After over a year of enforced social distancing measures, new research suggests that the enforced shift to digital gifting caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is here to stay, with gifting through online channels having skyrocketed over the past year.
The State of the Nation 2021 research, which surveyed 2,000 UK shoppers to determine evolving buying habits and attitudes towards gift cards, found that over a third (38.4)% of shoppers report that they have pivoted to digital gift cards completely since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The research, carried out by the Gift Card & Voucher Association (GCVA), also found that, nearly half (47.1%) of shoppers now normally spend their gift cards online as opposed to in-store, with a further 21.6% of shoppers spending their gift cards on mobile devices – nearly double the proportion that did so in 2019 (11.4%).
While digital gift cards were growing steadily prior to lockdown, the enforced shift brought about by COVID-19 looks to have accelerated this growth by several years. One in three shoppers (32%) have either purchased a gift card online for the first time, or with greater frequency than previously, since the beginning of the pandemic.
That said, physical gift cards are beginning to see a sharp increase as high street businesses continue to reopen their doors to the public. Gift card purchasing from physical stores regained significant momentum from March onwards, with GCVA research having found that 49.6% of gift card purchasers bought a physical gift card from a bricks-and-mortar store in March, compared with 38.8% in February.
Furthermore, the research also revealed that 47.1% of respondents now expect flexibility in terms of where and how they spend their gift cards, indicating that an omnichannel redemption offering is integral to an effective gift card strategy.
Gail Cohen, director general of the GCVA, commented: “It is wonderful to see the gift card industry thriving across so many different channels, offering the public unparalleled choice in how, when and where they can purchase their gift cards. More than ever, shoppers across different demographics have varying needs and preferences, and retailers and other high street businesses would subsequently do well to meet this need, offering their customers the flexibility they desire.
“As we move forwards choice of channel, and an omnichannel offering, will be crucial to retailers meeting evolving customer needs. For example, we are increasingly seeing the rise of more environmentally-friendly physical gifting options such as recyclable gift cards, meaning that shoppers can pick the gifting option they prefer – whether this be digital or physical – while remaining environmentally-friendly.”