Consumers have high expectations when it comes to simplicity and convenience. They’re used to data-driven personalization and technology that lets them shop with a few taps on their smartphone. Customers are in control of the buyer journey, and they want that journey to be frictionless.

To meet those consumer expectations, you need to provide options at every critical touchpoint, including product selection, payment, and post-purchase support. While significantly expanding your inventory or your customer support team might be out of reach for now, improving payments is low-hanging fruit. One quick way to do this is simply to digitize the gift cards you’re already offering.

Picking Your Battles

Gift cards provide the options consumers desire, which is why global demand for them is on the rise. They’ve been the most popular holiday wish list item every year for the past 12 years. Shoppers can sell them for cash or get discounts when they use them at stores like Costco, for example, which regularly offers up to 25 percent savings on national brand gift cards. Not surprisingly, a growing number of consumers are buying gift cards not due to a lack of imagination, but for their own personal use.

So as a merchant, how can you capitalize? Regardless of whether your primary point of sale is a brick-and-mortar store or a website, look for ways to digitize the customer experience. Last year, consumers were still buying more physical cards than digital ones, but that is poised to change as Millennials continue to take shopping online and Gen Z, the first fully digitally immersed generation, gains in spending power. Savvy retailers will anticipate this shift and look to enhance the customer experience by offering digital gift cards.

Riding the Wave of Digitization

Digital cards give customers more control over how they spend while making payments faster and frictionless. Plus, the rise of mobile commerce has seen mobile app and digital wallet options skyrocket, making digital gift cards easier than ever to manage.

Consumers can store, reload, and redeem their cards all via a single app like Gyft, and transmitting digital gift card information rather than credit or debit card data can be a way to reduce risk at checkout.

Digital cards are good for your business, too. Just like physical cards, they can be custom-branded, driving shoppers to your website or physical store. Research shows that once they get there, the majority of your customers will spend beyond the gift card amount by an average of roughly $38. By blending rewards programs with gift cards, merchants can improve loyalty and revenue simultaneously. Moreover, offering customers the option to receive text notifications from you about their gift card balance or relevant deals can give you an additional opportunity for engagement.

The tension between physical stores and online retailers is heating up. Whichever side you’re on, customer experience is the battleground. Stores that can adapt to the way consumers want to shop will survive and flourish. Those that can’t will disappear.