Gift cards are a front-of-mind gift-giving option for a vast number of U.S. consumers. The gift card market is worth more than $160 billion and it has been growing by double-digit margins since 2015 – and gift card purchases have been a means of paying restaurants forward during the pandemic. But according to a new study from Incisiv, restaurants are still leaning on old-school tactics when it comes to managing their gift card sales instead of harnessing the data-driven power they can offer. By better connecting gift cards to loyalty programs, restaurants can capitalize on the special occasions that inspire guests to use these cards – occasions that happen to be predisposed to generating feelings of loyalty. The study advises restaurants fine-tune their approach to gift cards in four areas: First, make gift cards a more frictionless experience for guest and employee alike. That means considering such actions as how to minimize the steps/people involved in processing a transaction, or if you can add a gift card balance to a third-party wallet or loyalty account, for example. Second, make it possible to purchase, transfer, redeem and reload gift cards across all of your purchasing channels. Third, make it more personal – like so much of the experience of dining out, customization of restaurant gift cards helps drive loyalty. Do you offer a range of designs for a range of occasions? Sample messages? Can a giver include a special video message or photo? Finally, make recommendations. Suggesting products based on the occasion and the recipient can help you upsell your cards, as well as generate data that can improve your ability to segment and target your customer base going forward.