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by Andrea Doyle | September 29, 2015
Brian Carr (pictured), Dittman Incentive Marketing
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Gift cards continue to grow in popularity, whether traditional plastic or digital. Electronic or digital gift cards, also known as e-gift cards or virtual gift cards, delivered via e-mail or text incorporating an award code, offer instant gratification -- extremely popular in this always connected world.

"We continue to see significant growth in e-gift cards. We have seen steady growth in this area over the last five years and August 2015 set a new record," says Brian Carr, director, individual awards, Dittman Incentive Marketing, based in New Brunswick, NJ. "Choice is a critical component of individual incentives."

Research shows that program participants are driven by their own unique interests, and being able to choose a reward that is personally meaningful can be highly motivating. "The more brands you can offer, the wider audience you can inspire. It is interesting to note, however, that nearly 70 percent of our e-gift card redemptions are for our top 10 brands. These include a number of e-gift cards which can be used for a wide array of rewards, including Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy," adds Carr.  

The Incentive Gift Card Council reports that the top 10 most popular gift cards are for food and beverage, followed by department stores; exclusive online retailers; music and movies; fuel; electronics; sporting goods; apparel shops; travel; and jewelry and accessories.

"Big-box retailer cards continue to be very popular," says Brad Albers, director, prepaid card and reward solutions, Aimia, a marketing and loyalty company based in Minneapolis. Target, Walmart, and Home Depot are popular cards in this category. Amazon and iTunes cards are attractive to Millennials, adds Albers. Grocery, gas, and coffee chain gift cards are also popular. "A gift card that allows the user to have a variety of options in products to choose from, especially if they do not know the recipients' specific needs, are best," says Albers.

Rymax Marketing Services, Inc., a full-service loyalty marketing provider, reports some of its most popular gift cards include restaurants such as Outback Steakhouse, Panera Bread and Ruth's Chris Steak House. American Express, Macy's, Disney, Victoria's Secret, Nike, T.J. Maxx, Cabela's, and Neiman Marcus are also popular. Other gift-card categories growing in popularity for the incentive channel are music, travel, and charity donation cards. Rymax has partnered with CharityChoice, a leading charity gift card supplier.

"We currently offer loyalty members either a $50 or $100 CharityChoice gift card. Since CharityChoice supports more than 250 major and local charities across the nation, people can donate a select amount of money to a specific cause that they are passionate about through their loyalty program," says Paul Gordon, senior vice president of sales for Rymax.

Rymax also has the ability to create customized gift cards, which can be redeemed through its loyalty program's online-based redemption site, Maxsite. "This gives the recipient the power of choice from more than 10,000 trending products, and builds brand equity for the company offering it through their program," says Gordon. "Our diverse gift card selection is currently being offered in all of our employee and recognition programs for top organizations from the telecommunications, airline, pharmaceutical, financial, automotive, gaming and professional sports industries."