Gift Card Sales Can Rise to the Occasion

Use special calendar dates and promotions to drive revenue. 

Date:March 3, 2020

For the thirteenth consecutive year, gift cards were the most-requested holiday gift by U.S. consumers in 2019. Given such high demand, it’s no wonder retailers ramp up their gift card promotional efforts around this peak gifting season. 
Key seasonal events like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Teacher Appreciation Day are also prime times to promote gift cards. Consider statistics from the National Retail Federation (NRF), indicating that consumers spend up to $25 billion on gifts for Mother’s Day. The report also pointed out that gift cards ranked high on the Mother’s Day gift list, with shoppers spending the third highest amount on gift cards: $20.65. (Note that gift cards finished ahead of flowers in the NRF ranking.) Graduation is another big gift-buying occasion as consumers spend up to $5 billion annually, with gift cards being ranked right behind cash as the most popular gift.    
While retailers may be inclined to scale back on gift card marketing after the holidays, suspending promotions undercuts many great opportunities to generate additional revenue. Henry Ford once offered some wise words in this regard when he said: “Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.” 



Promotions  tied to  special calendar dates  can  help drive card purchases.
Promotions  tied to  special calendar dates  can  help drive card purchases.



The two main seasonal timeframes (Holiday and Moms/Dads/Grads) have become table stakes. As this category continues to mature retailers should be looking to raise gift card revenue during non-holiday times. The answer is targeted promotion. Make it a priority to set up programs to promote your gift card selection year ‘round. Focus your campaigns on certain events or seasons and you’ll create a greater demand for them. Here are a few examples of how a season or event can be leveraged to drive card sales:



Valentine’s Day – Create a card combo that promotes a fun night out, featuring dinner and movie cards along with ride sharing cards.

Tax season – Promote General Purpose Reloadable (GPR) cards that consumers can potentially use to load their tax refund faster.

Appreciation – Develop campaigns that promote giving gift cards as small token gifts to teachers, service industry professionals and childcare givers.

Summer – Advertise gas, airline and restaurant cards that can help consumers budget their road trip.



InComm has dedicated retail marketers to help you generate a gift card buzz around promotions. “Our goal is to help our retail partners drive traffic year ’round, and we believe that calendar events can be used to boost gift card purchases,” says Sherie Atkinson, Senior Director, Retail & Promotional Marketing at InComm. “Gift cards aren’t just for the holidays; they’re the perfect gift for all kinds of occasions. Our retailer-specific promotions help get the word out to consumers that there are a great number of times and reasons to give a gift card.”    
The InComm Trade Marketing team has been successful in helping retailers drive gift card sales during less traditional gift card-giving times. Back to school is a prime example; it’s one the largest shopping times of the year with consumers spending nearly $80 billion. To help retail partners get a bigger piece of this huge spend, InComm creates back to school-themed ad campaigns that position prepaid cards as a budgeting tool for teens and college students, promotes gift cards as a way for parents and kids to buy school supplies and touts gift cards as fun, celebratory gifts. “We saw gift cards as a perfect way for retailers to generate greater sales during back to school. Our on-target strategies give consumers another reason to visit retailers, driving traffic and growing basket size,” Atkinson said.    
Not only does InComm deliver sound marketing strategies, it creates and executes materials that support promotional activities and engage the consumer at purchase. ”Knowing each retailer’s visual merchandizing landscape allows for customization within the retail space and better adoption from their specific customer,” Atkinson offered. With 25+ years of experience in the gift card category, InComm has a wide range of attention-grabbing, in-store promotional materials, including occasion-themed displays, shelf wobblers and point-of-purchase signage at the ready. InComm can even produce radio ads and videos to air over store audio/visual systems during prime shopping hours. In a revealing study, Deloitte found that 90 percent of worldwide retail sales occur in brick & mortar locations — so enabling and optimizing in-store advertising for gift cards can significantly impact incremental sales.     
As part of an integrated ad strategy to drive traffic, InComm develops promotional materials for outside the store too, placing occasion-themed ads in retailer circulars, e-newsletters and social media outlets. “We’re in step with the digital shift in advertising and are creating occasion-themed gift card ads for our partners’ social media pages as well as banner ads for their websites and apps,” Atkinson noted. “Understanding the ever-growing importance of the mobile space, we have also been partnering with several social influencers whose content helps generate awareness for gift cards around certain calendar events; effectively getting this message out to a mass audience. We are proactively working with both card brands and retailers to increase digital delivery of prepaid products.”    





  • Develops over 1k unique promotions, annually
  • Creates 280k shippers, annually    
  • Designs 4M pieces of promotional and marketing design and retail POP



To maximize their occasion-based ad budgets, retailers should feature gift cards that fit the date and drive sales. For instance, while ads for a Mother’s Day campaign should promote gift cards that would appeal to moms, they should also be on a favorable sales trajectory, align with the spend threshold for the promotion and drive revenue for the merchant. “Our marketing team works with retailers to ensure the right mix of card brands appears in their ads and on their displays,” Atkinson said. “Using sales figures from previous campaigns and by conducting custom forecasts, we can determine the cards best suited for the promotion.”   
Retailers are always looking for ways to drive traffic. Occasion-themed gift card promotions are a great way to continue the momentum gained during the holidays. There’s no reason to take your foot off the gas when it comes to promoting gift cards.     
To learn more about occasion/seasonal marketing and promotions for your gift card program, contact Sherie Atkinson at