by Leo Jakobson | November 13, 2017

In the latest Incentive gift card research, the most notable change from last year to this year was a steep decline in the number of respondents who feel gift cards are a more effective incentive award than cash, dropping to 28.0 percent from 40.6 percent in 2016. The average spend on gift cards per employee was down in the lowest price-point -- with less than $25, which is often used in all-employee recognition programs, seeing a fairly substantial decline to 13.2 percent of respondents in 2017, compared to 18.9 percent last year.

However, the $25 to $49 category rose to 26.2 percent from 23.1 percent a year ago. But the biggest changes were in the top-price tiers, with the $1,000-plus category nearly doubling from 2.8 percent last year to 5.4 percent in 2017.

In terms of what the gift card awards were for, the respondents giving them out for specific initiatives dropped slightly more than 10 points, to 52.2 percent, in 2017. The cards redeemed by award winners -- usually through points-based incentive programs -- nearly doubled in 2017, rising to 15.0 percent from 7.8 percent in 2016. The percentage of respondents who said they saw gift card awards as very or extremely effective was roughly the same, at 81.1 percent in 2017 versus 80.0 percent in 2016. 

1) What is your company's annual budget for all gift certificates/gift cards in incentive programs for 2017?

Less than $1,000  29.64%

$1,000 to $9,999  32.73%

$10,000 to $24,999  11.86%

$25,000 to 49,999  7.22%

$50,000 to $99,999  7.73%

$100,000 to $249,999  4.64%

$250,000 to $499,000  2.06%

$500,000 and up  4.12%



2) On average, how much do you spend on gift certificates/gift cards per recipient, per year?

Less than $25  13.2%

$25 -$49  26.2%

$50 -$99  18.9%

$100 -$149  12.7%

$150 -$199  8.3%

$200 -$499  9.1%

$500 -$999  6.2%

$1,000 or more  5.4%



3) How often do you give out a gift certificate/gift card?

For specific initiatives  52.2%

Frequent spot recognition  18.9%

When selected winners  15.0%

For annual awards  14.0%



4) Which of the following types of gift certificates/gift cards have you purchased for your incentive programs in the past year?

Dining/restaurant  62.2%

Debit card  45.2%

Retail store  46.5%

Entertainment  28.0%

Gas  18.8%

Online merchant  15.7%

Gift check  15.4%

Travel  14.1%

Multiple-merchant certificate  11.3%

Catalog merchant  8.0%

Other (please specify)  6.4%

Service/experiential  5.9%

Telephone card  2.8%



5) How do you use gift certificates/gift cards in your incentive programs? 

Recognize performance  54.3%

Business gifts  36.7%

Sales incentives  33.6%

Service awards  29.7%

Employee engagement programs  22.5%

Non-sales recognition awards  22.2%

Spot reward  20.9%

Consumer promotions  19.1%

Start/maintain business relationship  13.7%

Wellness programs  10.1%

Safety awards  9.3%

Other (please specify)  9.0%

Dealer incentives  6.7%



6) What are your primary objectives for using gift certificates/gift cards? 


Boost morale  56.0%

Improve performance  42.7%

Improve employee engagement  38.6%

Build employee loyalty/trust  36.0%

Increase or maintain sales  32.1%

Build customer loyalty/trust  29.8%

Foster teamwork  25.4%

Improve customer service  23.4%

Start or maintain business relationships  21.9%

Create new markets  9.8%

Improve safety/reduce accidents  9.0%

Improve employee health/reduce insurance costs  8.7%

Other (please specify)  5.4% 



7) What are the primary benefits of offering gift certificates/gift cards in incentive programs?

Ease of administration  54.4%

Broad audience appeal  46.1%

Redemption options/flexibility  44.6%

Perceived value  38.6%

Cost effectiveness  38.6%

Has a lasting impact  27.2%

Backend/ROI tracking  13.7%

Other (please specify)  2.3%



8) How would you rate the overall effectiveness of gift certificates/gift cards, using a scale from 1-5, where 1 means not at all effective and 5 means extremely effective?

Not at all effective  1.3%

Somewhat effective  2.4%

Effective  15.3%

Very effective  45.3%

Extremely effective  38.8% 

Weighted Average:  4.12



9) How effective are gift certificates/gift cards compared to cash?

Gift certificates/gift cards are MORE effective than cash  28.0%

They are about EQUALLY as effective  42.0%

Gift certificates/gift cards are LESS effective than cash  10.1%

Do NOT use cash awards  19.9%



10) How effective are gift certificates/gift cards compared to merchandise?

Gift certificates/gift cards are MORE effective than merchandise  59.8%

They are about EQUALLY as effective  29.8%

Gift certificates/gift cards are LESS effective than merchandise  2.3

Do NOT use merchandise awards  8.0%




11) Where do you purchase gift certificates/gift cards used in your incentive programs?

Retailer  73.9%  

Online vendor  31.8%

Manufacturer or service provider  24.0%

Incentive providers  21.2%

Reseller  9.0%

Catalog  7.2%

Other (please specify)  5.4%



12) Which of the following best describes your organization's business?

Service/Institution/Utility/Transportation  17.1%

Wholesaler/Distributor/Retailer  12.1%

Finance/Banking/Insurance/Real Estate  9.7%

Technology/Communications  9.2% 35

Medical/Healthcare  8.7%

Manufacturing  7.9%

Social/Military/Government/Education  7.6%

Other (please specify)  27.8%




13) Which of the following best describes your job title?

General/Corp. Mgmt. - Pres./Owner/CEO/COO/VP/Dir.  32.5%

Sales/Marketing/Merchandising Exec./Mgr./Dir.  14.9%

Meeting Planner  13.1%

Other Department Mgr./Supervisor/Head  9.0%

Training/HR Exec./VP/Dir./Mgr./Trainer  6.4%

Other (please specify)  5.9%

Advertising/PR/Sales Promotion Exec./Dir./Mgr.  3.1%

Coordinator/Assistant  5.7%

Consultant  5.7%

Tradeshow and Events Manager  3.6%




Approximately how many people are employed by your organization? 

1 -99  58.1%

100-499  17.3%

500 -999  4.4%

1,000 -4,99  9.6%

5,000 -9,999  3.6%

10,000 - 24,999  3.4%

25,000 - 49,999  1.3%

50,000 and up  2.3%