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Brands urged to embrace gift cards to attract shoppers of the future

With high street businesses looking for effective ways to engage and retain customers, new research has revealed that gift cards may hold the key to attracting younger shoppers to a brand.

The State of the Nation 2022 research, carried out by the Gift Card & Voucher Association (GCVA) and GlobalData, found that more than half of all UK shoppers have been introduced to a new brand or organisation via a gift card they’ve received. This figure rises drastically to 67.3% of Gen Z consumers (those aged 16-24), indicating gift cards’ vital role in customer engagement and loyalty.

Demonstrating the growing popularity of gift cards amongst younger shoppers, the survey found that more than two-fifths (41.9%) of Generation Z shoppers have purchased gift cards within the last three years – a figure which rises to 45.8% of millennial shoppers, compared with just 32% of Baby Boomers. The popularity of gift cards among younger consumers is matched by the increasing demand for leisure, experience and gaming gift cards over the last decade.

While gift cards have been steadily rising in prominence with younger shoppers, the last Christmas period, dominated by supply shortages of physical products, may have been a catalyst for this growth, as younger shoppers flocked to purchase gift cards in their droves. Gift cards provided a particularly important gifting option for both the Gen Z (40.6% received more gift cards than the previous year) and Millennial (36.1%) age cohorts.

The research also found that Gen Z and millennial shoppers are more likely to prioritise choice and flexibility, as well as gift cards that offer options beyond traditional single-store spend, with 48.8% of Gen Z gift card buyers purchasing multistore gift cards, which can be spent at a variety of outlets.

The importance of flexibility and ease of use was further highlighted by Gen Z shoppers, with almost a quarter of respondents (23%) saying that being able to spend their gift card online was their most important consideration. This was more popular than the flexibility to spend the gift card wherever they liked (18%), a personalised image on the gift card (17%), and gift cards that are able to be received through social networking and messaging platforms (15%).

Gift card self-use* was also revealed to be particularly popular amongst younger shoppers. The research revealed that an average of 7.7% of monthly gift card buyers purchased gift cards for themselves over 2021 vs. 6.4% over 2020, with significantly higher purchase propensity among younger cohorts. This growth of self-use is underpinned by several drivers, such as a desire to support beloved local businesses, employee reward programmes and the rise of digital payment-led industries such as gaming and subscription media.

Finally, consumer expectations around cross-channel flexibility continue to increase, with 40.8% of shoppers expecting all gift cards to be cross-channel in future. Once again, this step-change was most prominently seen amongst younger shoppers, with this sentiment strongest amongst Millennials, and at its lowest amongst the Baby Boomer demographic.

Gail Cohen, director general of the GCVA, commented: “Attracting the business of the shoppers of the future, whose buying power will only continue to grow in the years to come, has arguably never been more crucial. Gift cards, which the younger, digitally-savvy shopper of the future love, offer the key to doing so.

“When it comes to standing out in an increasingly saturated marketplace, businesses cannot ignore the growing prominence of gift cards in getting shoppers through the doors and keeping the tills ringing. Particularly as we continue to move towards a more flexible, cashless-led, payment ecosystem, businesses that listen to the needs of their younger customers and offer the flexibility younger shoppers crave in how they pay will benefit significantly in terms of both sales and continued customer loyalty.”



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Notes to Editors For additional details, please contact: Tom Opper-Cunnane, Steve Leigh and Asha Hipperson at PR Agency One T: 0161 871 9140 E: [email protected] *Gift card self-use: Here defined as when a gift card is bought with the express purpose of the buyer spending the gift card on themselves. Key findings from the State of the Nation 2022 research: • An average of 7.7% of consumers per month purchased a gift card for themselves over 2021 vs. 6.4% over 2020, with significantly higher purchase propensity among younger age cohorts. • Gift card purchasing was boosted by retailer stock issues in 2021, with an average of 35.8% of gift card purchasers over Q4 stating it was easier to buy a gift card than a physical gift. • Gift card buying was up over Christmas 2021, with 27.1% of shoppers buying a gift card for someone else over December 2021, compared to 25.2% in 2020. • Consumer expectations around digital cards and cross-channel flexibility continue to increase; 40.8% of consumers expect all gift cards to be cross-channel in the future. • Physical gift cards bounced back strongly in 2021, as stores re-opened; across the year, a monthly average of 47.4% of gift card buyers purchased physical gift cards instore vs. 43.4% in 2020. • Gift cards are increasingly seen as a tool to support local businesses and high streets; 28.8% of monthly gift card purchasers in 2021 said supporting local businesses was a motivation, compared to 24.5% of purchasers in 2020. • Over half of all those receiving gift cards over the past three years have been introduced to a new brand or organisation via the format. About the GCVA The Gift Card & Voucher Association ( was established as a trade body to represent the key players in what is today a £7 billion gift card and stored value solutions market. With 90 members representing key retailers, issuers and suppliers the GCVA provides an information and reference point for the Gift Card & Voucher industry and is at the forefront of the issues affecting the industry. Its main objective is to provide a platform and infrastructure for the industry and to raise the profile and use of gift cards and vouchers within the UK, promoting the industry to consumers, businesses, government and other interested parties. The GCVA is the key industry organisation to share new ideas, innovate and promote best practice with the UK gift card and voucher industry. It runs a programme of events, meetings, research projects and updates throughout the year, including its flagship Conference. The industry event of the year, the GCVA Conference returned in person, in a brand new venue, in London, on 2-3 March 2022. The GCVA conference is the highlight of the industry calendar and provides the platform to bring all major players across the UK and international gift card community, together. For two action-packed days, delegates will be immersed in the gift card eco-system, comprising: A UK & global retail space; industry innovation; consumer needs, evolving marketing strategies; hot topics; market trends, inspirational speakers, exhibition hall and the very best networking opportunities.

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