Self-Gifting to Self-Gift-Card Giving

There’s that old phrase “It is better to do something oneself than to rely on others to do it well”, which quite frankly, is never truer than when purchasing the perfect gift . . . for yourself.

The research confirms this, with numbers released by the UK shopping centre ‘Centre:UK’ indicating that around a quarter of adults were planning to ‘self-gift’ last Christmas. 15 per cent planned to treat themselves to some new clothes, 29 per cent on games consoles, 14 per cent on mobile phones, 12 per cent on laptops and 10 per cent on make-up. Why leave getting something as important as a gift up to chance?!

Slightly more cynical research from the US shows a similar, if not slightly more sneaky approach; of 2,000 Americans interviewed by OnePoll with Keurig 74 per cent claimed they intended to buy gifts for others that they planned to use themselves.

The Next Logical Step: Self-Gift Cards

Gail Cohen, Director General of the Gift Card & Voucher Association (GCVA) says “Shoppers, particularly younger demographics, are increasingly purchasing gift cards for themselves for many reasons, including convenience, security and incentives they cannot get elsewhere. Indeed, self-use now represents 21.8% of consumer gift card spend – worth over £1 billion.”

“Self-use has grown significantly over the last few years, with a particular increase since the pandemic began. This is driven by the rise of B2B gift card channels, and loyal customers purchasing gift cards for themselves to support their favourite brands and local high streets during lockdown. We have also seen gamers using gift cards as a more secure way to make purchases.”

Chris Ronald, VP EMEA, Incentives & Benefits at Blackhawk Network explains, “Self-use was the second biggest driver of the gift card market in 2019, representing 21.8% of consumer spend, research from the Gift Card & Voucher Association (GCVA) partnered with Blackhawk Network found. This is mainly due to the increasing use of gift cards in employee programs and B2B channels, underpinned by a theme of offering ‘choice’. Employers are issuing gift cards for self-use as part of spontaneous rewards or recognition programmes, in some cases points based. These initiatives are driving acceptance with consumers and encouraging self-use. Secondly, as behaviours change, employees are taking advantage of accessing discounted gift cards promoted by the company as a benefit, allowing the consumer to reduce the cost of their spend at their favourite retailer. Thirdly is security. Whilst ecommerce is accelerating at an exponential rate for some, gift cards are seen as a more secure and private form of online payment, rather than sharing personal banking information. A consumer can have complete faith their financial details are secure if they use a gift card as payment.”

From the consumer point of view, giving a gift card is an acceptance of the fact that we know what we want far better than others. Some of you might be thinking that takes the joy and surprise of gift-giving. Even more than that, why self-gift a gift card? Surely, it’s easier just to buy the thing you want. The savvy amongst you will know the answer: retailers often offer discounts to people buying their gift cards. It’s a smart way of getting more bang for your buck.

But it isn’t always about points and cash rewards led by pure consumer behavioural data; people want to feel good. For many, the lack of personal touch within Amazon’s world is a massive turn off, and this is driving consumers back to the high street, perhaps just to feel something again.

There’s also a propensity in this competitive landscape to just chase the new customers. Obviously, this is important, but retaining existing customers is what loyalty is all about.

The New Era of Loyalty Online and Offline….

A study by consultancy customology interviewed more than 2,500 Australians about their experience with brands and almost 80 per cent believed new customers received more attractive offers than loyal ones, with more than half convinced repeat buyers are not sufficiently rewarded for their loyalty. 51 per cent claimed they did not receive any form of communication after their first purchase, even though they shared contact details.

“Retailers and brands are missing out on significant opportunities by alienating their most profitable customers. It costs a lot more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. It’s ludicrous that brands today are still offering new customers a better deal.” Mark James, CEO Customology.

This is where loyalty programmes come into their own. But it’s not enough just offer discounts or free postage. You need to show your customers that you care about them and their loyalty. This is why great loyalty programmes are compliment by great personalised communications and targeted marketing, whether you’re online or offline.

Gift Card Girlfriend,” blogger and spokesperson for, Shelley Hunter says “Saving money is a primary reason to buy gift cards for self-use. Whether purchasing at a discount or earning rewards on full price gift cards, we incorporate the savings or earnings into the cost of a purchase. In self-use, ease of redemption is more important than type. For example, digitization of gift cards and increased use of mobile wallets have made it easier to keep usable funds on-hand. But, it doesn’t matter if the consumer has to buy a digital gift card to earn rewards or a physical gift card to save 10%, as long as the gift card can be used as expected.”

Craig Padley, Retail Sales Director at Thames Technology explains how benefit schemes are locking in clever employees, “The trend to self-gifting is interesting, and has, of course, many reasons. One of the contributors we are seeing through our fulfilment centre is with company benefit schemes, where savvy shoppers are using the discounts available to save money. In addition, we have noticed a lot of promotions such as ‘load £20 and receive a £5 bonus’. Within the coffee sector, for example, this encourages consumers to pre-commit to a later spend for themselves.”

To Wrap or Not to Wrap

OK, so the benefits could be profitable. But since we are all keen give receivers, do we expect to unwrap our gift cards? To enjoy the experience of knowing what’s inside rather than not knowing? Who cares about wrapping gifts anyway? Well, consumers seem to think it’s important, with people in the US spending billions of dollars every year on making gifts look beautiful.

Alethea Price, Marketing Manager from Burgopak Gift Card Packaging company comments “In the climate of covid, we are seeing an increase in reactionary self-gifting to boost our spirits and retain a sense of self-identity while so many life-factors are beyond our control. Purchasing a gift card with yourself in mind provides an emotional boost, while the suspense of “what will I treat myself to” adds a layer of surprise. The anticipation and immersion heightens the experience of self-indulgence and sustains the emotional boost for longer. To reach that reactive peak, packaging can be the icing on the cake, starting the feeling of self-appreciation from the moment of arrival with an unanticipated unboxing that sets the stage and says “I really deserve this.”

There are benefits to wrapping gift-cards too. Packing Specialist Online identifies the three main ones:

1. Giving a lasting impression
2. Protection
3. Adding a touch of luxury

It’s not just the physical wrapping experience that’s captivating givers and receivers alike.

In line with the “treat yourself” spirit, why not go all the way and add to your gift card a video message, with the LIVSTICK solution. “This feature is made more and more available by many brands, and while it makes obviously more sense to use it when you’re offering a gift card to someone else, telling you how great you are and why you deserve so much this gift card, could actually re-enforce and increase the emotion of your gift…to yourself. A live testimony, on how you feel and why, that you may save for future time…” Olivier Adler, CEO at Livstick.

GiftNow found that their digital unboxing and wrapping services which offer people an immersive digital experience meant 94 per cent of their users agreed that the service made them want to give more gifts. The gift-giver chooses from message themes, complete with design, colour, and animation, that are appropriate for the occasion, such as a birthday, employee anniversary, or a holiday like Mother’s Day or Christmas, and chooses whether or not to craft a video message to accompany the digital gift. With animated flourishes such as a gift box opening before the recipient’s eyes and confetti floating across their screen, a digital notification reveals the gift. The message theme helps make this virtual unboxing feel more personal and relevant.

But does this matter if we’re buying the gift-card for ourselves? Well maybe. The experience of self-gifting should be a gratifying one and there’s no reason that both protection and a touch of luxury shouldn’t be extended to ourselves. What do you think?

Self-gifting in 2021

Plenty of us are self-gifting, that’s clear. We love receiving. We were forecasted to spend 47 per cent more on gift cards of which 21 per cent were on digital cards.

Raj Jhuti, Gift Card & Partnership Manager, River Island has an opinion, “With more access to employee benefits platforms and increase offer in digital Gift Cards, the buying experience has become quick and easy, attracting consumers to find new creative ways to use gift cards to fit their lifestyle while watching the pennies. Packaging of physical gift cards becomes redundant for self-use as the redemption is almost immediate as the consumers pay more attention to what they will purchase with the gift card. Retailers benefit both online and in store from self-use as it drives loyalty to a particular brand and consumers are likely to spend more as the initial purchase may have provide them with a discount. Self-use has also started to accelerate from cash back opportunities, be it a cash back site or card link offers and is likely to grow as this space is seeing expansion.”

We love to wrap and pack, be it physically or digitally. But mainly, we love ourselves (more so, perhaps, since the start of Covid-19) and want to self-gift and keep the experience of receiving and unwrapping alive for ourselves just as much as if we were gifting to others. As long as we are prevented from shopping on the high-street then there’s nothing stopping us taking advantages of the discounts and pleasure of buying ourselves gift-cards. It seems like a win-win and is the perfect way to treat ourselves.