Going Digital: It’s Time for Retailers to Offer Digital Gift Cards In Stores


Even before 2020, gift cards were a long-running holiday favorite. For more than ten years, they were the most requested holiday gift. Then, faced with the pressures of unprecedented in-store closures and health concerns about in-person shopping due to the Covid-19 pandemic, shoppers embraced gift cards and eGifts more than ever before. As a result, eGift sales rose 44% year-over-year and a recent Blackhawk survey revealed that 52% of consumers were more likely to buy more gift cards in holiday 2020 than in previous years.

Beyond the impact of the pandemic, social media channels like Facebook, YouTube and TikTok—which is especially popular among Gen Z consumers—also continue to greatly influence how products, including gift cards, are sold. In fact, 21% of users surveyed have purchased a product directly from such social media channels.

“Blackhawk Network is working with influencers to see what [it] can do to best target and reach those people,” explained Lun Peng, Head of Digital Partnership APAC (Asia-Pacific region) at Blackhawk Network. Peng sat down with PaymentsJournal to talk about the use of digital gift cards and how they can be leveraged by retailers in-store.

Many customers are purchasing digital gift cards for friends as gifts, but some people buy them for themselves to take advantage of special deals. Some use digital gift cards as a budgeting tactic. “Others,” said Peng, “are buying Google Play cards for self-usage when they want to play a dedicated game.”

Digital gift cards in-store: Blackhawk Network’s ScanIt

Online sales skyrocketed in 2020, and gift cards were no exception. Last year, online sales of gift cards saw substantial growth—especially digital gift cards. But the power of digital gift cards can be taken beyond the computer or mobile phone—using digital gift cards in-store can provide unique benefits to both retailers and their customers.

Noting the increasing consumer interest in digital gift cards, Blackhawk Network developed ScanIt as a way for merchants to easily stock and sell eGifts, please shoppers and increase revenue.

Blackhawk Network’s ScanIt enables retailers to eliminate out-of-stock inventory issues by allowing customers to purchase a digital gift card in-store—whether or not a physical card is in stock. This benefits both customers, who leave with what they came for, and retailers, which want to secure more sales.

ScanIt makes it possible for consumers to purchase virtual open-loop and closed-loop eGifts by scanning QR codes in-store with their smartphones, solving the problem of out-of-stock gift cards for good. ScanIt can also be leveraged to access non-gift card digital content such as electronic tickets, coupons and rebates.

Shoppers benefit

ScanIt does a lot more than solve inventory issues for consumers. Shoppers also reap the benefits of convenience, a breadth of payment options and a personalized and seamless eGift card delivery.

In the APAC region, customers aren’t required to interact with the store owner or cashier to make their purchase. Instead, after scanning the QR Code, they can select a payment method like PayPal or Square Cash and pay directly on their mobile device. Those who do want to go to the point of sale, such as customers purchasing additional items or paying with cash, have the option of showing the barcode at the register for the cashier to scan.

The payment options offered through ScanIt vary according to consumer preferences across the world. For example, ScanIt supports payment methods like Alipay and WeChat in APAC.

Finally, delivery of the digital gift card is seamless and personal. It can be sent directly to the intended recipient via email, WhatsApp, text message and other chatting apps. As a bonus, “[the buyer] can select a template like ‘well wishes’ or ‘happy birthday,’” Peng said, “and apply all of that together in a gift card. They get it directly on their phones.”

Retailers see new opportunities

For retailers, ScanIt can expand their gift card assortment without taking up additional space in-store. It also allows them to capture lost sales that occur when physical gift cards are out of stock.

With ScanIt, retailers are no longer limited to displaying their gift cards in a single location or set of locations at a gift card carousel or aisle end. Instead, they can leverage unique opportunities to upsell gift cards in various parts of the store and create co-marketing opportunities. For example, they could offer a gaming digital gift card in the energy drink aisle, offered at a discount if purchased at a specific denomination or by a certain date.

The use of QR codes make it possible for merchants to track valuable data insights. ScanIt does not store private customer data, but it does collect actionable data that can boost merchant sales in the future. “We can show the merchant data so they know the penetration rate, how many people showed interest and what is key to make sure the customer will [go through with] buying the gift card next time,” said Peng.

Digital gift cards and eGifting as a whole are trending upward around the world. Blackhawk Network’s ScanIt enables retailers to meet customers at the right time, in the right shopping channels and with the right eGift card. The end result is happier customers and higher sales for merchants.

“All of this can be done through scanning QR codes through a cashless payment,” said Peng. “And this is what Blackhawk Network is trying to achieve globally.”


This podcast was produced and is hosted by PaymentsJournal at: https://www.paymentsjournal.com/its-time-for-retailers-to-offer-the-best-gift-of-all-in-store-digital-gift-cards/