or discounts (45 percent) and to help stick to a budget (35 percent).

•Consumers want localized gift cards. Half of shoppers would be interested in buying gift cards from neighborhood, independent and boutique retailers in their local communities.

•Gift card storage is being incorporated into mobile wallets. Nearly half (46 percent) of Americans prefer to hand cashiers a physical gift card, and 14 percent would prefer to load all their gift cards into a mobile wallet for easier storage and redemption. The remaining 40 percent of consumers are open to using either option.

•Awareness of gift card exchanges is substantial. 40 percent of Americans have heard of gift card exchanges and a quarter of consumers are interested in using one in the future.

“Gift cards are consistently a favorite choice in the U.S.; Americans love to give them and receive them. We have seen incredible innovation in gift cards recently, with the proliferation of egifts, gift card integration into mobile wallets, the emergence of gift card exchanges, and exciting new options like hyper-local gifting,” said Timm Walsh, Board Chairman of the RGCA. “Shoppers appear to be embracing these new options, all the while maintaining a demand for traditional plastic gift cards – 76 percent plan to buy them this year.”

The RGCA is the only nonprofit trade organization that oversees the closed-loop gift card industry. As the demand for gift cards increases and the landscape of the industry continues to evolve, the RGCA and its members remain committed to protecting consumers and addressing new challenges that arise as purchasing and redemption channels change.

The RGCA consumer gift card study was conducted via independent online survey in April 2016 with more than 1,000 adult respondents. The sample was representative of the adult U.S. population in terms of education, income, and gender.

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About the Retail Gift Card Association (RGCA)
The Retail Gift Card Association is the nonprofit trade association that represents the closed-loop gift category. The Association’s mission is to protect, promote and enhance the use of retail gift cards. All RGCA members abide by a Code of Principles that supports consumer-friendly policies for the purchase and redemption of closed-loop gift cards. RGCA’s membership is comprised of retailers from all sectors and including restaurants, general merchandise, apparel, sporting and leisure, and non-retailers. For more information, visit us at http://www.theRGCA.org.

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Ashley Jackson
@theRGCA
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