Like most retailers, the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store see a spike in shopping activity around the holidays. Last year holiday sales of paid apps grew 40% over baseline, and we expect an even more robust Holiday 2013 due to an even larger base of Windows and Windows Phone users with more ways to pay for apps.

This holiday season we’re launching Windows Store gift cards, making it easy for consumers to purchase apps from the Windows Store or Windows Phone Store.

Gift cards will be available from several different sources:

  • Consumers may purchase gift cards in retail stores or electronically
  • Select retailers will include gift cards in their holiday sales promotions
  • Microsoft and its partners will distribute promotional gift cards with device promotions in select markets
Windows Store gift card  XBox gift card   Gift card promotion

In addition to Windows Store gift cards, Xbox gift cards and existing funds in Xbox accounts are also redeemable to purchase things like apps and games for Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8, and Xbox. In all, you can expect gift cards to be available in at least 41 markets and more than 100 retail outlets in those markets.

As a result of consumer gift card purchases and promotional programs for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.1 devices, we expect consumers to have over $100 million dollars (USD) available in their Microsoft accounts to spend on app and in-app purchases this holiday season.

Consumer programs will kick-off in the coming weeks. We’re sharing this with you now as bit of a head-start so you can finish that app you’ve been working on or tune up an existing app in time to take advantage of these new opportunities.

Simplified purchasing: new payment options

In addition to the availability of gift cards, we continue to invest to make it easier for users to purchase apps on all kinds of Windows devices like PCs, tablets, and phones. Recent additions include:

  • Continued investment in regional payment options like Alipay, now available for Windows Store on Windows 8.1. Alipay is a popular e-payment method in China, with more than 800 million users. The Windows Phone Store on Windows Phone 8 already supports Alipay in China, as well as Paypal in 38 markets.
  • Added 28 new Windows Phone carrier billing partners this year to expand the service to 46 partners in 27 markets. That’s 13 more carrier billing partners than Google Play (iOS does not offer carrier billing). On average, we see a 3x lift in revenue in developed markets and 8x in emerging markets with the addition of carrier billing.

So, time to get to work to make sure you can take advantage of opportunities this holiday season to increase downloads. Be sure to:

You’ll want to work quickly. New PCs, tablets, and phones will begin shipping soon and gift card sales are getting underway.