A new survey from CashStar explored consumer attitudes about the customer experience angle of  purchasing plastic and digital gift cards in a report titled, “Gift Cards Through the Eyes of  the Consumer.”

Partnering with Libran Research and Consulting, CashStar polled more than 800 online shoppers of places like Sephora, Best Buy, Starbucks, The Home Depot, and The Cheesecake Factory.

Loyalty360 caught up with Gerry Gilbert, Vice President, Product, CashStar to learn more about the survey results.
What do you see as the current trends in purchasing digital and plastic gift cards from a customer experience perspective?

Gilbert: First, we are seeing there are more points of entry than ever before when it comes to gift cards. Traditionally, if someone wanted to buy a gift card, they went to the store or an end cap at a grocery or convenience store. Now, there are online channels, in-mobile wallet channels, and even discounted card channels. The savvy consumer no longer has to go to the store to purchase their gift cards. Second, there is a lot of talk about personalization and how it’s evolving to mean different things to different stakeholders. To us, it’s customizing the actual gift card to make the recipient experience more delightful by, for example, adding a wider faceplate design selection or allowing a consumer to upload his or her own digital media.

What was the biggest eye-opening stat from the report?

Gilbert: One of the most eye-opening findings from the report is the sheer number of people who are satisfied with their experience today. Ninety-one percent of consumers purchasing gift cards through our platform are very or somewhat satisfied with their gift card purchase experience. This certainly means we’re doing the right things, but there is still a huge opportunity for us, and the industry as a whole, to convert the shoppers that do not purchase gift cards online yet. Eighty percent of the surveyed gift card purchasers report that they are very likely or somewhat likely to recommend purchasing a gift card online to others, which should certainly help drive adoption.

How has personalization grown in the gift card space?

Gilbert: Selecting a faceplate and adding your own message, photo, and even video are starting to become table stakes across gift card offerings. We anticipate a second wave of more advanced options, particularly media-driven personalization – like adding a photo book, adding a custom song or an animated GIF – will catch on soon. Product-based gifting – such as digitally gifting a sweater or bracelet – is also changing the meaning behind personalization and digital gifts. Although personalization is important to a large segment of consumers, there are many not interested in any sort of personalization, as detailed in this report.

What is being done well and where do the challenges lie?

Gilbert: There are a lot of things currently being done well in the gift card space – the purchasing experience, functionality, communications, form factor. One challenge (really an opportunity for growth that is currently in flux) is that the consumer is increasingly mobile. When it comes to mobile, the nut is still waiting to be cracked. We’re still figuring out which wallets, contactless solutions, and mobile technologies, in general, are best. Mobile is growing so fast and we expect to continue to see a lot of expansion before we see contraction. As the chips begin to fall, we’ll see the various areas of the payments – like credit cards, loyalty programs, NFC and gift cards – all intersect via mobile.

How has this space grown in a unique way?

Gilbert: Retailers are recognizing that when it comes to gift cards, they’re essentially competing with every brand for consumers’ gifting dollars. As a result, it’s becoming evident that they need to invest more time and energy to a dedicated gift card strategy. At the same time, however, retailers are finding that managing gift cards is becoming increasingly more complex and nuanced, and something they can’t navigate on their own as well as they used to. Retailers can’t afford to simply throw together a run-of-the-mill, in-store, plastic gift card program anymore. Gift cards accounted for $129.7 billion in sales in 2015 alone, and retailers need help to set themselves apart in order to earn their share. That’s where CashStar comes into play – to help retailers deliver a seamless, personalized online plastic and digital gift card experience to shoppers.

What does CX mean to your company?

Gilbert: Customer experience to CashStar means ensuring end-to-end customer delight. We aim to provide the most seamless and pleasant experience available, from the moment of purchase to when the gift card is redeemed. Gift card purchases are unique in that there are two parties to please – the purchaser and the recipient. We’re keenly aware that each and every recipient could be a future purchaser, so providing a world-class customer experience throughout the full purchase-redemption lifecycle is critical.

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