Q&A with Colleen Dorwart, RGCA board chair
One of the hottest topics in payments – particularly during the holiday shopping season – is gift cards. The closed-loop gift card industry has shown tremendous growth and innovation in the last few years and shows no signs of slowing down.
As we reflect on 2017 and look ahead to 2018, we spoke with Colleen Dorwart, Retail Gift Card Association (RGCA) board chair, about the most popular gifts in America.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, what is the RGCA?
RGCA is the nonprofit trade association that keeps a pulse on the closed-loop gift card industry, including new trends and innovations. It provides industry coordination among different stakeholders and members including top retailers, distributors, manufacturers and other non-retail organizations. This synchronized effort enables the RGCA and its members to promote positive gift card experiences for consumers and address new industry challenges as they arise via a unified voice.
What were some of the biggest advancements made in the closed-loop gift card industry this year?
Consumers are driving innovation in very creative ways. Gift cards are becoming so much more than gifts; they are now a form of payment, promotional tools, a way to know your customers, and engagement vehicles that reach consumers in relevant ways. Physical gift cards are no longer used once and thrown away thanks to the increasing availability of tailorable options that enable consumers to personalize their cards and reload them for future self-use. eGifts have become much more prevalent in the gift card landscape due in part to widespread mobile adoption and increasing consumer reliance on smartphones. No longer is an egift a boring email or text message; they can now be customized with special messages, graphics, photos, music, and other interactive technology.
What’s your holiday forecast for gift cards?
Year after year, gift cards are the number one requested gift in America, and we expect strong physical and egift sales this holiday season. Consumers have high confidence in the economy right now, and this will likely translate into bigger shopping budgets for the holidays. Because they are so versatile and so many people love them, gift cards will be a go-to option since they can be a fit for family, friends, coworkers, and countless other recipients. We expect to see shoppers buying and giving them via a multitude of channels, and also expect more businesses using them to thank employees for their hard work.
How do you foresee gift cards changing in 2018?
As the role of closed-loop gift cards evolves, so do the opportunities and issues that surround their use. Contextual commerce is driving change. Consumers want to be able to shop for what they want, when they want it, and using the channel they want (mobile, in-store, etc.). Closed-loop gift card stakeholders have to make sure the industry’s payment solutions are keeping up with the increasing complexity of commerce. Purchasing and redemption channels are converging to meet consumers’ omnichannel demands and shoppers are continually finding new ways to use gift cards as forms of branded currency. In 2018, it’s likely more consumers will start adopting these preferences and continue to push the envelope for how they want to buy, give, and use gift cards.
Your organization recently hosted the inaugural RGCA Forum. Tell me more about Forum and the industry demand to create it.
The RGCA Forum is the exclusive payments industry conference focused solely on the issues and trends impacting the closed-loop gift card industry. This year the show sold out several weeks in advance, and every session was filled with stakeholders who wanted to collaborate and learn about the current state of the closed-loop gift card industry, what lies ahead, opportunities for industry growth, and other notable topics.
We saw a need to create RGCA Forum because closed-loop gift card discussions were kept to a minor track or single session at other conferences. Now, closed-loop gift card industry stakeholders can participate in an event entirely dedicated to this specific industry.
What were some of the key takeaways from RGCA Forum?
More than 35 speakers provided specialized insights and advice for industry stakeholders to apply to their businesses, including:
- How the industry as a whole can continue to fight fraudsters through coordinated collaboration—and how processors have a unique vantage point to spot and stop suspicious activity.
- What gift card program managers can do to stay abreast of the numerous, ever-changing legal and regulatory standards pertaining to cashback laws, escheatment, card terms and conditions, privacy policies and more.
- How personalization and engagement are driving commerce disruption in the “Amazon era” as consumers increasingly value customized omnichannel capabilities and are morphing gift cards into branded-value payments and stored-value solutions.
- How to better engage businesses that are increasingly using gift cards and egifts for employee recognition, sales rewards, and other B2B purposes.
- How cutting-edge technology can create more personalized gift card experiences that resonate with consumers – helping boost loyalty and engagement with brands.
What’s ahead for the RGCA?
We’re continuing to facilitate a collaborative atmosphere that supports the health of the industry for stakeholders, and creates positive gift card experiences for consumers. Next year, we will also host our second annual RGCA Forum, so be sure to keep an eye out for more details – we’d love to see you there!