The Evolving Role of Gift Cards in Retail Business

The first use of gift cards is attributed to Neiman Marcus, who sold them as a mere novelty item in 1994. The following year, Blockbuster, the movie rental company, made use of its marketing potential and conspicuously displayed and actively sold their gift cards in their stores. The gift card ‘revolution’ followed, and big retail stores started selling them to gain more customers and increase their sales.

In 2015 the total worth of sales in gift cards in the United States grew to a whopping $130 billion.

Gift Cards are taking E-commerce Giants by Storm

Some people consider gift cards to have ruined the spirit of gift-giving and drew a vile history of the item. Indeed, more than two decades later, the gift card has evolved with the networked mode of selling goods and services. The gift card is now used by many online stores in many creative formats.  You may get them as e-mail, or certificates to be printed at home, or as a colorful message in your smartphone.

Even Visa, the credit card company, has added it to their line-up of new products and services, along with the debit card and the prepaid card. In spite of contrary opinions that gift cards are used by people too lazy to shop for actual physical gifts, their widespread use shows that the convenience they offer makes them a popular choice.

Some merchandise may be available only on online stores and can be bought only using a card. Your current location may be far from a particular outlet, and the best way to buy the item is through online transaction. Those are examples of instances where using a gift card is more convenient.

How Else Can You Use Gift Cards

The latest evolution of the gift card is as a source of additional savings in a consumer’s day-to-day expenses. Some people even consider collecting gift cards for free as an additional source of revenue. This is because some stores use the gift card not as an item to be sold but as a gift to be given to new customers or frequent customers.

The gift card started as an item which may be bought by a gift-giver for a recipient who may want an item from a particular store. The businesses gained from the gift card, gaining more sales and customers. Now, businesses are giving gift cards for free to attract new customers. There are free gift cards given where the store records the number of particular merchandise you buy and treats you with the nth purchase free. Say, for example, you get your 6th burger free.

There are online businesses that give free gift cards just by downloading their apps to your smartphone or computer. These businesses either make you take online surveys, or give your opinion in polls, or just by watching videos. Still, some give you cash rebates for purchases.  You either get cash in the form of free gift cards, or you save money from your purchases.

The gift card has evolved from some form of merchandise sold to customers to a tool for marketing promotions, like a coupon.