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by Deanna Ting | October 14, 2014
In Retail Systems Research's (RSR) latest study, "Digital Gift Cards: Rewriting the Gifting Rules in the Omni-Channel Age," Sephora and Starbucks were rated tops when it comes to digital gifting. The fourth annual benchmarking study ranked different retail brands according to the strengths of their digital gifting programs, including criteria around retailers' prioritization of gifting as a whole; the ability to digitally "thank" a gift giver; and integration with retailers' loyalty and marketing programs. 

Based on this year's criteria, the brands with the highest overall scores across verticals, and therefore the most comprehensive omni-channel digital gifting offerings, were:
 
1. Sephora
2. Starbucks
3. The Home Depot
4. Best Buy
5. Dunkin' Donuts
 
Sephora, which has ranked among the top five spots for the past two years, took the No. 1 spot for the first time this year. "We consider digital gifting an integral part of our marketing strategy and are committed to innovation in this area," said Bridget Dolan, vice president, digital marketing at Sephora. "We're honored to be recognized by RSR for our engaging gifting experiences across channels and devices, including mobile."
 
For the second year in a row, RSR also examined the top retailers and restaurants in verticals where gift cards are highly relevant. Leaders in digital gifting within their respective industries were as follows:
 
Apparel: Gap Inc.

Apparel - Youth: Aéropostale

Apparel - Sports & Fitness: lululemon athletica

Apparel - Women's: Victoria's Secret
 
Beauty: Sephora
 
Books/Music: Amazon
 
Computers/Electronics: Best Buy
 
Department Store: Sears
 
Footwear & Accessories: Coach
 
General Merchandise: QVC

Hardware/Building Supply: The Home Depot

Home Goods & Furnishings: Williams-Sonoma

Quick-Service Restaurant: Starbucks
 
Restaurant: The Cheesecake Factory
 
Sports & Outdoors: Gander Mountain
 
Toys & Games: Toys"R"Us

The study finds that retail industry standards for gifting experiences include both mobile and social, and are reflecting the evolving use of digital gift cards in omni-channel commerce. 
 
"Digital gifting adoption has come a long way in the few years we've been conducting this research, with the number of brands offering digital gift cards virtually doubling since 2010 and the experiences improving by leaps and bounds," said Nikki Baird, managing partner at RSR Research. "But, as the report points out, there is still work to be done to fine-tune offerings, such as improving discoverability on Web-based and mobile channels. It was also evident this year that brands are starting to think about better integrating gifting and marketing programs-an area where we see a lot of potential to further engage consumers and capture additional sales."
 
"RSR's benchmark study gives retail and restaurant brands an honest look at what they are doing right -- and, more importantly, the areas they need to improve upon in order to deliver an optimal experience across all consumer touchpoints," said Ben Kaplan, president and CEO of CashStar, a provider of omni-channel digital gifting solutions. "Overall, it's exciting to see leading retailers across the industry increasingly embrace digital gifting and we congratulate our clients who top the list and partner with us to drive digital gifting innovation year after year."
 
For a full copy of the report please click here.