Merchant Gift Card Programs and Actionable Best Practices


Blackhawk Network, a California-based prepaid card, gift card and payments company, has partnered with NAPCO Research, the “research arm” of NAPCO Media, a B2B digital media company, to fifth year. Their goal? Evaluate the experiences of in-store, online and mobile gift card programs at over 225 merchants. This time, their annual search has expanded beyond the US and includes the UK and Australia for the first time.

The findings of the 2022 NAPCO Research Merchant Gift Card Omnicommerce Evaluation report were discussed by Amy Dunckelmann, vice president of research operations at Mercator Advisory Group, Andrew Solomon, vice president of sales at Blackhawk Network, and Hilary Spidaliere, director product marketing at Blackhawk Network.


Evaluating Merchant Gift Card Programs and Actionable Best Practices

PaymentsLog Evaluating Merchant Gift Card Programs and Actionable Best Practices

The pandemic accelerated digital transformation within companies and Dunckelmann believes that this study could not be more timely:

“One of the reasons I really liked this study, particularly because you have research going back five years, the trend in the report really shows a much greater emphasis on digital, especially with what’s happened during the pandemic, and more companies looking for digital options. I think it’s really good to help providers understand their digital experience and what they can do to improve it So I think even though it’s the fifth year, it’s certainly very timely in terms of results.

Solomon also spoke favorably of this study, adding:

“It really creates a framework not just for a client who has an existing program to grow their program and take it to the next level. But someone who comes into the business, it shows you the roadmap of what they’re doing. some of the most successful businesses. And they can implement those ideas without trial and error. So it creates a great roadmap for our customers and potential customers.”


To conduct the study, the NAPCO research team visited each merchant store, visited websites, accessed mobile apps and purchased gift cards. All of these experiences were evaluated using more than 150 criteria, which have been developed and collected over the past five years of conducting this annual survey.

Among the criteria explored are:

  • Is it easy to locate the gift card?
  • What faceplate card art designs are available?
  • What denominations can you buy?
  • Is it possible to add a personalized message?
  • Does the order pass once purchased?
  • Does it look like a gift when received?
  • Is it easy to redeem?

Key Findings and Biggest Takeaways

Based on the research results, the average multinational omnicommerce total score is 66% for the 225+ merchants assessed. This indicates that there is considerable opportunity to improve gift card programs across industries, verticals and regions.

Retailers also want to invest in providing a variety of payment methods depending on what customers prefer to use. Additionally, an increase in the purchase of gift cards for personal use has also increased the need for faster purchases to benefit self-directed shoppers.

Despite the boom in mobile usage, the overall mobile experience is still underdeveloped.

As more and more customers become mobile-first, investing in the mobile space would be critical to refining both the shopper and recipient experience.

In all of the regions featured, it’s important for merchants to provide a seamless in-store experience for customers. This can include having gift cards in stock, knowledgeable staff, and new payment options available to customers.

When it comes to the online experience, the key is to make the card program easy to locate. Having the best-developed gift card program won’t translate into sales if the gift cards can’t be found by customers.

Spidaliere further explained this:

“… one of the main takeaways in all three regions was to make sure your program is easy to find. You might have the best gift card program in the world, but if a customer can’t find it, you can’t sell gift cards. So, it helps to make sure it’s easy to find the gift card program on your homepage and make sure you promote it via email. [and] social media, [and] ensure that your customers and potential new customers know about your program and how to purchase a card. »

Personalization is also a key factor. Customers want to make the gift card experience more personal. They want access to design options as well as custom message spaces, and they also want to select denominations and timing.

Performance of in-store, e-commerce and mobile gift card programs by region

When it comes to the performance of the in-store gift card program, the United States comes out on top. The results show that in-store US merchants excel at having both accessories and well-stocked and tidy check displays.

The UK and Australia excel in mobile and e-commerce. With Australia having the highest Omnicommerce score at 69%, its strength lies in both its digital and mobile capability. This includes its site search, payment options, and customization options. Australia also offers the most robust desktop gift card shopping experience.

The UK continues to stand out in its mobile experience. This is especially true in its mobile gift card programs. It is recommended that the UK really look into this space as more and more consumers choose to shop via their mobile phone.

Growth opportunities

As the holiday season approaches, retailers would do well to take advantage of all of the key findings from this report. Here are some recommended action items to improve the gift card program experience:

  • Make sure gift cards can be easily found
    This includes all sales channels (in-store, digital, app). Make gift card purchases easier by positioning them more prominently for customers to find.
  • Be flexible with your gift card program
    Offer physical and digital cards. Offer cross-channel shopping (e.g. buying digital cards in-store, buying physical cards online). Sell ​​multi-brand cards as well as own-brand gift cards and offer various payment and delivery options. Be flexible with denominations, where customers can choose the value of the card. Offer advanced personalization, such as personalized messages, a variety of front designs, and the ability to upload photos.
  • Provide a fast, transparent and secure shopping experience
    This includes providing a variety of payment method options. Notify the buyer when their gift card has been shipped or received.
  • Improve the gift card recipient experience
    Make it easy for the recipient to add their gift card to a digital wallet and redeem it. Have a way for them to check their balance, add more funds to their card, and securely access their gift card.

To learn more about the latest industry trends, best practices, and the status of your gift card program, get your copy of NAPCO Research’s Fifth Annual 2022 Merchant Gift Card Assessment – US Edition. You can DOWNLOAD THEM HERE.

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