Prepaid card provider Contis Group is combining its loyalty and other closed-loop card products into a single business unit to make its gift card operation more agile.

Called The Gift & Loyalty Company, the single brand will consolidate Contis' international business units that provide gift and loyalty cards to mostly large retail chains. The new structure will allow Contis to share data management and analytics across products and create gift cards that can more readily change as consumer trends change. 

"There is an advantage of having all of this data in one place, and provide a single touch point for the merchant clients to have consumer trend data at a keystroke when considering a loyalty or a gift card program," says Dannie McDonald, managing director of The Gift & Loyalty Company. The division will continue to serve Contis' existing gift card customers, such as Virgin, PizzaExpress and Le Pain Quotidien.

As retailers run their loyalty or gift card programs, Contis' gift card group leverages performance data such as redemption and percentage of the card used, and matches that with other consumer trend information such as overall purchase behavior, demographics and how consumers use different channels.

That data is used to modify existing gift card products and develop new cards.

"Today, a lot of this data is fragmented, so if a client wanted to run a promotion or do something ad hoc, the information to inform the program would be in a number of different organizations," McDonald says. "We have placed it under one roof."

Contis is working to gain an edge in the fast-growing and competitive gift card market, which is increasingly reliant on digital channels for delivery and social networks for data. In the U.S., gift cards generated about $118 billion in spending in 2013, an increase of 8% over 2012's $109.4 billion, according to CEB TowerGroup. The growth in e-gifting at restaurants and retail will boost these figures over the next three years, the research company predicts, adding the e-gifting market alone may pass the $10 billion mark by 2016.

A number of payment companies have added gift card capabilities to adjust to consumer habits and to take advantage of improvements in data management.

"There are a lot of solid options and alternatives in the U.S. market," says Brian Riley, a research director at CEB TowerGroup.

Kofax has added technology that allows users to track gift card balances, Gyft has launched a virtual gift card store on First Data's Clover Station, and InComm is targeting smaller businesses and merchants. Other companies, such as Stockpile, are taking an entirely different approach to gift cards by changing the benefit (in Stockpile's case, the gift is stock in a publicly traded company).

The convergence of social networking and shopping also provides data that can help gift card buyers personalize their gift for the recipient, Riley says.

"Gift cards are generally a one-off relationship," Riley says. "But as shopping starts to get socialized, there are a lot of new approaches that are coming into the market."

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