Holiday Shopping Preview: Blackhawk Network Reveals Top 2018 Consumer Gift Card Preferences; Dining and Movie Categories Expected to Lead Strong Gift Card Sales

New report offers valuable insights into new opportunities for retailers to acquire and engage with holiday shoppers

PLEASANTON, Calif. –  Nov. 9, 2018  – With the reveal of its 2018 holiday shopping preview today, Blackhawk Network expects strong holiday gift card sales led by the dining, movie, sporting goods, beauty supply and specialty home goods categories. The new report* examines trends from Blackhawk’s own U.S. sales data in addition to insights from its 2018 State of Consumer Gift Card Preferences survey. Offering a look at consumers’ top gift card preferences, the report provides marketers with useful insights to consider for their own holiday gift card and marketing programs.

“As a leader in the gift card marketplace, our sales data and consumer research can provide accurate, of-the-moment insights and analysis on what gift card consumers are buying, where they are buying them and when,” said Theresa McEndree, VP, Marketing at Blackhawk. “This data is a valuable resource for our clients and partners, and we’re able to use it to help them maximize the success of their own gift card programs by creating new opportunities to acquire and engage with new customers, particularly around the holidays. Whether received as a gift or offered as an incentive, gift cards and egifts have the power to respond to today’s top retailer marketing challenges, including driving in-store traffic, increasing incentive ecommerce checkout and spurring new customer acquisition.”

Key trends from the “2018 Holiday Shopping Preview: Top Gift Card Preferences Report” are included below. Go here for more information and additional insights.

Dining and movie gift cards to top holiday shopping lists; egifts continue to gain traction

  • Most popular holiday gift cards by category: The five gift card categories that were best-selling among U.S. consumers in December 2017 based on Blackhawk’s sales volume overall are: dining (movie and a meal), movie, sporting goods, beauty supply and specialty home goods.
  • eGifts continue to gain momentum: Physical gift cards are the first choice among consumers overall, but egifts are growing in popularity. Four categories where egifts are gaining traction include: office supply, grocery, general entertainment and travel.
  • Top five fastest-growing categories: The gift card categories that are growing fastest based on year-over-year U.S. sales data are: gaming, travel, upscale/fine dining, beauty supply and ticket services.
  • Most popular online categories: The gift card categories that shoppers most frequently purchase online based on Blackhawk’s data are: online retail, casual dining, home center and hardware, clothing and books and movie and music apps.

Demand for gift cards overall remains high
According to the National Retail Federation1, gift cards remain the most requested gift for a twelfth consecutive year. Blackhawk’s consumer gift card research found that second only to birthdays, winter holidays are the number two reason people purchase gift cards for someone else, and 87 percent of consumers say they have purchased a gift card for someone else.

Shoppers will look to explore gift card innovations
This year, holiday shoppers will be able to explore some of the newer gift card options to hit the market: Blackhawk’s new line of curated gift cards, called Happy Cards™, feature a variety of retailers and restaurants on one card. Happy Cards are perfect for gifting on special occasions to targeted recipients, such as women, men, kids, teens and foodies. 

Consumers and employees want gift cards as holiday incentives
Consumers and employees want gift cards as holiday incentives

  • Eight-in-10 consumers surveyed find promotions involving physical gift cards are more influential when it comes to purchase decisions than other options like bonus dollars, coupons and digital gift cards.
  • Most surveyed consumers (82 percent) would prefer receiving a gift card or prepaid card over other incentive options like discounts, checks or merchandise.
  • Gift card incentives are also extremely popular among employees. Consumers surveyed reported that gift card rewards from employers are comparable in popularity to cash rewards. Sixty-nine percent of employees would like to receive a gift card as a reward from an employer, compared to the 73 percent that would prefer a cash incentive.

Personalization is key for holiday gift-givers
Blackhawk’s consumer gift card research found that 66 percent of consumers are interested in a gift card personalized for the holidays. The top three types of personalization that get people to purchase more gift cards are: personalized gift cards specifically for the holidays, gift cards with a personalized message, a personalized message in a greeting card.

Gift cards can help alleviate the frustrations of post-holiday returns
According to the National Retail Foundation, nearly two-thirds of consumers returned at least one item this past holiday season and 27 percent bought items specifically with the intention to return them later2. Gift cards can help alleviate some of these frustrations for retailers. Blackhawk’s 2018 Consumer Gift Card Preference survey found:

  • Forty-two percent of consumers surveyed use gift cards they receive right away.
  • Fifty-nine percent of consumers surveyed often spend more than the amount on the gift card, with 15 percent doing so every time, especially men and younger generations.
  • Sixty-three percent of consumers surveyed show interest in receiving a gift card in exchange for a returned retail item.

Blackhawk provides a wide range of gift card solutions that help brands and marketers drive revenue and connect to their audiences.

*About the “2018 Holiday Shopping Preview: Top Gift Card Preferences” Report
The findings were derived from internal sales data from Blackhawk Network. All data referenced is Blackhawk proprietary settlement data from the 2016 and 2017 calendar years (January 3, 2016‒December 31, 2016 and January 1, 2017‒December 30, 2017). Data from 2016 was used to determine year-over-year change and compared with 2017 data to establish trends. Over 50,000 merchant locations across the United States were included in the analysis, which represent the locations open for business in 2016 and 2017.

About Blackhawk Network 
Blackhawk Network Holdings, Inc. is a global financial technology company and a leader in connecting brands and people through branded value solutions. Blackhawk platforms and solutions enable the management of stored value products, promotions and rewards programs in retail, ecommerce, financial services and mobile wallets. Blackhawk’s Hawk Commerce division offers technology solutions to businesses and direct to consumers. The Hawk Incentives division offers enterprise, SMB and reseller partners an array of platforms and branded value products to incent and reward consumers, employees and sales channels. Headquartered in Pleasanton, Calif.Blackhawk operates in 26 countries.

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1 The NRF 2018 Holiday Spending Survey was conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. The survey of 7,313 adult consumers was conducted October 1‒11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

2 The “2017 Holiday Shopping Behavior Survey” was conducted for NRF by ORC International. The survey of 2,040 consumers was conducted March 29–April 2, 2017 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent.

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