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by Alex Palmer | July 26, 2016
Gift card recipients are looking for personalization and plastic, a new report finds. "Gift Cards Through the Eyes of Consumers," a new study from gift card payment solutions company CashStar, found that more than three-quarters of respondents were interested in some type of personalization options in their gift cards. 

This ranged from basic personalization such as including an individual message (cited by 68 percent of respondents), generic customization faceplates like "Good Job" or "Happy Anniversary" (60 percent), to more advanced options such as an animated GIF (36 percent), song (29 percent), or custom video (26 percent).

"This is definitely something incentive planners should keep in mind," said Gerry Gilbert, vice president of product for CashStar. "Offering customizable gift cards provides a more delightful recipient experience. For example, imagine offering incentive recipients personalized messages on gift card designs with branding or co-branding reflecting the incentive program."

Gilbert emphasized that this personalization is especially important for Millennials, for whom feedback and recognition has been found to be more important than the monetary value of a gift card.

"Digital gift cards make this type of personalization possible," he said.

But despite this fact, respondents also showed a strong interest in plastic cards over digital. On average, respondents purchased 8.8 gift cards per year -- 2.7 of which were digital, 3.7 of which were closed-loop plastic, and 2.4 of which were open-loop plastic. In aggregate, 69 percent of purchases were for plastic cards, compared to 31 percent for digital. The highest proportion (39 percent) said they purchase cards equally in stores and online, while 28 percent said they purchase mostly in stores, 16 percent purchased mostly online and smaller percentages (9 percent and 8 percent respectively) purchase nearly all in stores or online.

Gilbert believes this is due to the fact that consumers are "early in the adoption lifecycle" of digital gift cards.

"While plastic is a much larger percentage of the market today, digital is the fastest growing segment, growing at 26 percent in 2015," he explained. "Many factors are contributing to this growth in digital, including increasing mobile usage, more wallets in retailers' mobile apps (where digital gift cards can be stored) and greater use of digital gift cards in loyalty and marketing programs."

The study drew on the responses of 822 gift card buyers.