New Year But Are There New Opportunities?

By Ajay Sethi - Head of Business Development - Incodia

Despite the curtailment of many gatherings this New Year’s Eve, I’m guessing this new year will still be celebrated more than most!

Like me, you’re likely keen to put the events of 2020 behind you and looking forward to a more positive 2021.

Your Flexible Friend

After 17 years working in the gift cards and voucher industry, the adaptability of our sector never ceases to impress me. Though a simple concept, the humble gift card can be the answer for so many circumstances and deliver so much more than monetary value alone.

Though we may not always recognise it, we’ve all been re-purposing gift cards for our customers and partners for years. And we’ve got great at doing it too.

At Incodia, this went a step further in 2020 to include helping society too. We delivered gift cards to:

  • Help provide free school meals to vulnerable children
  • Provide a payment tool for support workers and volunteers to buy food and essentials for those shielding
  • Encourage more people to ‘Eat Out to Help Out’
  • Included donations to the NHS and discounts for key workers

And most recently we’ve been helping companies use gift cards to say thank you to staff in lieu of a traditional office Christmas party too.

It appears there are many ways we can help when we think outside the ‘gift box’!

Next, Please!

So, in a (fingers-crossed) vaccinated world, where can we take the gift card in 2021 and how can we support post-pandemic brands, retailers and consumers?

Let’s Get Physical

Who’s up for another Zoom quiz!?

As the brief summer respite from the first lockdown showed, many of us are keen to shun the digital world for a return to real-world experiences such as going to the pub, cinema or shops.

Despite the closure of all but essential retail, the latest GCVA Consumer Data shows over a third of online gift card purchasers bought a physical card in October. Gift card purchasing was at its highest rate since May. Chances are gift cards will remain a strong feature of most Christmas stockings, with people keen to give friends and family both something physical and something they can get out and enjoy with a shopping trip.

Experience is Everything

Most of us feel starved of many real-world experiences this year. Once restrictions and concerns ease, most economists are anticipating a surge in travel, leisure and other experiences. Just think of all the birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and new baby celebrations deferred from 2020 to next year – and the gifting that may accompany them!

The pandemic saw a seismic shift towards online shopping. Our hearts go out to our clients and contacts in ‘bricks and mortar’ retail. Sadly, some high street names may be lost forever. However, with an easing of restrictions and the Christmas rush, the high street will no doubt enjoy respite as cooped-up consumers look for a little well-earned normality.

To win back shoppers, canny high street retailers may need to think about what they deliver in a more experiential way – giving shoppers an experience thats entertaining and social.

For the gift card industry, the importance of experience may give us yet another opportunity to innovate and impress. Perhaps more than ever, retailers will want gift cards to be more than just tangible evidence of value.

At Incodia, we think 2021 will be another opportunity to further enhance every gift card recipient’s experience in terms of design and deliver something truly valued and memorable.

Gift cards and carriers have perhaps a unique opportunity to get across key messages, welcome back shoppers, evoke excitement and build anticipation. Our ‘Gift for Now, Gift for Later’ product is a powerful example of how brands can shift their gift card offer up a notch!

Responsible, Sustainable

Despite the all-encompassing pandemic, the environmental debate has never gone away and may soon come back even stronger as it once again drives consumer buying decisions in 2021.

In a nationwide survey by Walnut Unlimited, 75% of shoppers said they are modifying their buying behaviour due to ethical concerns.

Many of us in the gift card industry have already been leading the way and giving our clients more sustainable ways to provide customers with physical Gifting options.

Since 2017, Incodia have helped over 150 major gift card programmes transition from PVC to more environmentally friendly and sustainable materials. We have produced over 350 million gift cards in recycled, non-plastic and paperboard materials, saving over 3,430 tonnes of PVC plastic.

With a welcome sense of renewal and rejuvenation, 2021 will perhaps be the ideal opportunity for brands and retailers to impress consumers with sustainable gift cards.

A Sense of Community

Let’s face it, 2020 has perhaps been the greatest lesson for several generations in showing us that the society matters more than the individual! Hopefully, that community spirit and compassion will continue once our face masks are consigned to the drawer.

Though with hindsight it was a little premature, the success of the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ campaign in the summer showed just what we Brits can do when we want to show our support for local business.

According to research from YouGov, almost two thirds (64%) of people want to support local businesses and buy local products as a result of coronavirus. In 2021, the gift card has every opportunity to be the symbol people use to promote support for local businesses amongst our friends and family.

Lots to Look Forward to?

So, as we celebrate the passing of the year and reflect on a tumultuous twelve months, we should perhaps allow a cautious optimism to surface as we look forward to 2021.

As a sector established to help people show their affection and appreciation to others, the gift card and voucher industry has perhaps a greater opportunity than before to make 2021 memorable for consumers for all the right reasons.

Happy New Year!

Disclaimer: Please note all content included in the blogs the GCVA publish and share, are the personal views of the individual bloggers/organisations. The GCVA cannot be held responsible for the content

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