Wrapped: The BIG Handshake – Gift Cards and Incentives 2024

Last week, over 140 of the industry’s finest joined us for The BIG Handshake – Gift Cards and Incentives 2024. Hosted in Amsterdam, we had an incredible couple of days packed with insights, research, case studies, and conversation. 

The aim of all of our in-person events is to provide excellent networking opportunities. So, whilst we enjoyed multiple panels and presentations over the two days, our attendees were also given more than seven hours to forge and nurture connections, old and new. 

Here’s a roundup of everything that went on!

Day 1

To get things started, our signature BIG Handshake – a 60-second countdown where you shake as many hands as possible – followed by the opening address.

Chris Ronald, VP EMEA at Blackhawk Network kicked off the content with a research-packed keynote presentation focused on how the power of rewards and incentives can drive growth and engagement. Providing insights on both customer and employee engagement strategies, he imparted five key takeaways:

  1. Incentives go beyond gift cards – there are plenty of ways to engage your audience.
  2. Know your customer – and give them what they want!
  3. Look at different use cases and consider the impact of giving a gift card
  4. Optimise and evolve the customer journey to be digital first

Providing choice is key!

More than a gift card – Chris Ronald – Download

The second session of the day discussed the concept of creating ‘joyalty’ throughout the employee journey in order to provide an exceptional customer experience. Points were raised by multiple panellists about team management tactics that were adopted during the pandemic and that have been continued in the present day due to their success. 

Peter Dorrington, behavioural science expert at Anthrolytics, shared scientific proof that a contented workforce directly correlates with an uplift in financial performance and customer satisfaction.

Key takeaways suggested that great training at every organisational level and open communication between management and staff are two of the most fundamental aspects of achieving positivity in the workplace, to lead to providing the best possible customer experience.

Joyalty panel session – Download

The final structured session of the day comprised 90-minutes of speed networking – 1:1 conversations with a new partner every three minutes. This proved an intense, but fun, activity that truly put business pitches to the test. 

“I love The Gift Club’s network. It’s unique and there are always new people who are interesting to me.”Federica Földes, Lastminute.com.

At the end of the 90-minutes, our audience voted for their favourite pitches and the top three were re-presented on stage to the entire room. Jamie Snelgrove was voted as the first ever winner of The BIG Handshake trophy for his pitch about The London Society of Theatre and Theatre UK’s (SOLT) gift card proposition.

Runners’ up certificates were awarded to Rocío Liébana of RLC Solutions and Andrew Toon of Thames Technology.

“The speed networking was really valuable – I’ve met new people and will be taking forward two or three really promising conversations.” Jock Jordan, Blackhawk Network Europe.

Day 2

Day 2 opened with an executive summary from The BVCNL’s chair, Wendy Trienen, who shared valuable market data into how Dutch consumers are purchasing, receiving, and behaving towards gift cards.

BVCNL executive summary – Download

Next we moved to the morning keynote, courtesy of Marc van Vanrooij from Coca-Cola Europacific Partners and Intersolve. Marc presented a case study about a previous cashback project that didn’t exactly go to plan – and then showed everyone how this was resolved with an innovative ‘cashforward’ solution. His key takeaway suggested that growth for brands and retailers lies in focusing on how to digitise the path to purchase solutions.

Cashback to Cashforward – Download

The morning panel session – Marketing: Can it make or break your gift card programme? – discussed the necessity of gift card marketing and how there are plenty of opportunities for building brand recognition. Moderated by Katie Cannon from Jigsaw Business Solutions, takeaways included the need for collecting and using customer data strategically, offering ‘just enough’ choice, and tailoring campaigns to specific regions. 

The event offered a range of formats, with an interactive workshop post-coffee break. Jamie Snelgrove (SOLT) and Tony Stacey (Rakuten TV) took to the stage to share their expertise on building great partnerships, before getting the audience on their feet to do some practical exercises.

Covering aspects of preparing for partnership sales, executing partnership management, and mitigating risks, the session finished with these summarising points:

  • Identify your partners carefully
  • Physically prepare yourself – breathwork can be just as important as research!
  • Communicate shared goals
  • Immerse yourselves in each other’s brands
  • Mitigate against risks and challenges – no partnership is better than a bad one!

“Great workshop, really useful!”Isobel Finlayson, Mando-Connect.

The session ahead of a 2-hour networking lunch was delivered by Annemijn Borsten of Wonderbox Group. Her keynote focused on how to create a brand-new, fast-selling gift card, and pulled on her extensive experience of launching 10 popular cards in the Netherlands. She spoke about how to handle the chicken-and-egg situation of getting partners onto a card whilst simultaneously finding retailers to stock it. And she shared her coined terms of ‘gamemakers’ and ‘tastemakers’ – which is all about the selection of brands who are added to the card and how many are required to launch. 

After presenting some in-depth case studies of special projects, Annemijn imparted her overall learnings from working in the industry:

  • Be bold – set challenging target goals and keep your standards high!
  • Focus on brand awareness
  • Adapt when things don’t go to plan
  • Consider special requests – such as seasonal campaigns or B2B projects 

Creating a fast selling gift card – Download

The final panel session took a look at the way in which gift cards can be used to shake up the loyalty landscape. The panellists spoke of tactical, real-time campaigns and digital wallet solutions as case studies that can already be integrated into existing loyalty and gift card programmes. 

When asked about the future of the humble gift card, it was agreed that it’ll advance further to become a ‘payment instrument’ that will allow programme managers to collect crucial data that can be segmented into highly targeted marketing efforts. And, paired with the use of gamification, there is a rich opportunity to make gift cards fun and sexy!


To polish off two days of incredible learning, we held the first ever industry quiz. A light-hearted (yet competitive) showdown that pitted our experts against one another with a mix of industry performance stats and questions about the panel and presentation sessions. The winning team (with 22/37 correct answers) won a £100 lastminute.com eGift each!

“Interactive and positive end to a great event!”Chantal Meier, HelloFresh.

Feedback from attendees has been excellent and we’re over the moon that 100% of responses indicate an interest in future events. It’s only thanks to a line-up of amazing sponsors, partners, and attendees that The BIG Handshake could be such a resounding success. A heartfelt thank you to you all.

“Fantastic event as always – friendly and welcoming!”Jamie Hutchings, Jigsaw Business Solutions.

“Thank you to the whole team for a great couple of days, superbly planned and delivered.”Jamie Challis, Tillo.

We’d be delighted to see you at a future event. You can register your interest for either or both of our next BIG Handshake events by heading to the following web pages:

The BIG Handshake – Loyalty 2024 – 15th – 16th October 2024

Our second loyalty-specific event that is open to vendors and solution providers, as well as brands and retailers. Tickets will go on sale soon. 

Register your interest to get early bird discounts 

The BIG Handshake – Gift Cards and Incentives 2025 – 13th – 14th May 2025

Yep, we’re already beginning the arrangements for next year’s conference with an aspiration to make it even bigger and better than before. Register your interest now to receive a notification when tickets are released later this year.

Get your interest registered for discounted tickets


Click here to view and download event photos. 



Related Posts