Cultivate Blog

Gift cards: an overabundance of choice

Posted by Tara Doherty on 12/6/22 8:00 AM

Visit your nearest grocery store and it won’t take long for you to notice an extensive display of gift cards strategically placed near greeting cards, camouflaging end-caps, and staring you down while you wait in the checkout lane. For many years people's go-to gift for offering choice was gift cards. Marketed as easy, fast, and variety-oriented, gift cards seem like a one-stop shop, right?

According to a survey by Consumer Reports, when people are given a choice between receiving a tangible gift from a collection of items versus a gift card, more people opt for the tangible item. Although retailers try to persuade consumers that these shiny bits of plastic will excite people on the receiving end, researchers agree that gift cards don’t deliver effective appreciation for three main reasons: they’re inconvenient to redeem, easy to forget, and impersonal.

Shiny bits of inconvenience

Despite gift cards being viewed as quick and convenient for the giver, people tend to feel that gift cards are more of a hassle than a means of reward. Of professionals surveyed, 58% said they don’t have time to go shopping, so most gift cards go unused. Instead of relishing in their moment of recognition, their initial feelings of excitement mull over into frustration.

In addition to being time-consuming, survey respondents said the reservations they have about receiving gift cards also include time-sensitive inconveniences. Gift cards can accumulate fees, decrease in value, expire too soon, and or retailers may go out of business before a card is used.

 

Too easy to forget

When it comes to redeeming gift cards, 32% of those surveyed said they either lose them, forget about them, or roll them directly into household spending — none of which makes a memorable impact or a good use of company investment.

According to another study by the National Retail Federation, 51% of gift cards go unused or forgotten, totaling over $21 billion (up from $400m in 2019) per year. It’s safe to say that if people forget about spending gift cards, then they definitely forget who gave it to them in the first place. Thus, becoming a missed opportunity.

 

Impersonal appreciation 

Finally, among all of the reservations people have about gift cards, impersonality ranked at the top. If you think gift cards are the lazy person’s way of gifting—you’re right. Survey respondents reported that gift cards seem to be more popular among gift-givers than receivers and often give the impression that the giver is disconnected and doesn’t value the person’s lifestyle or interests. To make matters worse, 35% said they don’t use the gift card because they couldn’t find anything to buy from the cards’ specific retailer that interests them. This type of gifting can do more harm than good. It puts the giver-recipient relationship at risk and indicates a lack of enthusiasm on the giver’s part, making the recipient question if the person they work for even values the effort they’re putting in.

 

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing

People love choice! Ask anyone if they’d prefer more or less options and everyone will say the more the merrier. Yet, did you know making a choice becomes more difficult when there is an overabundance of options? It has been ingrained in our culture that choice can only ever be a good thing — choice equals freedom, and therefore the more choices we have, the more freedom we have. However, there’s a big problem with this logic.

Numerous studies (Lyengar, Schwartz) have proven that the more choices people are given, the less capable they are of making a decision — this is called The Paradox of Choice. When there is too much choice, people find it impossible to decide and this is called decision paralysis. Couple both of these concepts with gift cards, and you’ve got a recipe for unsatisfied, disappointed, and overwhelmed recipients.

If you are in need of a one-stop shop that caters to your gifting goals and actually makes people feel appreciated then our Online Gifting Platform is the solution you’re searching for. Our Platform is designed to help you focus on what matters — you can set up teams and assign gifting budgets ahead of time, export redemption reports in real-time, and only pay when someone selects a gift. Celebrate people who deserve it the most and strengthen relationships that are built on gratitude and recognition. When it comes to delivering a genuine gift of choice, don’t turn to gift cards — turn to the Gifting Experts you know and trust. We’ve got the gifts they want and the solutions you need to make it an all-around win.

Connect with a Gifting Expert to book a demo to see how our Platform works. We’ll help you take the guesswork out of gifting and ensure everyone receives a gift they want, will use, and remember who gave it to them.

Topics: Experts

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