by Alex Palmer | November 20, 2014
Technology has opened the door to new ways for incentive managers and participants to send, receive, and redeem gift cards. This is particularly true of mobile gift cards. Incentive spoke about these new developments with Michael Fletcher, general manager of InComm Digital Solutions, a Portland-based point-of-sale (POS) technology and incentive gift card provider that studies consumer behavior around mobile gift cards, and how incentive programs can make the best use of them. 

Incentive: Do you expect location-based mobile gift cards to grow in demand/use?

Fletcher: The success and growth of shopkick is a perfect example of this burgeoning demand. The shopkick app enables users to earn reward points, known as "kicks," for walking into participating retailer stores or scanning certain product barcodes. Users redeem those kicks by choosing from a robust rewards library, including digital gift cards. Shopkick leverages the InComm Digital Solutions platform to instantly connect shopkick users with their digital gift card of choice. Users can print out their cards or store them on their phones to be scanned. 

According to a recent InComm survey, reveal that digital gift cards are rising in popularity with consumers, who increasingly like to receive and store these cards on their phones for personal use, or send them as gifts.

Incentive: Have apps impacted or enhanced the ways that digital gift cards can be earned and redeemed? In what ways?

Fletcher: Mobile apps have increased the number of ways consumers can earn rewards -- for everything from shopping, to watching TV, to taking a survey, to engaging with products in a grocery store. With a mobile app, the digital gift card can be delivered directly into the user's account in the app rather than having to be sent via email, allowing them to use their points for everyday purchases on the spot.

And digital gift cards can be shown from a mobile device at the point of sale, whether the bar code is scanned or the gift card number is shown and entered manually into the [cash register]. Consumers can be incented for doing the things they love best and use the rewards they earn for everyday purchases,

Incentive: How have tablets impacted/enhanced digital gift card offerings?

Fletcher:    Tablets are quickly becoming a preferred digital medium at home and on the go with over 195 million tablets sold in 2013, according to Gartner. While the functionality more closely resembles that of a smartphone (especially given the increased size of current generation of smartphone devices), consumers are increasingly using them to serve as their home computer. Essentially, they are two different classes of devices sharing the same functionality and platform. It is with this in mind that the increased adoption of mobile practices will continue to impact not only those who rely on their smart phone while on the go but also their tablet while at home. 

Incentive: Where do you see the mobile redemption of gift cards going? What are the opportunities and challenges you see in the next couple of years?

Fletcher:    With 968 million user-friendly smartphones sold worldwide last year, Gartner predicts that, given continued adoption of mobile technology, 450 million users will comprise the mobile payments market by 2017. In the next 12 months, you will see far more interactive digital gift cards. Consumers are asking for real-time balance information when they digitize a physical gift card and store it on their mobile device. They also want a more elegant interaction at the point of sale. Those capabilities will be more widespread in the marketplace in the very near term. 

Once that takes place, you can expect to see consumers and brands interacting with one another through the digital gift card in new ways. Expect to see digital gift cards being used more like a budgeting tool and loyalty mechanism in the future. Additionally, ads and promotions are becoming increasingly interactive and offer greater incentives to the on-the-go consumer.