Now more than ever, your acquisition initiatives need to be impactful

Posted on March 21, 2023 by Roshni Patel

As any experienced marketer will tell you, an economic downturn is not the time to cut back on marketing spend. 

When businesses’ budgets are tightening, many finance teams seek to make savings by cutting back on customer acquisition and retention activity. After all, clever campaigns and generous gifting may seem like inessential nice-to-haves when a business is focused on simply keeping the lights on. Does a brand really need to stand out when it’s just trying to stay afloat? 

But making sweeping cuts to marketing plans is, of course, a false economy. Research shows that businesses that maintain or increase their marketing spend during a downturn tend to bounce back more successfully than those that cut back on marketing.

Short-term savings made by lowering a brand’s marketing profile will have long-term consequences that can take years to reverse. When a brand stops reaching out to prospects and customers, those consumers become prime targets for competitors. Even a brand’s most loyal customers will stray if a rival brand swoops in when they’re feeling forgotten. 

Obviously, none of this is particularly arcane knowledge, which means that, right now, marketers across the land are urging businesses to maintain their promotional activity – or even increase it.  

Many of those businesses will listen to their marketers – creating, within some sectors, an arms race for customers’ attention.  

So when thousands of brands are weathering the cost-of-living storm by striving to attract customers, how can your brand stand out, remain unique and be remembered? 

As you’ll see below, there’s a strong chance the answer lies in corporate gifting – and gift cards in particular. Just bear in mind, however, that not all gift cards are created equally…  

‘Stand out’ brands and gifting: the public has spoken

We recently surveyed 1,000 members of the British public, across all ages and backgrounds. We wanted to learn more about how they view gift cards as rewards and incentives. We also wanted to know how promotional gift cards affect the way they view the businesses that offer them – not just in the moment of receiving the gift, but months and even years down the line. 

In other words, how can brands stand out – for the right reasons – through their gift-card-driven promotions?

Here are three key things that our 1,000 survey respondents told us:

  • 64% agreed that the gifts offered by companies directly impact their purchasing decisions.
  • 91.3% of respondents say they’d be more likely to remember receiving a gift card vs. money off a future purchase.
  • 95.3% said that a uniquely positive first experience with a brand – e.g. receiving a desirable gift card – would make them more likely to become a returning customer.

Clearly, then, there are some quick wins to be had using gift cards for both acquisition and retention. Potential customers can be nudged into making their first purchases through the offer of a gift card, and if that experience feels positive then they’re highly likely to come back for more. 

But there’s more to it than simply throwing cash at a bulk purchase of generic gift cards and waiting for loyal customers to arrive. As our survey shows, today’s consumers are wise to simplistic, well-worn marketing tricks. They’re choosy, because they know their own worth.

To really stand out and leave a lasting impression with gift-card rewards and incentives, brands need to offer customers something more.   

  • 70% would prefer to receive a gift card from a retailer with a good reputation for sustainability and responsible working practices.
  • The above response was even more prevalent amongst younger respondents, with 83.3% of 18–24-year-olds and 83.6% of 25–34-year-olds agreeing. 
  • 71% say that receiving a gift card for a premium brand would positively impact their opinion of the company that gifted them. 

It seems self-evident, but it was important to hear it from our 1,000 respondents nonetheless: most people would prefer to receive a gift card that provides them access to high-quality, premium products. 

Offering consumers free access to some fun little luxuries is a surefire way to create instant standout. A premium gift card lifts a brand’s promotional activity, and lifts the brand along with it. It creates a lasting positive impression, and puts competitors’ more workaday promotions in the shade. 

There are considerations to be made, obviously – a balance must be struck between luxury and affordability. Your giftees need to feel like they get an enjoyable level of purchasing power from their gift cards, without you having to serve them in triple- or quadruple-figured denominations.

Premium needn’t equate to financially prohibitive, however. 

  • 70.7% agree that they’d be more likely to make a purchase if a company was offering an M&S Gift Card as an incentive.
  • 80.7% say that receiving an M&S Gift Card would make them feel more positively about the company that gifted them.
  • 80.1% say they’d feel ‘truly delighted’ or ‘genuinely appreciated’ if they received an M&S Gift Card as part of a promotional incentive.

The M&S brand evokes quality, trust and prestige – it’s seen as ‘premium’. Which means that, when it comes to your gift-card promotion, standing out from the crowd thankfully needn’t cost the earth.


Read our full report – shaped by our survey of 1,000 UK consumers – on the true impact of corporate gifting.