Today’s more tech-savvy consumers are aware of the availability of mobile gift cards (mGC), and appreciate their many advantages to both buyer and recipient. Consumers who do much of their shopping online know they do not have to set foot in a retailer to purchase a gift card, nor do they have to worry about the time it takes for a physical card to be mailed. However, precisely because they are digital, it can be difficult for retailers to devise ways of marketing mGC to customers who mainly shop in-store. It is not possible to display, market or sell alongside other goods, a product that has no physical presence. This is where the retailers can utilize dummy cards.

Dummy cards can be thought of as a physical container for a virtual product. It allows the customer to take what they want to buy from an in-store display, and then pay for it, in the same way they can for any other product. Dummy cards are similar in appearance to typical plastic gift and loyalty cards, but are made for display and merchandising purposes.

How they work

Unlike a traditional plastic gift card which hold a credit or monetary value, dummy cards have no value in themselves. Instead, they have an EAN13 barcode which can be read by an industry standard ECR just like any other product sold by the retailer. When scanned, an mGC is “generated” directly on to the phone of the buyer or gift recipient, and is also printed on the receipt. The process takes seconds, and the digital mGC can be redeemed almost instantly. Once the purchase transaction is completed, the dummy card is returned to the display to be used again. This makes the purchase process very simple and familiar for customers, even those who may be less comfortable with digital technology.

Many in-store customers may not have thought about sending an mGC as a gift, or even be aware of them, so the cards are displayed strategically around the store. Not only does this create a branding and marketing opportunity but, by placing them near check-out lanes, impulse purchasing is encouraged. While these advantages alone are clear, retailers can enjoy other benefits of using dummy cards to promote and facilitate their mobile gift cards.

Additional Benefits

When compared to physical gift cards, only a small number of dummies need to be produced as they can be used again and again. This means that generic (branded) cards can be supplemented by those designed for specific holidays, events and promotions. At Christmas, New Year, Eid, Halloween and so on, a display of well-designed, and appropriately themed dummy cards (see examples below) provides an attractive and eye-catching merchandising opportunity that will never go “out of stock”.


The need for fewer cards means retailers save money manufacturing them, and of course, it is a more environmentally friendly gift card solution. There is no need for retailer’s to hold a local inventory as the gift cards are digital, and the few cards used for merchandising require minimal storage space. In addition, because the dummy cards have no monetary value and no function other than facilitating an mGC purchase at the check out, they do not need to be securely stored and displayed, and are much less likely to be a target for fraud.