by Deanna Ting | November 17, 2014
First Data's 13th annual "consumer Insights Study" finds that gift cards remain strong motivators for retail foot traffic, and shows a gradual increase in the purchase and use of online gift cards. 

The survey was conducted among a total of 3,724 U.S. consumers over the age of 18 who were given online surveys in September 2014; of those respondents, 2,371 were screened to have purchased or received closed-loop plastic or virtual cards within the last year.

One of the study's major findings was that gift cards remain popular motivators for shoppers to visit a store and that consumers are spending more at those stores beyond the value of their gift cards. Fifty-one percent of respondents said a gift card they received prompted them to visit a store more often than they would have otherwise. Consumers also spent an average of $23.41 beyond the original value of their gift cards -- an increase of 13 percent over 2012.

The future of gift cards, the study says, lies in virtual gifting options. While purchases of physical gift cards remains steady, 33 percent of consumers are purchasing more virtual/e-gift cards compared with 2013. Online gift card purchases increased from 26 percent in 2013 to 34 percent in 2014; 13 percent of respondents have used an app like Gyft or social networking sites like Facebook for online gift card purchases. Fifty-five percent of surveyed consumers expressed interest in using an app to store gift card information on their mobile phones.

Incentives and loyalty rewards programs remain powerful motivators. Thirty-two percent of respondents made a purchase at a particular store because of an incentive being offered; 40 percent also spent more than they had originally planned. On average, consumers purchased 2.2 gift cards in the past 12 months because of loyalty/reward points. In addition, the study found that providing incentives for gift card reloading is a big, largely unrealized opportunity for many merchants and retailers.
More information on the survey can be found here.