Top Take-Aways from the 2019 Blackhawk Network Summit

By Theresa McEndree, Vice President of Marketing at Blackhawk Network

We just wrapped the 2019 Blackhawk Network Summit which brought together the world’s top brands and retailers to share actionable insights to address rapidly changing consumer dynamics. More than 25 experts in payments, customer experience, digital engagement, generational behavior and futurists joined us to address our 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 in commerce, instead of being passive, 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 Z aren’t all tweens!) and they gave us a candid view of their day-to-day lives and shopping habits. They are currently 26 percent of the population and a rapidly growing market for our business.1 Fifty-six percent have purchased a gift card in the last year and it’s moving to 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 around 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 2020.3 They already have strong direct buying power, but what’s most important is that 93 percent of parents say their Gen Z children influence family and household purchases.4

Blackhawk CEO Talbot Roche brought it all 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 there are to harness this transformation. The best-performing retail brands are using technology-driven experiences and personalization and 47 percent of consumers are comfortable with AI in business interactions.

She also put to rest the myth that physical retail is dying. It’s not. Eighty-one percent of consumers 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.5

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 consumer’s 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 Nielsen 2017

2 Blackhawk Network Summit Study, Gift Card State of the Union, March 2019

3 Forbes 2018

4 Cassandra 2015

5 Blackhawk Network Summit Study, Retail Trends and Transformation, March 2019

6 Blackhawk Network Consumer Segmentation, March 2019

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