Expert Talk

Rise of the Gifting Planet – Brand & Consumer Perspectives from India

Qwikcilver, the global leader in Gift Cards, powering every segment of the gift card industry; is the world’s first and only end-to-end Gift card solution provider. With its future ready technology solutions and Qwikcilver has built ground up a state-of-the-art Stored Value Platform exclusively for managing gift cards for Merchants, Retailers and Brands.  Qwikcilver has been granted the license to “Issue” Semi-Closed Loop Prepaid (SCLP) instruments by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the apex Financial Regulatory Authority in India.As an ISO27001 certified company Qwikcilver conducts annual audits like CISA and VAPT (Vulnerability Assessment & Penetration testing) and ESCROW reporting on a quarterly basis. These audits are conducted by authorised agencies to ensure security of both Qwikcilver systems and client system.
Starting in 2017, Qwikcilver has been conducting the one of a kind Qwikcilver Gift Card Conclave, an event exclusively for the Gift Card Category which featured the convergence of industry stalwarts as they engaged in insightful conversations which went on to define the future of gifting.
The second edition of the Qwikcilver Gift Card Conclave kicked off with greater expectations after a successful and enriching event the previous year. This year the conclave was held on 18th of April at Bangalore, India. As the only type of the event in India and Asia, this year also saw some of the best minds come together from across the world to discuss and share insights with the Future Forward roadmap. 
The day kicked off with the first panel discussion which saw an eminent and diverse panel identifying the future growth trends of the gift card segment in India. Moderated by Ms. Chandra Ranganathan from ET NOW, topics at the session ranged from broad trends in the category to personalized gifting and predictions for the future of the product. The lively panel threw up valuable insights on the vast potential of the segment and collaborative opportunities with industry partners.
The gift card segment occupies an emerging corner of the huge gifting market in India at present. At a nascent stage of its development as yet, the segment has huge potential for growth. Retailers, fashion brands and hospitality businesses have been offering the product in diverse ways to consumers and envisage innovative trends in years to come. Although gift cards occupy a space between personalised gifting and the huge cash market of the country, it has been forging its own identity, independent of both ends of the spectrum. 

Thanks to Qwikcilver, the gift card platform is being variously utilised for experiments and innovation by corporate firms and consumer businesses alike. Moreover, the opportunity of gifting in India is so diverse and the potential of the category so vast, that a ‘design thinking’ approach perhaps works best for its growth and development.

Personalised Gifting or Cold Plastic?
Depending on how customisation is defined by the marketplace and by consumers themselves, it is possible to personalise gift cards. While it is easier for consumer brands to offer personalised experiences to their customers, mass market retailers can also craft their own personalised versions. An instance was shared by Rajeev Krishnan, the managing director and CEO of Spar Hypermarkets, when gift cards were created for the wedding season. The level of customisation lay in the packaging of the product – in a beautifully designed box – and in the option of loading the card value, which could vary from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 5 lakh. 

In the case of hospitality brands like the Taj, for instance, there is nothing impersonal about their gift cards. In fact, their product is called, ‘Taj Experiences’, which essentially says that the brands has transcended their journey beyond monetary value and is gifting their customers a lifetime of memories.

For e-commerce firms like Flipkart, on the other hand, customisation can be as simple as a gift-wrapping option at the check-out stage. Moreover, for e-comm retailers and youth brands, as their target millennial consumer continues to grow, distances will become pivotal. Consequently, a gift card may not be perceived as impersonal, when near and dear ones are increasingly divided by physical distances. In this regard, the morning’s panel discussion threw up useful consumer insight involving a mind-set change in today’s youth.

 As Rajshree Bakshi, the global vice president of marketing, Taj Hotels, pointed out, that it is the youth who are increasingly purchasing gift cards, often for their own consumption. Aditya Soni, the business leader of payments, fintech and gift cards at Flipkart, added to the insight by pointing out that the biggest consumers of gift cards are between 18-30 years. He saw the segment as becoming the biggest consumers of B2C brands in the gifting space. 

Current Industry Trends

 As far as current industry trends went, Piyush Chowhan, the vice president and chief information officer of Arvind Brands, shared two large trends in the gift card space from a consumer perspective.

The concept of ‘loyalty’ is changing drastically: Consumers are moving towards more than just a transaction, they seek to build a relationship with a brand or a product. Unless organisations and brands move fast enough to embrace such relationship-based engagement models, customer stickiness is going to disappear just as fast. The key today lies in holistic relationship building.

Delayed gratification is being converted into instant gratification: Consumers are no longer willing to wait for future gratification from a ‘loyalty card’ or a ‘gift voucher’. They’re essentially saying, ‘I have come here and I want something now.’ If there is a gifting requirement, that is when brands and organisations need to think on their feet and create customised offerings for a customer’s instant consumption. 
As summed up by Rajeev Krishnan of Spar Hypermarkets, the gifting market is at such a nascent stage that there are possibilities of a thousand trends emerging every day. Especially, given the upbeat current domestic economy, the diverse age groups, India’s diversity of communities, geographies and religions, trends are going to manifest themselves at each level.
 
What Lies Ahead? 

The future lies in the B2C segment: It is likely that brands and organisations across diverse platforms will converge together to create exciting new gifting options for the consumers of tomorrow. Many of the panellists saw the next wave of growth entirely in the B2C space. As Aditya Soni of Flipkart pointed out, ‘Over the course of the next couple of years, I think our position will be about creating newer and happier reasons to shop. Once we achieve that scale where a lot of sales are driven by happy customers, we will have achieved what we want to achieve.’

The future lies with the youth: For luxury brands like the Taj, it was felt that the future lay with the consumption habits of the youth. As Rajshree Bakshi pointed out, ‘The traditional form of gifting, especially for your near and dear ones, is of course there to stay, but the future is going to be about people buying gift cards for their own consumption. Therefore, a very different mind-set has now started to operate, and that to me is the future.

The future is analytics: A strong case for analytics was also built by the panel. It was felt that taking a holistic view of the customer, would help brands in targeting their consumers effectively. It was felt that transaction patterns together with gifting could all be connected via analytics to complete the circle on consumer behaviour. Analytics can be put in place to bring in gifting information, along with a customer’s social history and transaction information for profiling ‘loyal’ customers that brands want to build relationships with. The process could create an entirely whole new set of offerings for a consumer landscape.
Future Trend Predictions for Gift Cards in India
  • Positioning the product as a currency equivalent will not work anymore. Not the transactional value, but the holistic value that a gift card creates for the consumer will become more important over the next 4-5 year horizon
  • eCards or digital gift cards will overtake physical gift cards in the future
  • For consumer brands, analytics will form the basis for gift cards, together with the consumer habit of overspending
  • B2C will be the way forward in the gift card segment, compared to the corporate industry 
  • It will be an opportunity in diversity, with omni-channel methods of distribution and usage 
  • We will see many more manifestations of the product; and the power of the product will likely grow beyond the gifting category