In Time for the Holidays, Research Looks at Gift CardsNovember 7, 2012
“If nothing but economic value mattered, cash would be the ideal gift,” said E.K. Valentin, WSU marketing professor. “Recipients can spend cash on anything they want and givers save hours of shopping time, but non-cash gifts remain the most popular because of their emotional and symbolic aspects.”
Their research suggests cash-like gift cards that can be spent on ordinary, everyday household items have no more charm than cold-hard cash. Only 21 percent of respondents preferred to receive a cash-like card rather than a department store, electronics store, or restaurant card.
“Another interesting finding is that 49 percent preferred to give a gift card to a nice restaurant, but only 27 percent were thrilled to receive it,” Valentin said. “We also found that 33 percent were thrilled to receive a department store or jewelry gift card, but only 21 percent were likely to give them.”
Valentin and Allred advise merchants to tailor messages to fit the giver’s motives and relationship with the recipient. “Promoting gift cards as time savers is likely to work when givers seek gifts for casual acquaintances, but not when they must find a gift for a dear friend,” Valentin said. “Merchants such as Target seem well-advised to remind anxious givers that giving goods can be hazardous while giving cash is crass.”
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