Key Takeaways from InComm Payments’ Gift Card Research

Consumer Gift Card Shopping Trends in 2021

Date:April 12, 2022

In an effort to support our partners with the latest consumer data, we complete quarterly surveys regarding their gift card shopping habits. This research is reviewed and analyzed to reveal year-over-year trends and better understand the shifts and constants in consumer behavior.


Our research covers open-loop gift cards, which can be redeemed anywhere on the provider’s network, and closed-loop gift cards, which are branded and redeemable at that specific store or brand. Keep reading to see the key takeaways from 2021.

 

 

Consumers are willing to spend more time finding the card they want

 

When the pandemic first hit, isolation was paramount. This was reflected in 2020’s survey responses, as consumers focused on getting in and out as quickly as possible. Perhaps due to a better understanding of how to stay safe in 2021, open-loop gift card shoppers were willing to spend more time in stores to ensure they left with what they came for. This was evidenced by a 14% increase in willingness to ask for assistance if they can’t find the card they want and a 22% decrease in those who would choose to go to another store if they couldn’t find it right away. In addition to asking for help, shoppers were more likely to purchase a different gift card or look elsewhere in the store than leave or look online.

 

 

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Closed-loop shoppers also reported an increase in willingness to ask for help and a decline in going to another store to find their card; however, they continue to report turning to online channels as their main course of action if they can’t find the card they’re looking for.

 

While consumers may be more willing to look for their card in store, they’re also planning their purchases in advance – meaning stores without the cards they want could miss out on future trips. Open-loop purchases that were said to have been planned in advance increased to 77% overall, while 84% of closed-loop purchases were mostly or always planned.

 

 

 

Discounts are a big deal

 

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With in-store health and safety declining as a top concern, and security concerns decreasing as consumers become more accustomed to digital and prepaid card transactions, convenience cemented itself as the top factor for consumers. However, another factor saw a significant rise – deals. Getting a good deal or promotion as a factor for purchasing a gift card increased by 47% for closed-loop shoppers and 27% for open-loop shoppers, and both sets of consumers reported missing out on sales or deals as a factor likely to discourage them from making a purchase. About a quarter of open- and closed-loop shoppers also indicated that discounts on multi-packs or multiple cards could impact their shopping decisions. All around, good deals are becoming even more important to consumers.

 

 

 

Send it to the inbox

 

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With deals increasingly driving choices, communicating promotional offers to customers can be vital. So where do consumers expect to see those promotions? Both open- and closed-loop consumers reported email as the number one place they expect to hear about promotional offers. In-store signage decreased for both sets of consumers (by 32% for open-loop), while other digital options rounded out the top categories: social media came in third and digital coupons ranked fourth.

 

 

 

Gifting has rebounded, and gift-givers know their audience

 

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Consumers reported upticks in cards purchased for gifting purposes, with immediate family members and teachers and coaches as the biggest beneficiaries of open-loop gifting and extended family seeing the biggest increase in receipt of closed-loop gift cards.

 

Those closed-loop shoppers felt extremely comfortable choosing the right brand for their family members – indicating the personal touch that comes with a thoughtful gift card and highlighting the importance of maintaining the right inventory for shoppers. Virtually none of our respondents said they weren’t comfortable finding the brand their recipient would like.


Those giving open-loop cards to family members reported increases in helping them with unexpected expenses and money management as the top reasons for their choice of gift. 

 

 

 

Change in the channels

 

Big box retailers remain the primary channel for open- and closed-loop gift card purchases, but grocery saw big gains as a gift card destination of choice. A quarter of open-loop shoppers said they prefer purchasing their cards at grocery stores, and closed-loop wasn’t far behind at 17% (up by 21% year-over-year). For those closed-loop shoppers, grocery stores increased in reported share of purchases for nearly every category of gift card, particularly gaming, entertainment and digital content. Those purchasing closed-loop cards for self-use also turned to grocery, with a whopping 70% increase over 2020.


Online channels also grew, up 24% for open-loop shoppers and 13% for closed-loop shoppers, again highlighting the desire for convenience – and the need for consumers to consider gift cards as part of their shoppers’ regular trips.

 

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Overall, our research indicates consumers bought more gift cards in 2021 than in 2020, with a reported 16.6% year-over-year increase in cards purchased per quarter. They reported convenience as the primary factor driving their gift card shopping preferences, reflected in their choice of channel, advanced trip-planning, or other factors (like use of open-loop cards for convenient money management and bill pay). They’re also on the lookout for good deals – with their eyes increasingly focused on digital channels over in-store displays. 

 

Retailers with strong gift card programs (and a well-organized shopper experience) can increase their odds of being a one-stop shop and satisfying customers with the right selection and attention to promotional mediums. They can also rest assured that between gift-giving and self-use, consumers remain reliant on a variety of prepaid options.


Want to learn more about connecting to consumers with the prepaid products they know and love? Contact us today.