by Andrea Doyle | January 21, 2015
Almost 99 million Americans journeyed 50 miles or more from home by car during the year-end holiday season, according to AAA. With so many people on the road traveling for holidays, a gasoline gift card becomes a welcome incentive award, says Jim Speir, vice president, sales and marketing for SVM, a Des Plaines, IL-based third-party gift card reseller that offers more than 150 brands such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Lowe's, Home Depot, and Best Buy, as well as open-loop products like Visa and American Express.

"What an impact a gasoline gift card makes especially if it allows the recipient to take a trip to see family members that they may not have been able to see without the reward," enthuses Speir. "Gasoline gift cards are definitely hot items in our portfolio. As gasoline prices decrease, they continue to remain popular, as a $50 card can provide driving experiences of up to 500 miles or more."
Growth Expected
Digital gift card adoption is also poised to expand significantly, reports Jim Atten, vice president of sales and marketing for Lisle, IL-based Royal Performance Group (RPG) Card Services. "The combination of greater consumer acceptance of digital wallets and increased retailer acceptance of digital gift cards has been, and will continue to be, a powerful influence," says Atten. "We've seen growing acceptance of this technology in the consumer space flow into the corporate space."

Paper Cut Syndrome
"The hottest trend we're seeing is interest in utilizing a gift card API (application program interface) with a reseller so clients can evolve their loyalty or incentive programs to send mobile-friendly digital gift cards," says Eric Thiegs, senior vice president of  Crystal Lake, IL-based National Gift Card (NGC). Many consumers still want to redeem points for a plastic gift card, but more are requesting digital cards.

"Clients want to trust the gift card fulfillment process to someone who knows it well and does it every day," he says. "We call it the 'paper cut syndrome.' We manage the messy details and make it easy for clients."  

RPG's Atten says incentive buyers are consolidating their purchases with resellers. "Instead of dealing directly with multiple gift card retailers, we've seen an increase in corporate buyers using a single source for all of their incentive gift card needs." Gift card retailers are also consolidating their marketing, sales, and distribution with resellers. 

Another industry focus is creating environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic cards using recycled PVC, wood, and other biodegradable materials. "One interesting caveat is that retailers looking to switch out their plastic cards should check with a company like NGC to make sure the new cards will run through our fulfillment machines," says Thiegs.