Prepaid Cards Dominate Japan Cards & Payments Market, According to Timetric Report

03 April 2014, London, UK (PRWEB) - During 2009-2013, the number of prepaid cards in circulation in Japan increased from 139.3 million cards to 224.5 million cards

From 2009 to 2013, the number of cards in circulation in Japan registered a 2.94% CAGR and climbed to 980.9 million cards in 2013. During the same period of time, the value of the cards payments channel grew at a nearly 3.45% CAGR and touched the USD 723.4 billion (JPY 70.1 trillion) mark in 2013. The development of Japan’s card payments channel was driven primarily by robust growth of the prepaid cards sector, which recorded the highest CAGR, namely 12.68%. The share of the prepaid cards sector grew from 15.9% in 2009 to 22.9% in 2013. During 2009-2013, the number of prepaid cards in circulation in Japan increased from 139.3 million cards to 224.5 million cards, and the transaction value of prepaid cards grew from USD 14.2 billion (JPY 1.3 trillion) to USD 30.1 billion (JPY 2.9 trillion).

Read the full story at: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11732894.htm

MasterCard Reports 40% Growth in Prepaid Business across Asia/Pacific, Middle East & Africa for 2013

Cross Border and E-commerce Transactions Key Drivers for Growth 

China Presents Biggest Opportunity for Further Growth

NEWS: #MasterCard reports strong growth for #Prepaid cards in #AsiaPacific, #MiddleEast & #Africa http://mstr.cd/1h24eSw 

Singapore, 3 April 2014 – MasterCard reported a growth of 40% in gross dollar volume, or GDV, for its prepaid card business across Asia/Pacific, Middle East & Africa (APMEA) for 2013 (y-o-y). This strong growth was fuelled in part by significant partnerships announced over the last couple of years in the region, such as:

The momentum for prepaid growth is expected to continue given the potential for driving further financial inclusion in emerging markets as well as the increasing cross border and e-commerce transactions.

Emerging Markets: Hotbed of Innovation

According to Jason Tymms, MasterCard’s Head of Prepaid, Asia/Pacific, Middle East & Africa, “The needs in emerging markets differ greatly from developed markets and this is proving to be a catalyst for innovation. We find ourselves innovating to meet the most basic of needs which is access to financial services, especially for citizens who sit at the bottom of the financial pyramid.”

In May last year, MasterCard, in partnership with the Nigerian government, announced the roll out of 13 million National Identity Cards with MasterCard’s prepaid payment technology, the largest formal electronic payment solution in Nigeria and the broadest financial inclusion initiative of its kind in Africa. When using the card as a prepaid payment tool, cardholders can deposit funds on the card, receive social benefits, pay for goods and services, withdraw cash and engage in other financial transactions that are facilitated by electronic payments.

In India, MasterCard is launching a mobile companion prepaid card allowing Beam Money consumers to move beyond basic utility payments by connecting their existing mobile wallets to the world of MasterCard acceptance and electronic payments, thus enabling them to carry out e-commerce transactions, make fund transfers, book movie or travel tickets.

In 2012, MasterCard also worked with the State Government of Chhattisgarh and the Central Bank of India to launch a student prepaid card for the distribution of scholarships. This resulted in the speedy disbursement of scholarships as well as safety and convenience for students who received payments through bank ATMs nationwide.

But according to Tymms, innovation is not just happening in emerging markets. “In developed markets such as New Zealand, MasterCard is innovating to meet different needs. For example, MasterCard worked with Air New Zealand to launch the OneSmart dual-faced loyalty and prepaid card, a first in the world,” Tymms said. One side of the card is an Air New Zealand Airpoints loyalty card, equipped with ePass technology that enables cardholders to speed through domestic check-in. Meanwhile, on the other side is a prepaid MasterCard that enables cardholders to load up on foreign currencies as well as lock in the exchange rates.

Similarly in Australia, MasterCard together with Qantas launched the new Qantas Frequent Flyer membership card with a new inbuilt feature, Qantas Cash™, a prepaid facility which allows cardholders to store foreign currency, access cash worldwide via ATM withdrawals, and earn points on spending in Australia and overseas.

But it is not just consumers that are adopting the use of travel prepaid cards. In India, SMEs in the IT services industry especially, are providing travel prepaid cards to their employees who need to travel for international projects. Functioning as a means for paying for their expenses during the term of the overseas stint, prepaid cards also means easier tracking and reconciliation for the SMEs.

The Rise of the China Traveler, and Cross Border Potential

“We are seeing the biggest potential for prepaid growth come out of China given it had the highest number of outbound tourists and amount of overseas spending in the world last year. Coupled with the Chinese’ higher purchasing power, this presents an obvious need for electronic payments acceptance when abroad and multi-currency travel prepaid cards such as the MasterCard Cash Passport fit the bill as it takes away the hassle and risk of carrying a lot of cash while also enabling cardholders to lock in exchange rate at the time of loading to avoid fluctuations,” Tymms added.

Officially the world’s biggest spenders, Chinese’ spending on overseas travel increased 28 percent in the first nine months of 2013. In 2012, China became the largest outbound tourism market with 83 million overseas trips, and last year, this number grew even further to 97 million. It is expected that this year, the number will top the 100 million mark, in what will be a historic first – an amazing feat, considering that this number was just 10 million in 2000. 

These kinds of numbers represent the enormous opportunity MasterCard is seeing in the areas of cross border transaction and China aside, across emerging markets in Southeast Asia, India and Japan.

E-commerce is also proving to be a key driver for prepaid growth. According to MasterCard’s Online Shopping Survey, besides China (97.8%) which continues to have a strong potential for making online purchases in the next six months, Southeast Asian markets such as Vietnam (91.4%) and Thailand (84.2%) are also showing great potential in terms of respondents intending to make an online purchase in the next six months.

About MasterCard

MasterCard (NYSE: MA), www.mastercard.com, is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. MasterCard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MasterCardNewsjoin the discussion on the Cashless Pioneers Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.

Contacts:

Venture Liang, MasterCard, venture_liang@mastercard.com , +65 6390 5973

Alina Morais, Weber Shandwick, amorais@webershandwick.com, +65 6825 8203

Grass Roots releases new pure card design to celebrate birthday

01 April 2014 - Grass Roots, the world’s leading provider of employee and customer engagement solutions, is celebrating 34 years serving hundreds of the biggest brands around the globe, with the launch of a new design for their prepaid debit product: pure card.

pure is a prepaid VISA debit card used by corporates to reward or incentivise their employees, channel partners or customers as part of an employee benefit, staff motivation, reward or incentive programme.  pure can be used at over 60 handpicked retailer chains from which cardholders earn rebates every time they shop, with potential to make significant savings. Payments can be made onto cards as a way of saying ‘thank you’ to employees, to recognise positive behaviours, safely manage funds for expenses, or even administer household budgets for residents.

The new design is brought up to date with a monochrome palette and new pure logo.  A black front and back features a folding mesh wave across the façade and white highlight text and digits. Cards will be available to all clients from today, 1 April: Grass Roots’ 34th birthday.

Card Operations and the Technology team at Grass Roots have also developed an app and mobile website for pure card users. The app ‘Prepaid Cardholder Services’ is Apple and Android compatible and allows cardholders to access their account quickly and securely, check balances, view retailers and top-up funds whilst on the go, using their smartphone.

Grass Roots has recently undertaken a wider brand refresh too – introducing brightly coloured bubbles into all collateral, products and office spaces. The bold circles unite The Grass Roots Group companies under one uniform yet flexible and innovative brand and further enforce the company’s strengths in offering integrated solutions around the world, which are both diverse and consolidated. Both the company brand work and the new pure card design were performed in-house by creative talent.

Jill Trembeth, Product Specialist for the Card Operations team at Grass Roots, is delighted with the contemporary new design pure card and comments, ‘It’s great to celebrate our 34th birthday here at Grass Roots with the launch of a revamped product. pure is a fantastic way of rewarding lots of different audiences. Cards can also be client-branded, but the stylish re-design and host of product features are sure to appeal to many organisations we work with, and put pure ‘front of wallet’ for our card users.’

ENDS

Notes to editors:

The Grass Roots Group is the world’s leading provider of employee and customer engagement solutions.

Founded in the UK in 1980, we operate in 15 countries throughout the world.

Grass Roots Group companies have over 14,000 clients, including 41 of the FTSE 100, 104 of the FT Global 500.

Grass Roots in the UK has been listed in the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014 Sunday Times list of Best 100 companies to work for.

To find out more visit www.grassrootsgroup.com

pure card – the secure, easy and effective way to reward and say thank you: www.purecard.com

For further information please contact:

Jill Trembeth, Product Specialist, Grass Roots

jill.trembeth@grg.com

01442 829 400

Charlotte Jackson, Group Communications

charlotte.jackson@grg.com

01442 829 400

ecoPayz “ecoVirtualcard” launches to receptive UK market

18 March, 2014 - ecoPayz, a leading global payments solutions provider has announced the launch of its one-use payment card allowing consumers to securely pay for goods online and over the phone.

The new ecoVirtualcard can be immediately acquired and used to spend around the world wherever MasterCard® is accepted. With the ability to run the card independent of the customer’s bank account, the card offers maximum security and privacy – and expires once used, ensuring it can never be lost or stolen.

The competitively priced virtual card is already being hailed as the best alternative to similar products offered by banks, and owners of the card have ambitious plans for its future adoption around the globe. With the card available in GBP, USD and Euros and support staff fluent in 7 different languages the card is swiftly attracting a global customer base. It is particularly attractive to those who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for a traditional bank account (as credit checks aren’t necessary), and don’t want to miss out on the increasing number of online-only deals currently offered by retailers.

Phil Davies, Managing Director of PSI-PAY Ltd commented: "take up has been phenomenal and we’re delighted with customer feedback which has so far indicated that this is one of the safest, most economical and versatile product on offer. We have spent a year developing this product and each step of the way we have consulted the very people that we have designed it for. We wanted to get it absolutely right rather than being yet another virtual card out there and I’m proud to say we have achieved that”.

Previously hesitant shoppers citing security fears as a barrier to online shopping are now also being drawn to the card, which is expected to further increase and diversify its customer base over the next 12 months.

Further information can be found at

http://www.ecopayz.com/en-GB/Cards-ecoVirtualcard

Notes to editor

For press queries please contact Humaira Pilkinton on +44(0) 7985 354895.

About ecoPayz

ecoPayz is a a brand of PSI-Pay Ltd, a global payment solutions provider offering instant, safe and convenient payment services to customers and businesses across the globe. With over 13 years' expertise in the payments industry, we pride ourselves on the quality of the payments products and associated services that we provide to our growing customer base.

 

ecoPayz is a brand name of PSI-Pay Ltd.

About PSI-Pay Ltd

Globally renowned for our secure, online e-wallet, PSI-Pay is an FCA regulated company that provides an instant, secure and private means for individuals and businesses to send and receive money globally.

PSI-Pay is authorised by the FCA under the electronic money regulations 2011 (register reference 900011) for the issuing of electronic money.

PSI-Pay is also an established member of MasterCard offering bespoke virtual and physical card programs for companies and individuals worldwide. These include corporate expense management and remote staff payment schemes that utilise PSI-Pay’s self-card and account issuing facilities.

MasterCard is a registered trademark of MasterCard International Incorporated

 

Learn more about PSI-Pay at www.psipay.com  or contact us at business@psipay.com

PIF webinar poll reveals government disbursements and remittances predicted to be a key driver of prepaid market growth

17 March, 2014 - International not-for-profit trade association, Prepaid International Forum (PIF) today announced highlights from the second in a series of two incisive webinars on prepaid market trends around the world.

The series has provided PIF members in India and the Middle East with insights on emerging trends and opportunities for prepaid.

Presented by Peter Sidenius, a Director with global financial services and payments consulting firm, Edgar, Dunn & Company, the webinars have revealed that the projected opportunity for global prepaid will be $822 billion by 20171 largely driven by the ability of prepaid solutions to support the unbanked and underbanked segments and the distribution of value by governments for benefits disbursements and businesses for corporate and payroll solutions.

The second live broadcast compared factors affecting the adoption and growth of prepaid payment solutions in North America, Asia-Pacific and Africa with references to dominant programmes and prepaid market opportunity estimates.

As well as highlighting market similarities the webinar revealed that for some markets the prepaid space is very unique. In North America governments are expanding their involvement in prepaid. In 2012 94 government offices and 186 programmes issued US$136 billion through prepaid cards. In developing countries such as India, prepaid as a simple form of bank account, is increasingly seen as a means of improving levels of financial inclusion. This was compared to Africa where government support for prepaid initiatives is limited. Despite large unbanked populations and high unemployment in a number of African markets there are very few prepaid programmes, whereas in more developed markets such as South Africa there are enough social benefits to support government-funded programmes.

The webinar also highlighted corporate programmes as strong drivers of prepaid growth across all markets. Corporate benefits cards are the most common prepaid card in North America with an estimated 4.6 million payroll cards active in 20122. Payroll cards are also gaining ground in South Africa and represent one the biggest opportunities for prepaid in Asia-Pacific.

Commenting on the webinar series, Amit Sethi, Co-Chairman of PIF India and Managing Director for Asia, Middle East and Africa at TSYS, said “PIF webinars form an integral part of PIF’s mandate to create an environment where prepaid products and related market developments are well understood and can enable the prepaid economy to thrive. By monitoring and sharing global trends PIF aims to help its members and the industry create compelling market propositions.”

PIF has established operations in Europe and India and further international expansion is planned in the Middle East. For further information visit: http://prepaidforum.org/international/middle-east/

 

A copy of the webinar presentations slides can be downloaded here from the PIF website and TSYS website

1 BCG 2 Aite Group

About PIF

Prepaid International Forum (PIF) is a global not-for-profit trade association established to represent the interests of all parties involved in the issuance of prepaid products and services. It acts as principal point of liaison between the industry and regulators, government agencies, consumer bodies and the media. PIF is dedicated to the progression of the industry and acts as a catalyst for the development of sensible industry guidelines and codes of best practice. To learn more visit www.prepaidforum.org

About TSYS (Regional Patron)

At TSYS® (NYSE: TSS), we believe payments should revolve around people, not the other way around. We call this belief "People-Centered Payments®." By putting people at the center of every decision we make, TSYS supports financial institutions, businesses and governments in more than 80 countries. Through NetSpend®, A TSYS Company, we empower consumers with the convenience, security, and freedom to be self-banked. TSYS offers issuer services and merchant payment acceptance for credit, debit, prepaid, healthcare and business solutions.

TSYS’ headquarters are located in Columbus, Ga., U.S.A., with local offices spread across the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific. TSYS is a member of The Civic 50 and has been named one of the 2013 World's Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere magazine. TSYS routinely posts all important information on its website. For more, please visit us at www.tsys.com.

# # #

If you would like more information about PIF, please contact Diane Brocklebank at +44 (0) 7736 971986 or email at diane.brocklebank@prepaidforum.org.

PIF Webinar: Global Prepaid Market Trends Part 2

24 February 2014 - Presented by Peter Sidenius, a Director at Edgar, Dunn & Company and member of the PIF Board of Directors, this webinar was the second in a two part series providing in-depth insights to the global prepaid landscape. Produced in association with Event Creation Network the 60 minute broadcast compared and contrasted key growth areas, dominant segments and provide market opportunity estimates for selected markets in North America, Asia Pacific and Africa with references to:

  • The key drivers of consumer, government and corporate prepaid programmes
  • The impact of the regulatory environment on prepaid market growth

View Now:

To view this webinar please click here

With thanks to our Regional Patron: TSYS®

Prepaid International Forum webinar to compare and contrast prepaid market trends in North America, Africa and Asia-Pacific

13 February, 2014 – International not-for-profit trade association, Prepaid International Forum (PIF) today announced the second in a series of two incisive webinars on prepaid market trends around the world. The webinar will be held on Monday, 24 February 2014 at 10.00 am GMT.

The complimentary one hour broadcast will provide insights on emerging trends and the potential for prepaid in North America, Africa and Asia Pacific. Presented by Peter Sidenius, a Director with global financial services and payments consulting firm, Edgar, Dunn & Company, the webinar will cover:

  • Key drivers of consumer, government and corporate prepaid programmes
  • The impact of the regulatory environment on prepaid market growth
  • Dominant segments and market opportunity estimates for selected regions

Title: Prepaid Market Trends: A Global Overview – Part 2
Date: Monday, 24 February 2014
Local Times: 10:00am GMT /2:00pm GST / 3.30pm IST
Duration: 1 hour
Speaker: Peter Sidenius, Director, Edgar, Dunn & Company

To register for this complimentary webinar please click here

The 2014 webinar series forms an integral part of PIF’s mandate to create an environment where prepaid products are understood and can thrive. By monitoring and sharing global market trends PIF aims to help members and the industry create compelling market propositions.

PIF has established operations in Europe and India and further international expansion is underway with the launch of PIF Middle East. For further information visit: http://prepaidforum.org/international/middle-east/

Amit Sethi, Co-Chairman of PIF India and Managing Director for Asia, Middle East and Africa at TSYS, added: “Understanding the key drivers, benefits and regulatory framework is key to accelerating the growth of Prepaid across these regions. Prepaid can be leveraged as a payment tool to improve people's lives, enable financial inclusion and enhance and simplify customer payment experiences around the globe. This follow-up webinar series 2 is just another example of PIF’s contribution to achieving these objectives.”

Prepaid Market Trends: A Global Overview – Part 1
A copy of the webinar presentation slides from the first webinar in this series can be downloaded here from the PIF website and from the TSYS website

About PIF
Prepaid International Forum (PIF) is a global not-for-profit trade association established to represent the interests of all parties involved in the issuance of prepaid products and services. It acts as principal point of liaison between the industry and regulators, government agencies, consumer bodies and the media. PIF is dedicated to the progression of the industry and acts as a catalyst for the development of sensible industry guidelines and codes of best practice. To learn more visit: www.prepaidforum.org

About TSYS (Regional Patron)
At TSYS, (NYSE: TSS), we believe payments should revolve around people — not the other way around. We call this belief "People-Centered Payments℠." By putting people at the center of every decision we make, TSYS supports financial institutions, businesses and governments in more than 80 countries. Through NetSpend, a TSYS Company, we empower consumers with the convenience, security and freedom to be self-banked. TSYS offers issuer services and merchant payment acceptance for credit, debit, prepaid, healthcare and business solutions.
TSYS’ headquarters are located in Columbus, Georgia, with local offices spread across the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific. TSYS provides services to more than half of the top 20 international banks, and has been named one of the 2013 World's Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere magazine. TSYS routinely posts all important information on its website. For more please visit us at www.tsys.com
# # #
If you would like more information about PIF, please contact Diane Brocklebank at +44 (0) 7736 971986 or email at diane.brocklebank@prepaidforum.org

Prepaid International Forum elects Craig James, CEO of Neopay, as Chairman

10 February, 2014– International not-for-profit trade association, Prepaid International Forum (PIF) today announced the appointment of Craig James as Chairman of the PIF Board of Directors.

Mr James succeeds Robert Courtneidge whose two year term of office has drawn to a close. Mr Courtneidge will continue to serve as a member of the PIF Board and Executive Committee.

Announcing Mr James’ appointment, Robert Courtneidge said: “I know Craig is passionate about the industry and the principles of PIF. His ambition to move prepaid into the mainstream is testament to his suitability for this very important role. I have every confidence that he will provide strong leadership to further the growth of PIF and its evolving activities. I wish him every success in his new role.”

PIF was established in 2007 to promote and shape the development of prepaid as a payment solution for consumers, corporates and governments. As a representative body for the industry PIF acts as principal point of liaison between the industry and government agencies, regulators, consumer bodies and the media. It is dedicated to the progression of prepaid and acts as a catalyst for the development of industry guidelines and codes of best practice. The overarching objective of PIF is to create an environment where prepaid products are understood and can thrive.

Craig James commented: “I am extremely proud to be given this opportunity to follow on from the excellent work and progress Robert Courtneidge has achieved as Chairman over the last two years. Regulatory change and other developments continue to test the industry. Under Robert’s guidance PIF has taken important steps to ensure our industry is represented and the practicalities of operating in this sector are taken into account in our dealings with policy-makers. As we expand our membership it is an essential part of PIF’s role to add the experience and expertise of our members to these debates.”

PIF members represent issuers of prepaid products, card schemes, processors and suppliers of services to the industry. To learn more about PIF please visit www.prepaidforum.org

# # #

Media Contact:

Diane Brocklebank
Head of Member Relations
Prepaid International Forum
T: +44 (0) 7736 971986
T: diane.brocklebank@prepaidforum.org

Prepaid Industry Trade Body to Meet in Dubai

02 February 2014 - International not-for-profit trade association, Prepaid International Forum (PIF), today announced programme highlights for its Middle East Chapter meeting at the Dusit Thani Dubai on Wednesday, 12 February 2014.

The opportunity to position prepaid as a sustainable payment solution in key segments such as youth and the unbanked is rapidly emerging, as is the potential for prepaid to enhance financial inclusion. It is against this backdrop that PIF will provide meeting delegates with an in-depth look at the role of BIN Sponsors and programme managers. Titled “Business Models and BIN Sponsorship 101,” the presentation will provide a high-level description of business model options and case studies on successful programmes.

Discussion will also focus on how the industry can work together to promote and demonstrate the benefits of prepaid products and the positive role prepaid plays in the financial services space. The meeting will be chaired by Dr. Saleh I. Al-Furaih, Business Strategy Director, Al Rajhi Bank, and the opening address will be given by Robert Courtneidge, Chairman and Co-Founder of PIF.

Launched in 2013 under the patronage of TSYS®, PIF Middle East aims to help shape and promote the development of prepaid in the region. Founder members of the Chapter include Visa, Al Rajhi Bank and The Saudi Investment Bank. PIF Middle East is part of a global network for industry thought-leadership. Members meet regularly and have access to a range of member services and resources including white papers and industry guidance and informed perspective on key emerging global developments for prepaid.

PIF Chairman Robert Courtneidge said, “The opportunity for prepaid in the Middle East is vast and the need for a neutral body that works proactively to encourage and stimulate growth has never been stronger. I look forward to joining our Middle East Chapter colleagues in February to build on the steps we are taking to advance the industry.”

The PIF Middle East Chapter meeting will be held at the Dusit Thani Dubai from 09:00-14:00 on Wednesday, 12 February 2014.

To learn more about this meeting and becoming a member of PIF Middle East, please contact

Diane Brocklebank
Head of Member Relations
Prepaid International Forum (PIF)
E: diane.brocklebank@prepaidforum.org
T: +44 (0) 7736 971986

About PIF

Prepaid International Forum (PIF) is a global not-for-profit trade association established to represent the interests of all parties involved in the issuance of prepaid products and services. It acts as principal point of liaison between the industry and regulators, government agencies, consumer bodies and the media. PIF is dedicated to the progression of the industry and acts as a catalyst for the development of sensible industry guidelines and codes of best practice. To learn more please visit www.prepaidforum.org

About TSYS (Regional Patron)

At TSYS, (NYSE: TSS), we believe payments should revolve around people — not the other way around. We call this belief "People-Centered Payments SM." By putting people at the center of every decision we make, TSYS supports financial institutions, businesses and governments in more than 80 countries. Through NetSpend, a TSYS Company, we empower consumers with the convenience, security, and freedom to be self-banked. TSYS offers issuer services and merchant payment acceptance for credit, debit, prepaid, healthcare and business solutions.

TSYS’ headquarters are located in Columbus, Georgia, with local offices spread across the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific. TSYS provides services to more than half of the top 20 international banks, and has been named one of the 2013 World's Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere magazine. TSYS routinely posts all important information on its website. For more please visit us at www.tsys.com.

# # #

If you would like more information about PIF, please contact Diane Brocklebank at +44 (0) 7736 971986 or email at diane.brocklebank@prepaidforum.org.   

Mulled wine, mistletoe and multi-channel gifting

13 December, 2013 - By Rachelle St Ledger, PrePay Solutions

This year, as never before, retailers are looking to capitalise on the multichannel shopping environment to make the most of the festive season. Christmas is a time of great importance to the entire retail establishment, but this year, claiming the maximum share of the market will be – in part – an exercise in technological prowess.

To put a figure on the importance of Christmas to retailers - they will spend £390 million on Christmas advertising in the last three months of 2013- roughly the same figure that was spent in 2012. Online advertising spend over this same timespan is set to increase by 11%, three times the increase between 2011 and 2012, according to the Advertising Association. This is clear evidence that online is quickly catching up to more traditional forms of retail, both as a marketplace and as a business imperative.

It is forecast that £2 billion pounds will be spent on gift cards and vouchers in the run up to Christmas according to the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association. To capitalise on this across the channels, major retailers have – almost universally – laboured to bring their online proposition in line with their store offering. The run-up to the festive season has seen the rise of digital gift cards, a focus on online only promotions and the appearance of apps and portals designed to give instant access to accounts and help customers keep track of online spending. The advantage of these new products is that they combine the convenience of a fully supported digital gifting option with increased ease of purchase. For example, virtual gift cards can be bought on Christmas Eve and still be ‘delivered’ anywhere in the country instantly. These virtual cards can then be spent online whenever and wherever the recipient wants, even on Christmas day.

In the build up to Christmas 2013, some of the biggest names in high street retail have launched their first digital gift cards. Big name brands such as Debenhams have chosen this year to match the quality of digital gifting with the in-store variety. This includes a move by Debenhams to launch a digital version of its B2B gift card, another sign that the virtual channel is influencing the entire retail spectrum.

However, the online extension of the gift card offering by key market players is only half the story. The biggest evidence of this change is in how these products are being treated. Retailers are going to great lengths to bring together the online, in-store and App-based offerings, integrating the three to create a genuine multi-channel experience. One of many examples of this is the recently launched Mothercare gift card. What makes this product unique to 2013 is that any gift card, bought online or in a shop, can be spent, monitored, or topped up across all the channels.

It’s important to remember however, that while the major retailers are tapping into a high demand for a digital retail offering, this is not simply a shift from a traditional environment to a digital one. Rather it is an extension of the market to fully encompass all channels. The latest research from the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association shows that half (50%) of consumers still prefer a physical gift card that they can hold in their hand to other forms of gift cards and vouchers. This proves that the demand for physical gift cards is not dwindling, but that interest in gifting across other channels has certainly arrived.

This year will see a ‘multi-channel Christmas’, not simply because more stores have launched digital and mobile gift cards and increased their spend on online promotion, but because the retailers’ attitudes have changed. Across the whole sector there is a renewed enthusiasm and understanding of the importance of social, mobile and online to the consumer. The market is moving quickly in that direction and the build up to Christmas 2013 will almost certainly be a multi-channel tipping point. In past years, having an online or multi-channel offering was an advantage, a bonus for the consumer. This year, it is a requirement.