Gift cards have become the can't-go-wrong present, and like everything else, they are are now going digital.
According to Today, gift cards are popular with Millennials. Digital gift cards are even more popular with the generation that prefers electronic delivery and storage, so the new cards are fast becoming a hot wish list item.
A Bankrate survey of 62 gift cards - including bank and credit card companies, retailers, restaurants, airlines, and gas stations – found that 59 percent are available in digital form, and digital gift cards have been on a slow but steady rise since 2011.
Ben Jackson, director of Mercator Advisory Groups prepaid advisory service, predicts that there will be a larger move toward the digital cards in the future. He says his research shows that e-cards and mobile cards made up about 7 percent of the $85.5 billion gift card market in 2013. That is twice the percentage of digital cards sold in 2011.
"Retailers and shoppers are getting more comfortable with the idea of a digital gift card," he said. "It's going to continue to grow, just like everything else is becoming more digital."
There are several types of digital cards. E-gift cards, which consist of a link sent by email or text that can be accessed and printed out for use in a brick and mortar store or used online, have been available for several years. The newer type, mobile gift cards, are designed to be stored on a smart phone or tablet and contain a bar code that can be scanned at the register in a store.
Mobile gift cards are particularly popular with Millennials, who depend on their smart phones far more than their parents. The Bankrate survey shows they are twice as likely to use them as older adults. One reason for their popularity may be that the younger generation is also twice as likely to lose a traditional plastic card as their older counterparts.
Around 40 percent of the 18- to 29-year-olds surveyed by Bankrate say they have lost a gift card. But mobile and e-cards that can be stored and accessed digitally are much harder to lose than traditional plastic cards.
There are many other reasons people prefer digital cards. For the recipient, the digital cards don't take up room in their wallet and are easy to use both online or at a store. Some retailers also pair the cards with their loyalty programs, offering discounts or points to users. As for the gift-giver, they are a quick and easy solution that can be purchased from a computer or mobile device without having to fight holiday crowds. There is no need to worry about getting just the right item, and instead of having to wrap a gift, the cards can even be personalized.
"If I want to send you a (digital) gift card and I want to put a picture of me as a dancing elf on it, I can do that," Jackson says.
"This age group is all about instant gratification, so sending them a digital gift card that comes on their phone and has a video that makes them laugh, that really resonates with Millennials," said Shelley Hunter with GiftCards.com.
Gift cards aren't the only holiday items that are popular with the digital generation. According to this recent Inquisitr article, younger kids can also receive a message from Santa Clause or track his Christmas Eve journey on a smart phone or tablet with a free mobile app.
Would you feel comfortable giving or using a digital gift card?
[Image via GiftCards.com]