It’s becoming harder and harder to give gifts. It might be simple to click “order” on your Amazon cart, but as your siblings, parents and friends grow older, picking out the right gift for them becomes a maze. That’s why we turned to the easiest, most useful gift we know: gift cards.
How many times have you been brainstorming gift ideas with someone when you heard them say, “Just get them a gift card”? In 2016, 73% of consumers said they were planning on purchasing a gift card this holiday season. Understandable, as gift cards are available at every grocery store, drug store, restaurant, clothing store and nearly any other establishment you could imagine. It’s easier than ever to pick one up at the checkout, load it with spending money and walk away with another gift.
But how did a piece of plastic become a standard for every birthday, holiday and celebratory gift? What’s the psychology behind it?
Another study shows that 85 percent of consumers prefer to receive a $25 gift card over a $30 gift. Not only do purchasers feel at ease giving a gift that’s sure to excite, but consumers receiving gift cards prefer them to more expensive items that they may not have picked out themselves. That’s how we’ve made this piece of plastic the center of our giving: our mindset has shifted from giving gifts to giving control.
Consumers want to know their purchases are exactly what they were looking for, and likewise, gift givers want to make sure everyone’s satisfied. Gift cards can also give consumers a sense of luxury or excitement for a brand they may not let themselves normally make, like a massage, event voucher or nice clothing store. The gift card phenomenon is something that’s not forecasted to go away or die down with all the benefits consumers reap.
Giving gift cards might be the most effective way to please everyone, but sometimes it can be too much. I’ve seen wallets overflowing with unused gift cards, with the owner candidly laughing, “I’ll never use all these” or “I’ll never make it there to redeem this.” The ideal gift can sometimes become wasteful when it’s forgotten or thrown out. As we showed you before, it’s estimated that more than $130 billion in gift cards were purchased last year, and nearly $1 billion of those gift cards will go unused.
Tinua looks at the multi-billion dollar gift card industry and wants to fill the gaps. While our psychology and gift giving habits have changed, our charitable mindset should stay the same: don’t let dollars go to waste when they can be put toward good causes and organizations in need.