Digital Gift Cards were relied upon in 2020 – How can retailers now make sure they keep up this momentum through 2021?  What are the potential barriers?

By Katie Walley

Covid-19 remains a huge catalyst for growth for online shopping for every retailer and at Asda Gift Cards we have seen significant growth in purchases and redemptions of gift cards in a digital way – either via eGift Cards or buying plastic cards online and then redeeming them via one of our online portals.

For our gift card business we have invested more on digital initiatives in the last 12 months than we have over the last 20 years. We believe the demand for digital services will continue to grow and evolve even further as we exit Covid so our focus will continue to be on how we can deliver a superior digital customer experience for customers and our B2B clients.

Looking back at the evolution of gift cards; from paper vouchers to plastic cards, to recyclable cards, and then to e-cards has been really interesting to watch. However, what we have landed in 2020 – and what we will land in 2021 – has been the most exciting, and it’s these developments that we believe will keep us relevant. The only barriers we see here at Asda are the limits on our imaginations!

Customer adoption of digital initiatives, we have seen, has been so quick. Where the digital experience is intuitive, simple and device agnostic we see usage increase without really having to put marketing behind it. Looking at what we have landed:
• Gift cards as a payment method when buying groceries online (previously only general merchandise and clothing could be purchased)
• Re-built our website to be more search engine optimised so customers can find us easier
• Selling Asda gift cards and other third-party gift cards online
• And Gift Card redemption on our optical and pharmacy businesses.

And there is still so much more to come. These tech developments are driven out of customer need – the swell in demand to use these services has been phenomenal. For example, since turning on our new gift card website site visits are up 550% YOY.

The rise of digital has also been reflected in our B2B sales. The majority of orders come in on e-Gift rather than plastic. In the last 12 months we have seen eGift as a percentage of our business increase from 85% to 92%. We have invested in our IT integrations with the large agencies making it easier for them to place orders with us. And we launched integration into apple and google wallets for our B2B cards. Here, the only barriers we have had to overcome is getting prioritised on our tech roadmaps. We have plenty of ideas – we just need to make sure we have enough resources to land them all!

All that said, the physical gift card side of our business remains strong. Customers still place value on giving a physical gift in person. I don’t see a day where we aren’t ranging our cards in our stores for our customers to be able to shop. The great thing now though is that we are able to use our digital platforms to test more designs and see what sells to influence next year’s decisions even more. Usually, for our own branded cards, we are limited to 20 card designs in store – but online the opportunity is endless. We can test all types of designs – with very minimal cost – and really understand what our customers want from us.

In summary, customers want us to help make their lives easier. Digital is for sure an incredible way to help customers (both buy and use their cards) and support businesses who are buying from us in bulk, but our focus is to continue to look at how we support customers in any way we can. If that’s online whilst buying their groceries with a gift card, or when they are in store and choosing a gift card to be posted with a birthday card, then we want to make sure we are doing a great job for our customers wherever they are. I think the main hurdle to overcome will be to avoid being too single minded in the opportunities we can explore and to underestimate how fluid customers are today when they are shopping as we see them shopping across all channels, devices and store formats.