InComm Identifies Areas of Growth for Gift Cards in 2020, Despite COVID

Study identifies year-over-year consumer purchasing habits, growth in digital content, popular spend categories

September 9, 2020

ATLANTA – Online purchases of gift cards more than doubled in the first two quarters of 2020, outpacing the year-over-year growth of 24 percent measured from 2018 to 2019. This insight reveals how retailers can engage consumers who may be hesitant to return to brick-and-mortar stores during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings were published today by payments technology company InComm in its 2020 Consumer Pulse: Gift Cards report, which compiled survey responses from over 16,000 U.S. gift card shoppers.

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“We have monitored a steady growth in online gift card purchases over the last few years, but the rapid increase of online purchases during the first half of this year has been remarkable,” said Brian Parlotto, Executive Vice President at InComm. “The suddenness of the increase is largely the result of the pandemic’s effects on in-person shopping, but this trend is supported by data showing that consumers are increasingly purchasing gift cards for digital content such as gaming and streaming services.”

Data Reflects Americans Adapting to At-Home Lifestyle

In addition to purchasing gift cards online, consumers have flocked to e-commerce to redeem their gift cards. Online shopping ranked as the most common spending category across both open loop and closed loop gift card users so far in 2020, while gift card spending also increased in the electronics and grocery categories.  

Growth in spending on electronics was fueled in part by those working from home and seeking to enhance their at-home entertainment options, such as gaming and streaming digital content. Gift card spend on gaming increased in 2019 and again in 2020, with consumers who purchase gaming gift cards purchasing 70 percent more gift cards per quarter than in the previous year. Additionally, shoppers buying cards for digital streaming services purchased nearly twice as many cards per quarter than the average. 

“Retailers have a considerable opportunity to build long-term relationships with gamers and consumers of digital streaming content. These are shoppers making planned, regular purchases of gift cards to pay for services keeping them entertained during the pandemic,” said Parlotto.

Embracing New Brands and Delivery Methods

Gift card shoppers have continued to express a willingness to explore new options. Nearly 79 percent of respondents said they would use a closed loop gift card for a brand they have never tried before. Furthermore, nearly 88 percent of those respondents said they were likely to visit or use that brand again after trying it for the first time.

Along with an openness to trying new brands, the study revealed consumers are embracing new ways of sending and receiving gift cards. Digital gift cards, which the study defines as cards sent and redeemed electronically via email or text message, saw an increase in purchases of 61% through the first half of 2020. 

“Brands should pay close attention to this willingness to try new items and services. A gift card delivered digitally through a retail incentive program or promotional offerings could open the door towards successfully acquiring a new customer,” said Parlotto.

To view the complete 2020 Consumer Pulse: Gift Cards report, click here.



About InComm


By building more value into every transaction through innovative payment technologies, InComm creates seamless and valuable commerce experiences. InComm’s unique products and services – which range from gift card malls to enhanced payment platforms – connect companies across a wide range of industries including retail, healthcare, tolling & transit, incentives and financial services to an ever-expanding consumer base. With more than 25 years of experience, over 500,000 points of distribution, 386 global patents and a presence in more than 30 countries, InComm leads the payments industry from its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Learn more at



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