Jul 28, 2023

New Research from Blackhawk Network (BHN) Shows Consumers Leaning on Gift Cards to Mitigate the Rising Cost of Living

New research examines latest U.S. consumer gift card preferences and use cases

PLEASANTON, Calif. – August 1, 2023 – Recent research1 from Blackhawk Network (BHN), the leader in global branded payment technologies, shows that nearly all consumers surveyed are still concerned about the economy and continue to adapt their shopping and gifting behaviors accordingly. Almost all surveyed consumers (97%) report they are concerned about cost of living pressures and 61% plan to change their shopping behaviors to navigate inflation. Among those changes, consumers surveyed are using gift cards to manage or control spending and plan to purchase more gift cards and increase the values of the gift cards that they purchase.

“As retailers continue to adapt to changing consumer behaviors, it will be crucial to recognize the continued increase in demand for gift cards and the shifting preferences among gift givers,” said Jay Jaffin, chief marketing officer, BHN. “The findings emphasize the growing significance of gift cards, not just as a go-to gift, but as a strategic tool for consumers. Utilizing these insights to engage shoppers across generations and giving consumers a reason to purchase by helping to offset the impact of raising costs will mean locked in merchant loyalty and spend for the future.”

Key consumer trends and gift card preferences highlighted in the research include:

Consumers are getting creative to navigate the rising cost of living.

Among the top areas of concern, surveyed consumers are most worried about inflation and grocery or food prices. Some of the most common tactics consumers are using to navigate cost of living increases include: buying less expensive brands or generic store-brand products (55%); buying more products on sale (44%); buying the same brands or products, just fewer of them (34%); buying more products on promotion (27%); buying products in bulk to reduce costs (26%); and using more coupons (26%). Additionally, surveyed consumers report they have purchased more gift cards for self-use, primarily to help manage or control spending (37%).

More consumers plan to buy gift cards in 2023 and load them with higher values.

Despite economic headwinds, more consumers plan to buy gift cards this year and load them with higher values. Among surveyed consumers, there is a 12% year over year increase in the number of gift cards they plan to purchase and a 7% increase in the value they plan to load onto the gift cards. The research also found that when it comes to gifting, gift card buyers and younger generations are the most generous gifters. Among surveyed consumers, gift card buyers purchase 43% more gifts than those purchasing physical gifts. With Gen Z and millennial consumers in their prime gifting years, it’s also wise for retailers to engage younger generations to build loyalty now.

Gift givers overwhelmingly favor gift cards, but the reasons why are shifting.

Most consumers surveyed choose gift cards for choice and flexibility, but an increasing number are focusing on what people need versus what they want. Sixty-three percent of surveyed consumers buy gift cards for what recipients need compared to just 17% that purchase gift cards for something the recipient wants. Rather than focusing on the speed and convenience of gift cards, gifters are opting for gift cards because they are growing more conscious about giving a bad gift. Forty-six percent of surveyed consumers will leave for a different store to find the gift card they want, and 65% of surveyed consumers report that gift cards are a better alternative to a physical gift that the recipient may not want.

To learn more about U.S. gift card use and preferences, download the ebook, “Facing cost of living headwinds, consumers are evolving.”

About Blackhawk Network (BHN)

Blackhawk Network (BHN) is the leader in global branded payment technologies. We strengthen relationships between brands and their customers, employees, and partners by transforming transactions into connections. BHN’s portfolio includes: Gift Card & eGift products, promotions and distribution that grow revenue faster; Rewards & Incentives that build loyalty and acquisition and are integrated into today’s leading platforms; and Payments that enable businesses and customers to access and disburse funds in convenient and innovative ways. BHN’s network spans across the globe with over 400,000 consumer touchpoints. Learn more at BHN.com.