by Leo Jakobson | August 13, 2014
Companies using corporate incentive and loyalty programs continue to embrace gift card awards, according to new research.

Conducted by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) for the Incentive Marketing Association's Incentive Gift Card Council (IGCC), the study of 1,100 U.S. businesspeople, found that overall, 45 percent of companies use gift card awards. But among companies with annual revenue of more than $100 million, that number was 56 percent.

Of the firms that use gift cards, two thirds (67 percent) use them for employee incentives, followed by sales incentives (38 percent), customer rewards (30 percent), and channel incentives (8 percent). 

Of the gift cards purchased for these programs, credit-card-branded "open loop" cards useable virtually anywhere were the most popular, accounting for 56 to 62 percent of the market, depending on company size. Among "closed loop" gift cards issued by specific merchants, the 10 most popular types were:

1. Food & beverage
2. Department stores
3. Exclusive online retailers
4. Music and movies
5. Fuel
6. Electronics
7. Sporting goods
8. Apparel
9. Travel
10. Jewelry and accessories Research finds that more than half of large companies use gift cards as incentive awards