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Research: Gift Cards Top Reward Choice Among Organizations and Recipients

Cindy Mielke | March 2, 2018

Incentive program effectiveness, ease of administration, and flexibility for awardees have made gift cards the most popular workplace award, used by 75 percent of organizations, according to the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and the Incentive Gift Card Council (IGCC).

Further research confirms that gift cards consistently outperform merchandise awards, as employers and recipients overwhelmingly prefer to give and receive them. The top reasons: gift cards offer businesses less-costly and easier branding opportunities, and awardees have much greater choice of “cashing in” on a favorite product or experience.

Incentive Magazine, which surveyed nearly 500 businesses with incentive programs, found gift cards to be the clear winner in a head-to-head competition with merchandise. More than half (55.7 percent of respondents) found gift cards to be more effective motivators than merchandise, while only 5.7 percent surveyed found the opposite to be true.

For companies that limit themselves to just one award type, they too overwhelmingly turn to gift cards before merchandise. An IRF-sponsored study found that more than double the number of companies (26 percent vs. 10 percent) choose to run their incentive programs with gift cards alone, compared with those programs that only use merchandise. In addition, employers that offer multiple award types spend nearly six times more on gift cards than merchandise.

Most importantly, gift cards are the reward of choice among employees, with eight out of 10 workers preferring a gift card before any other type of award, according to Incentive Magazine research.

Even more compelling: a survey by First Data Corp. asked participants whether they would prefer a $25 gift card over a gift valued at $25, $30, and $50. Almost all respondents stated they would choose a $25 gift card versus merchandise worth the same amount, and 85 percent would choose a $25 gift card instead of a gift worth $30. In fact, consumers place such a high value on gift cards that nearly half would rather receive a $25 gift card over merchandise worth $50 – twice that amount!

Find out how gift cards can be a powerful part of your rewards and recognition program with a test drive of our easy-to-use GC Incentives Sales Incentive Calculator. You’ll find our approach to incentives and rewards is defined by creating a memorable experience for clients and recipients, supporting corporate culture, rewarding performance, increasing sales, celebrating milestones, and more.