Consumer Study – Young woman carrying shopping bags and looking at her cell phone at a mall.

The Closed-Loop Self-Use Consumer

Many consumers are using closed-loop cards for self-use. Who are they? We explore.

Date:March 1, 2018

Closed-loop gift cards have historically been purchased as gifts for other people. They are retailer- or brand-specific gift cards that can only be used for that particular retailer or brand (in-store or online).


They make great gifts around special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and graduations, and they’re also extremely popular gift ideas during holidays like Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.


The gift card consumer profile is constantly changing, so we conduct regular research to assist our retail and brand partners in making strategic decisions about their prepaid programs. According to InComm’s most recent survey of more than 1,400 closed-loop gift card shoppers*, one trend that deserved a closer look was consumers buying closed-loop gift cards for themselves (selfuse). This trend has been on the rise for several years, but who is this shopper and what motivates them to buy gift cards? Our latest study unveiled some interesting findings.




Who Are They?

A whopping 64 percent of self-use gift card consumers are female. They’re married (55 percent) and own a home (59 percent) in a suburban area (48 percent). As far as their socioeconomic status is concerned, 45 percent of respondents who identified as self-use consumers had at least completed some college or graduated from college. Forty-five percent of respondents had a household income of less than $50,000; 36 percent had a household income between $50,000 and $100,000 and 17 percent earned more than $100,000.




Their Attitudes Toward Gift Cards

The majority (72 percent) of these self-use gift card consumers think gift cards are as personal and thoughtful as other types of gifts. In fact, the average selfuse gift card consumer bought eight physical gift cards and three digital gift cards in the three months prior to our survey.




Their Shopping Behaviors

Self-use gift card consumers are tech-savvy. Sixty-nine percent of them trust online shopping; only 19 percent distrust online shopping while the other 13 percent are neutral on the subject. As a result, 66 percent of self-use gift card consumers either strongly or somewhat agree that they use digital tools to plan their shopping trip, and 69 percent will check online to see if they can get a better deal than what they found in store. On the question of what motivates their gift card purchase (for self-use or otherwise), 56 percent of self-use consumers said convenience was the primary factor, followed by 35 percent who said they are easy to spend;


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Final Takeaways

The self-use gift card consumer is likely to be a married, middle class, educated female. She is a well-researched and deliberate shopper who won’t hesitate to find a better deal online before making a purchase in-store. Tying all the 56% 35% They are easy to spend 30% I spend less time shopping 29% It helps me stick to a budget 23% I can get a good deal or promotion 17% I don’t have to worry about returns It’s convenient for me research together, we can draw a strong conclusion that the closed-loop self-use gift card consumer is more likely than the general population to purchase gift cards for their everyday shopping as well as for a thoughtful gift for others.


*Source: InComm Closed-Loop Gift Card Study, January 2018. Methodology, design and fielding by Qualtrics in consultation with InComm. 1,472 U.S. consumers.