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Gift card sales to top $110 billion

BY Staff Writer

Boston — A report issued Monday by CEB TowerGroup found that sales of gift cards will surpass $110 billion and spillage will drop 20% to $1.7 billion.

Propelling gift card sales past the $100 billion dollar mark is an increase in open loop gift cards purchases like those offered by American Express, Visa, Mastercard and Discover ($40 billion), restaurant gift cards ($19 billion) and merchant cards ($36 billion).

While electronic gift card sales have increased since tracking began in 2010, sales in 2012 are only projected to reach $3 billion, reflecting slower than initially projected adoption.

In 2012, CEB forecasts that roughly 85% of the U.S. population will exchange gift cards. In addition to a higher volume of card sales, 75% of consumers will spend the full amount of money on the card and 30% will spend $25 more than the value of the card, which is helping lower spillage – the amount of money left on a gift card that a consumer will never spends – to $1.7 billion.

Gift cards rebounded well after two years of slow growth in 2008 and 2009 due to the unforeseen economic downturn, according to the report. CEB TowerGroup estimated that the market will top $130 billion in sales by 2015 with electronic gifting growing from $3 billion in sales (2012) to roughly $16 billion by 2015.

"Consumers continue to flock to gift cards as a popular gift choice due to the variety and assortment of cards available," said CEB TowerGroup senior research director Brian Riley.

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Five-day online spending total surpasses $5 billion

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Reston, Va. — Survey results released Monday by comScore revealed that the most recent work-week saw four individual days eclipse $1 billion in spending, led by Green Monday with $1.275 billion.

comScore, which has monitored holiday season retail e-commerce spending for the first 44 days of the November–December 2012 holiday season, reported that to date $33.8 billion has been spent online, marking a 13% increase versus the corresponding days last year.

"This past workweek saw four days surpass the billion dollar spending threshold during the heaviest five-day online shopping period on record," said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. "With this most recent week in the books, the peak spending period may now be in our rear-view-mirror – but the online holiday shopping season is not over yet. We should have one more headline day on Free Shipping Day this Monday the 17th as the procrastinators among us scramble to order gifts in time for Christmas next week … We still expect that the full season will realize a growth rate well north of 13%.”

For the 2012 holiday season-to-date, eleven individual days have surpassed $1 billion in online retail sales, already surpassing last year’s record of 10 shopping days. Cyber Monday (Nov. 26, 2012) currently ranks as the heaviest online spending day of the season – and in history – at $1.465 billion. Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 ranks second with $1.362 billion, followed by Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 (Green Monday) with $1.275 billion, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012 with $1.263 billion and Monday, Nov. 28, 2011 (Cyber Monday 2011) with $1.251 billion.

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Study: Top retailers leave 73% of customer tweets unanswered

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Chicago — E-commerce and digital marketing company Acquity Group announced Monday social media findings that revealed the vast majority of retailers don’t respond to customer tweets.

The 2012 Brand eCommerce Audit evaluated Interbrand’s 2012 Best Retail Brands on customer engagement across major digital channels, including big browser, social and mobile.

While every brand on the list except one has a Facebook page, and 45 out of 50 are on Twitter, only 12 brands had a cohesive presence across all five of the major social networks analyzed (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube).

The audit revealed Twitter had the largest gap between usage and interaction. With a 90% adoption rate among the brands, less than 27% actively participate in Twitter conversations with consumers. In fact, companies were least likely to respond to or engage with customers via Twitter than any other social media channel evaluated.

"Although most brands are signed up for the major social networks, many struggle to understand how they fit into their overarching business strategy,” said Jay Dettling, executive VP, Acquity Group. “As a result, our audit revealed several critical areas of improvement when it comes to actually connecting with consumers across social channels."

Brands were most active on YouTube, according to the research, with 80% of the brands leveraging the channel at an 85% engagement rate. Even though the majority of companies (56%) have yet to utilize Instagram, the brands with a presence on this platform also had a high level of interaction (79%). Pinterest was identified as the most popular up and coming social network, with 60% adoption and 70% interaction.

The 10 brands scoring best overall in social interaction include, in order of ranking: Target, Home Depot, RadioShack, Bath and Body Works, Nordstrom, Gap, eBay, Coach, American Eagle Outfitters and Banana Republic.

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