by Alex Palmer | November 13, 2018
This holiday season, consumers are likely going to have at the top of their lists gift cards for dining, movies and sporting goods. That was among the findings outlined in a new report about consumer gift card preferences, released by financial technology company Blackhawk Network. The report, released in time for the holiday season, looks at trends in consumer gift card behavior and offers tips for marketers and incentive managers running their own programs.

Drawing on the responses of more than 7,300 respondents as well as insights from Blackhawk's "2018 State of Consumer Gift Card Preferences" survey, the "2018 Holiday Shopping Preview: Top Gift Card Preferences Report" shows that the most popular holiday gift card categories are dining, movie, sporting goods, beauty supply and specialty home goods. 

Though physical gift cards were still the first choice of respondents, they expressed growing interest in digital gift cards, with top preferences in this e-gift card categories of office supply, grocery, general entertainment and travel. The most popular types of cards consumers purchased online were online retail, casual dining, home center and hardware, clothing and books and movie and music apps.

"As a leader in the gift card marketplace, our sales data and consumer research can provide accurate, of-the-moment insights and analysis on what gift card consumers are buying, where they are buying them and when," said Theresa McEndree, vice president of marketing at Blackhawk. "This data is a valuable resource for our clients and partners, and we're able to use it to help them maximize the success of their own gift card programs by creating new opportunities to acquire and engage with new customers, particularly around the holidays."

As for gift cards as employee incentives, 69 percent of respondents said they would like to receive a gift card as a reward from an employer (73 percent said they would prefer cash).

The research found strong interest from consumers in promotions that involve physical gift cards, with eight out of 10 saying they find them more influential than promotions involving bonus dollars, coupons or digital gift cards. Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) also said they were interested in gift cards personalized to the holidays.

Added McEndree: "Whether received as a gift or offered as an incentive, gift cards and egifts have the power to respond to today's top retailer marketing challenges, including driving in-store traffic, increasing incentive ecommerce checkout and spurring new customer acquisition."

The full report is available here.