Digital and multi-channel gift cards are no longer an expectation exclusive to younger consumers. The proportion of respondents that expect gift cards to be cross-channel is fairly consistent across all age groups. Indeed, it has increased to 52.9% in 2022, up from 40.8% in 2021 and 26.2% in 2020 according to the State of the Nation 2023 report, released by GCVA and GlobalData, publishers of EPI.

This growth in expectations among older generations is thought to be due to learned behaviours from the pandemic, when online shopping became more commonplace.

Channel preferences vary by generation

However, the research still identified a difference in channel preference and popularity between generations.

Almost half (47.7%) of consumers who received at least one gift card during 2022 did so via email. This figure only increases through the generations. 54.6% of boomers received an emailed gift card, in contrast to just 35% of Gen Z.

However, millennials are still the most likely generation to redeem a gift card they received online, as a convenient time-saving solution.

Almost half (48%) of millennials who had received a gift card in the last 12 months redeemed it via a retailer website and 29.8% did so via a retailer app.

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Meanwhile, Gen Z consumers were the generation most likely to receive a gift card through social media or messaging platforms (14%). This is expected to increase for all generations in the near future as social media becomes embedded as an even bigger part of our daily lives.

Gift cards: an easier and safer route to online shopping

In addition, gift cards are being used by some consumers as an easier and safer route to shopping online. This is especially so where consumers aren’t comfortable using debit or credit cards. More consumers bought gift cards for someone else to help the recipient shop online in 2022 at 22.4%. This is up from 21.6% in 2021.

The increased focus on multi-channel is also reflected across the GCVA membership. 82.9% said purchasing across various channels is either already part of their offer or soon to be included. Some 77.1% said the same of redeeming.

Similarly, 77.1% highlighted that allowing gift cards to be usable and storable within mobile wallets is a key area of interest. 71.4% also mentioned allowing the gifting and redemption of gift cards via mobile apps.

Research highlights the versatility, resilience of gift card market

Gail Cohen, director general of the GCVA, said: “The annual State of the Nation report has demonstrated the continued versatility and resilience of the gift card market. The research shows that the industry is evolving and responding to consumer demands around cross-channel flexibility. And it is developing other digital elements, such as digital wallet integration.

“The current financial environment is creating a backdrop of uncertainty. It will be vital for gift card leaders to listen to the wants and needs of regular gift card shoppers and be ready to adapt where necessary. The number of shoppers seeking more flexible and convenient shopping methods, as well as the proportion of technology-literate and digital savvy consumers across generations, will only continue to grow. As such, cross-channel integration should be a key operator focus moving forward. This is irrespective of their target market, to ensure they stay ahead and meet ever-evolving consumer demand.”