by Deanna Ting | August 31, 2015
Gift cards remain one of the most popular gifts and today, research suggests gift card shoppers more frequently turn to e-gifts in addition to physical cards. New consumer research from Blackhawk Network shows that, for the first time, more than half of gift card buyers have also purchased or used e-gifts, in line with overall consumer trends showing the popularity of online and mobile shopping and purchasing.

Earlier this year, Blackhawk Network surveyed approximately 2,000 American consumers to examine their usage of gift cards, as well as adoption of and sentiments towards e-gifts, virtual cards delivered via email, social media, or text message and redeemed in-store, online, or via mobile devices.

"Physical gift cards still remain the top gifting choice, but our research indicates that retailers can make their gift card programs even more attractive by incorporating a robust e-gift element," said Teri Llach, chief marketing officer for Blackhawk Network. "Our shopper data confirms that mobile and digital acceptance has extended to gift cards. Consumers are increasing their overall purchase of gift cards because they now have more control over the format for delivery and the speed of purchase, plus a wide selection of gift cards and egifts."

Key findings from the survey include the following:

Immediate gratification and convenience drive e-gift sales. Fifty-three percent of the gift card buyers surveyed purchased an e-gift within the last year and 94 percent bought more or the same amount of e-gifts in the last 12 months compared to a year ago. The top reasons for doing so included: e-gifts offer fast electronic delivery (51 percent), they are easier to purchase (41 percent) and they can be sent directly to a recipient who lives out of town, preventing the trouble of sending a gift (35 percent).

E-gift redemption does not happen only online. The products are unique in that they effectively drive shopper traffic in-store, online, and on mobile for retailers. Most of the e-gift recipients surveyed redeem online (69 percent) but a significant amount also redeem in store (46 percent). The e-gift purchasers surveyed report that they predominantly buy the products online (82 percent) followed by mobile phone (26 percent) and tablet (25 percent).

There are significant opportunities for retailers to drive revenue with e-gifts. Similar to physical gift cards, 82 percent of e-gift recipients surveyed spend more than the e-gift value. Additionally, 76 percent say that hearing about a promotion encourages them to spend their e-gift, and 75 percent tend to treat themselves when spending e-gifts.

E-gifts are popular for a variety of gifting occasions and self-use. Consumers surveyed who purchase e-gifts report they most frequently select  gifts for birthdays (58 percent), Christmas/winter holidays (37 percent), and for "just because" gifts with no formal occasion (24 percent). The e-gift purchasers surveyed most frequently purchase the gifts for family friends (35 percent), self-use (28 percent), relatives (27 percent), and siblings and children (both 22 percent).

More promotion of e-gifts is needed to drive an initial trial. Fifty-six percent of consumers surveyed who have never received an e-gift would be interested in getting one, yet 44 percent of shoppers surveyed who have never bought e-gifts report it's because they're not familiar with them. More than half (52 percent) of shoppers surveyed who have purchased e-gifts would buy an e-gift in store for immediate use; this number jumps to 83 percent if there is a discount attached to the e-gift.