Top Take-Aways from the 2019 Blackhawk Network Summit



By Theresa McEndree, Vice President of Marketing at Blackhawk Network

We recently wrapped the 2019 Blackhawk Network Summit which brought together the world’s top brands and retailers to share actionable insights can address rapidly changing consumer dynamics. More than 25 experts in payments, customer experience, digital engagement, generational behavior and futurists joined us to address this year’s Summit theme: Transforming together: the relationship between brands and consumers as they discover, shop and buy in the digital age.

Here are the top take-aways from our keynote speakers:

Tech is the key driver of anytime, anywhere personalization and engagement. Michelle Evans of Euromonitor showed us that of all the massive trends facing consumers—population change, the environment, changing consumer values and shifting economic power—tech is by far the most important driver of consumer engagement. Michelle laid out the case that consumers are becoming more active rather than passive in commerce and they want to simplify their lives at the same time. This is something we have seen at Blackhawk and is why we launched our suite of Happy Cards bundled-brand gift cards. Happy Cards allow consumers to actively experience the fun of choosing where to spend, while still making it simple and personal.

Gen Z looks different up close and personal and they know what they want. We brought in a generational research expert, Giselle Kovary, and a live consumer panel of young 20-somethings (Gen Zers aren’t all tweens!) and they gave us a candid view of their day-to-day lives and shopping habits. Gen Z currently makes up 26 percent of the population and is a rapidly growing market for our business.[1] Sixty-seven percent of Gen Zers surveyed have purchased a gift card in the last year and I believe we are moving closer to seeing a 50/50 split whether they chose a card in-store or online.[2] They know which brands they love and the experiences they crave. This is a cohort that is active in commerce—they research and shop both online and in-store. And it is no surprise that they are most likely to embrace retail innovations while shopping, such as pop-up stores, mobile shopping, voice shopping and virtual reality. Gen Z will make up 40 percent of all US consumers by 2020 and currently influences $600-billion of family spending.[3]

Blackhawk CEO and President Talbot Roche brought all of these learnings together by helping us make sense of the transformation of retail, payments and consumer behavior and what we can do to harness the power that comes from transformation. Instead of worrying about detriments of change, attendees came away energized at the opportunities available to harness this transformation. The best-performing retail brands are using technology-driven experiences and personalization and 47 percent of consumers surveyed are comfortable with artificial intelligence (AI) in business interactions.[4]

She also put to rest the myth that physical retail is dying. It’s not. Eighty-one percent of consumers surveyed make in-store purchases at least once a month and 63 percent are making the same amount or more in-store purchases as last year.[5]

Brand loyalty is steady. Across generations, approximately two-thirds of consumers are loyal to their favorite brands. And omnichannel isn’t a channel—it the only way to do business.[6]

Overall, it is up to us to capitalize on what has stayed true—brand loyalty and strong physical retail experiences—and use technology to make consumers’ experiences more engaged and simpler. Personalization and targeting must continue to get crisper and AI will help us better harness our data and give consumers a better experience.

Blackhawk will be taking all of this into account as we shape the future of global branded payments. Collaborating with our partners as we translate these market trends will help them increase reach, loyalty and revenue. The speakers provided a good reminder that we must always have reliable scalable infrastructure and technologically-advanced programs to help our clients and partners meet the needs of customers today and the new ones coming up tomorrow.


[1] “The Nielsen Total Audience Report” was published by Nielsen in July 2017.

[2] “Gift Card State of the Union” is an online survey conducted by Murphy Research on behalf of Blackhawk Network between February 4 and February 12, 2019. The sample size of 3,389 U.S. consumers was comprised of respondents between the ages of 18 and 75.

[3] “For Generation Z, iPhone, Apple have most buzz while Coke, Pepsi fizzle” was published in USA Today in August 2018.

[4] “Artificial Intelligence and the Confidence Gap” infographic is based on an online survey conducted by SAS in March 2018. The sample size was comprised of 500 U.S. consumers.

[5] “Retail Trends and Transformations” is an online survey conducted by Murphy Research on behalf of Blackhawk Network between February 4 and February 12, 2019. The sample size of 3,381 U.S. consumers was comprised of respondents between the ages of 18 and 75.

[6] “Blackhawk Network Consumer Segmentation” is an online survey conducted by Murphy Research on behalf of Blackhawk Network between February 4 and February 12, 2019. The sample size of 10,126 U.S. consumers was comprised of respondents between the ages of 18 and 75.


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