Reflections on Blackhawk Network Innovate 2017

Consumer & Market Trends Round Up

Blackhawk Network’s seventh annual client conference, Blackhawk Network Innovate, recently came to a close. The three-day conference was our biggest yet, bringing together the brightest minds across various industries—retail, restaurants, payments and cybersecurity—to discuss the future of gift card ecommerce, share best practices with their peers and learn new strategies they can bring back to their own organizations.

In addition to the general sessions that covered various topics from mobile payments to cybersecurity to Blackhawk Network’s product roadmap, attendees had the opportunity to select breakout sessions from two tracks: B2B Immersion and Consumer & Market Trends. The latter track included topics such as secondary markets, gift cards as incentives, evolving consumer behavior and more. I spent most of my time in this track and would like to share these highlights:

Put Down the Coupon!

In the breakout panel discussion, The Emerging Role of Gift Cards as Incentives in Marketing Programs, Blackhawk Network Vice President of Client Success Terry Sutton presented results from our recent research that uncovered some surprising findings about consumer preferences for retail and restaurant marketing incentives. Panelists from Guitar Center, Walmart and Ulta Beauty weighed in on how their teams are using gift and promotional cards as alternatives to discounts and other incentives.

A common theme throughout the conference was the consumer experience. Each brand, while unique and with a different target audience, wants to offer the most seamless gift card or promo card experience to their customers. This can be a challenging task when you’re trying to also change consumer behavior. Theone Hidek from Guitar Center mentioned brand dependence on “coupon crack,” but how offering gift and promo cards not only improved the consumer experience, it also enabled them to run cross-branded gift card promotions that increased conversions.

Additional sessions in the Consumer & Market Trends track covered topics like best practices for measuring gift card program ROI, pointing to actionable measurement tips and sharing advice for getting buy-in from key internal stakeholders to boost program performance. Another focused on personalizing the eGifting experience with an in-depth demo of Blackhawk Network Product eGifting.

Secondary Markets: The Real Appeal for Retailers

In his session, Secondary Markets: Optimizing Consumer Experience While Maintaining Brand Control, Blackhawk Network’s vice president of Strategic Business Development, Matt Kerper, led a panel discussion featuring panelists from DellEarl EnterprisesRetailMeNotRaise and the RGCA. The discussion centered around the state of unused gift cards and how brands can take advantage of secondary markets to get their gift cards into the hands of consumers who will actually use them. According to CEB Global, there are approximately $40B in unused gift cards in the market today. With an increasing number of state governments revisiting and fine tuning their escheatment laws to be inclusive of gift cards, secondary markets have unique appeal for gift card distributors.

This year’s Blackhawk Network Innovate conference continued to push prepaid commerce forward with wonderful thought-provoking content and spirited discussions. We have a lot more content to share with you, so please check back here as we’ll be posting more reflections on this year’s Innovate in the coming days and weeks ahead.