Wild Cards: Shoppers May Resort To Gift Cards To Counter Supply-Chain Issues And Inflation

Pundits like to remind us that consumer expectations are rising.  

Are they really? Here is what consumers actually expect approaching this holiday season, according to the third-quarter 2022 Gift Card Gauge from Fiserv:

  • Items being out of stock — 83% 
  • (Concern about) being able to afford what they want to purchase — 74% 
  • Lack of product selection — 61%

Here’s more bad news: 60% of consumers plan to spend roughly the same as they did last year, and 25% will spend less — not much room for growth.  

Of the consumers polled, 32% have already started their holiday shopping. 



Of this group, 30% are shopping earlier due to promotions and discounts, while 55% are spreading out their purchases because of high prices caused by inflation. And 38% are worried about supply chains and want to ensure they can get available items. 

One finding that may spell opportunity for ecommerce brands  is that 42% will be rely on the digital marketplace, up from 37% in 2021. 

As for timing, 39% plan to take advantage of deals on Cyber Monday, 37% on Black Friday and 12% on Small Business Saturday.   

Of course, the real purpose of this study is to highlight gift-card use, as Fiserv is a gift-card company. Sixty percent of shoppers will buy gift cards to fill in the void from limited product availability, the study found. 

So, in addition to sending out a steady stream of ecommerce messages, many email teams will be tasked with pushing out gift-card offers. 

However, fewer cards will probably be purchased online. In 2021, 41% bought from online-only retailers, 33% from discount/big-box stores and 26% from coffee shops.  

This year, only 38% will buy from online-only retailers, 42% from discount/big box stores and 32% from coffee shops. 

The change may be due to the fact that  66% prefer to give physical gift cards (up from 58% in 2021), and that 58% would like to receive them (versus 43% last year).  

But the value levels will be pretty much the same as they were in 2021: 25% will put $20 to $30 on the gift card, 20% will put $50 to $100 on it and 19% will put $40 to $50 on.

The one hole in this study is that gift cards seem to be a more appropriate gift for friends and colleagues rather than close relatives: the increased online sales probably reflect serious gifting. 

You don’t want to be the spouse who picks up a gift card in Starbucks on Christmas Eve and says, “Merry Christmas, honey.”  

Fiserv’s Gift Card Gauge is a quarterly poll of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers. 

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