Summertime and the Giving Is Easy: Gift Card Offerings for Moms, Dads, and Grads

Navigator Edition: June/July 2013
By: Allison Brenner

Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Graduation Day are three major gift-giving occasions. The National Retail Federation estimated that nearly $39 billion would be spent during this trifecta of celebrations in 2013. Of that amount, north of $3.8 billion would be spent on gift cards or gift certificates. As such, retailers and other third party providers are very focused on offering robust, relevant gift card options.

Several companies initiated email campaigns and promotions to highlight gift cards in the days leading up to Mother’s Day. The following are samples of gift card marketing with Mom in mind:

  • Neiman Marcus: Ran a BEJEWELED credit card promotion where buyers could receive a gift card worth up to $750 based on their store credit card purchases in the jewelry department.
  • Target: In addition to a Spanish language card, Target also offered an exclusive digital design for Mother’s Day eGifts.
  • Starbucks: Promoted a Mothers’ Day Mini Moments Gift Card Book for 5 trips to Starbucks on its website (only available in stores).
  • Victoria’s Secret: Ran an email campaign offering a $15 Reward Gift Card with an Eau de Parfum Purchase.
  • Safeway: Offered $10 off a future shopping trip with a $50 purchase of participating gift cards.
  • Gyft: This gift giving app sent a reminder message to users’ smartphones one day before Mother’s Day noting that there was still time to get a gift card.
  • Facebook: Created a gift reminder drop-down box on Mother’s Day showing a photo of a user’s mother (if available from her Facebook profile) offering a “Give Starbucks” gift card option and “See All Gifts.”

Father’s Day gift spending trailed that of Mother’s Day as in prior years, but that did not deter the marketing of gift cards for Dad as well. An NRF survey indicated that shoppers were planning to shell out $13.3 billion for the holiday with $1.8 billion, over 13%, on the ever-practical gift card. The following gift card promotions and tactics were observed around Fathers’ Day:

  • Amazon: Advertised a free gift box and one day shipping for gift cards; enacted an email campaign highlighting instant delivery.
  • Home Depot: Offers option to buy a Hallmark greeting card to accompany gift card for $3.99; group gifting available via Facebook.
  • Target: Dads and grads ad page in weekly circular noting 10% off a $50 iTunes gift card and free gift cards with select merchandise purchases.
  • Cabela’s, Lowes, and Saks: Gift cards were featured as a highlight in Father’s Day gift guides.
  • Bass Pro Shop: Featured gift cards on main website and a shipping schedule.
  • Best Buy: Offers Facebook delivery for gift cards.
  • Barnes and Noble: Executed an email campaign highlighting gift cards for Dads, Grads, and Teachers.
  • Apple: Noted gift cards for Fathers’ Day in email campaign.
  • Wrapp: Free Father’s Day gift cards were available via this Facebook-based gift giving app from retailers such as Guess, Invino, and NativeUnion.
  • Gyft: This app provider teamed with Lowe’s to promote a Father’s Day contest via Facebook.

A popular gift card strategy for high school and college graduation focused on diploma-laden designs on card plastics and eGift illustrations. offered a unique option for customized gift card designs based on college majors and degrees. Graduation might be an ideal time for group gifting mechanisms, but we did not observe any prominent plays to capture the grad market (retailers such as Sears, Home Depot, Target, Best Buy, and now Amazon all offer group gifting options). The NRF noted that $4.6 billion would be spent on graduates overall, a decrease from $4.7 billion in 2012. Only about a third of consumers purchasing gifts for graduation were expected to buy gift cards.

Mobile and digital gifting continue to make headlines. Blackhawk Network teamed with Monetise to allow US banks and FIs to offer digital gift cards through their mobile wallets. Gift card app Wrapp made news when it reached 15 million gift cards sent via Facebook since its launch in November 2011. In mid-June, Amazon unveiled Amazon Birthday Gift, a group eGifting mechanism for birthdays on Facebook where multiple parties can contribute to the value of a digital gift card. While adoption of digital gift cards has been relatively slow, integration into various streams of distribution is critical to establish a base for future growth.

Although the summer holidays do not have the pomp and circumstance that surrounds gifting in the winter months, retailers and others are continuing to find interesting and practical ways to market gift card products in an ever-changing and competitive gifting environment.

Sources: National Retail Federation, company websites, weekly ad circulars, company emails, Mobile Commerce Daily, TechCrunch, Monitise press release, CNNMoney, CNET.

For more information, please contact Allison Brenner, Analyst specializing in Card Issuing,

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