by Leo Jakobson | November 21, 2014

Gift cards remain an important tool in incentive planners' arsenal according to Incentive's "2014 Gift Card IQ Survey." When asked to rate the effectiveness of gift card incentives, 97.6 percent of our respondents said they were at least somewhat effective, and 80 percent rated them somewhat or extremely effective.

Despite an improving economy, there was a decrease in the number of incentive programs using gift cards to increase sales (40.4 percent in 2014, down from 45.8 percent last year) and a slight drop in gift card usage in dealer channel programs (10.9 percent this year, down from 11.7 percent in 2013).

But the use of gift card awards was up in every non-sales category, with service awards, spot recognition, wellness, and safety programs seeing the biggest gains. This was also reflected in the per-recipient spending our respondents reported, with increases in every category below $100 -- more commonly associated with various non-sales recognition programs -- and decreases in all those above $100, which are more common in sales programs.

The types of cards being used by our respondents also reflected this change. The biggest increases -- at least 10 percent -- were seen in the use of dining/restaurant gift cards, entertainment cards, and gift checks. Gasoline gift cards also saw sizable increases.

Gift card use is far more common in non-sales recognition programs, with nearly three quarters (73.6 percent) of the respondents using them in this way, compared with 40.4 percent for sales incentives and 10.9 for dealer channel incentive programs.