Have gift cards replaced other Christmas gifts ?

by | 6 Jan, 2021 | INSIGHTS

Who has never given or received a gift card for Christmas? Whether plastic or digital, they are very appreciated by consumers during the holidays. Can we say they are supplanting other gifts? Should retailers put more emphasis on gift cards?

Brands have finally crossed the finish line. They have lived through the big peak in business activity that Christmas always is. But the race isn’t really over yet, they must now provide an after-sale service, and welcome gift card recipients.

In 2019, French consumers spent €355 on Christmas presents and many chose to put gift cards under the tree. As for the US, 80% of consumers reported receiving a digital or plastic gift card for the 2019 holidays according to a Blackhawk Network survey. In 2020, specialists expected gift cards to be a major source of revenue for retailers.

Gift cards, more wanted than ever

Most people make gifts and receive gifts in return, pleasing is the main motivation. And when people are asked what they want most from Santa, two types of gifts stand out:

  • Money
  • Gift cards

More than half of French as well as American consumers wanted cash or gift cards more than any other gift this past holiday season.*

*GOBankingRates survey and OpinionWay survey for Smartbox (2018 and 2017)

Although gift cards might seem like an “easy gift”, they appear to take their place on the podium of most wanted gifts. How come? Well, simply put, it’s a gift that gives access to all gifts. Incredible, isn’t it? That’s the card’s whole point. It lets recipients choose what will really please them. That way, you are sure to never disappoint!

Indeed, disappointment comes knocking at each door every year. Reselling gifts has become yet another holiday tradition. 61% of Americans admitted receiving unwanted gifts in 2019, and 46% of French admitted to reselling or planning to resale some of their Christmas gifts (according to Finder.com and an Opinionway survey for PriceMinister). With no great surprise, it is young people between 18 and 35 years old that are most comfortable with this practice. On the famous French website Rakuten, 500 000 ads were posted between the night of the 24th and noon of the 25th of December 2019. And in early January 2020, they reached 3 million ads.

A quick gift that always hits the nail on the head

Gift cards sound like the ideal gift. Especially when one knows that “there is a lot of pressure when buying a Christmas gift, but also when receiving one. The former is worried of disappointing, and the latter, to be disappointed” explained Olivier Mathiot, CEO of PriceMinister. Making gifts has become a real bear now that many people seem to already have everything. Gifting yet another item is getting complicated.

The big trend during Christmas has been shifting towards experiences and intangible gifts (streaming subscriptions, trips, restaurant vouchers, …). Creating memories to share is the goal. And gift cards are part of this trend, especially e-gift cards received by email. They are all more appreciated as they are quickly purchasable for the infamous Christmas procrastinators. And because of the numerous offers for fast delivery (right in time for the holidays or D-day), the multiple customer service initiatives and so on, the number of latecomers increases every year.

The bottom line: consumers feel reassured and take their time to put their gifts under the tree. In France as well as in the US, one shopper in two still hasn’t finished buying their gifts in the final weeks leading up to Christmas.

The digital gift craze

The digital gift card is a big star among dematerialized gifts. In fact, it has become very popular these past few years and has gotten a place under the tree. It hasn’t replaced tangible goods which still represent most gifts, but one thing is sure, gift cards gain more ground each year! Yet again, 18 to 35 year-olds are the most interested in getting and giving digital gifts. Actually, 53% of people prefer receiving digital gift cards rather than plastic (CardCash survey 2017).

Gift cards are the ideal gift in every way: they are simple, fast, and never miss the mark. They are eagerly expected by some, but are not about to replace other gifts yet. However, they obviously have a lot of potential, especially among 18 to 35 year-olds. Therefore, brands have every reason to highlight plastic and digital gift cards, in their stores, online, as well as through marketing campaigns targeting young people.

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