So what’s new in online gifting? My sense was that there was little that was truly “new.” So I began my exploration by scouting the retailers that were part of our Digital Commerce 360 Top 100. Based on my experiences, I decided to focus on how retailers added a twist to the online gifting experience with examples found on their websites in November 2022. While making changes for this holiday season is unlikely, it’s important to remember that gifting is a year-round business.
I thought it might be interesting to start with gift cards, as they are an integral part of every holiday season. According to Allied Market Research, the global cards market size was valued at $619.25 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $2.076 trillionby 2027, growing at a CAGR of 16.2% from 2020 to 2027.
Elevating the gift card experience
Of course, most retailers offer both physical and digital options. Consumers can customize gift card designs, including adding a photo and/or a video to enhance both the shopper and recipient’s experience.
In our Digital 360/Bizrate Insights pre-holiday survey of 1,088 online shoppers, we inquired about expected shopping experiences over the upcoming holidays. 29% anticipated purchasing gift cards. Digital gift options were projected to be a factor for 15%.
Gift card management
When perusing Ulta Beauty Inc., I came across a gift card portal. This is an excellent retention tool. In a category like beauty, there are many recipients who appreciate and, in fact, want to use the same card year in and year out. I logged in and discovered I could check my balance and view egifts. I could also send gift cards to past recipients in a matter of seconds. Delivery status is also available for those who want to be in the know.
I also noticed a trend that retailers took from the restaurant vertical. For as long as I can remember, Lettuce Entertain You, a Chicago-based conglomerate, gave holiday gift buyers a $25 gift card for every $100 purchase. This first came to my attention online this year when I saw that Barnes and Noble gave buyers a $10 gift card with a $100 gift card purchase. DSW takes that generosity a step further offering a $25 bonus card based on that same $100 level.
I couldn’t resist sharing Fanatics example. This online retailer clearly knows their customer behavior well. For every $25 spent on gift cards, sports fans receive a $5 Domino’s bonus card. They do, however, cap it at $10.
My last gift card example comes from Bass Pro. This retailer’s wise long-term strategy looks to extend their holiday season. Shoppers get 10% off special holiday gift cards purchased before Thanksgiving. The only catch — an interesting one — is shoppers cannot use the gift cards until Christmas Day.
Customer service improvements are welcome
When asked what tactics retailers are putting in place to adapt to the current economic climate, 54% of respondents from the Digital Commerce 360 survey of 70 retailers, suggested ensuring retailer customer service is strong. This was the No. 2 answer only behind looking to manage costs.
Thinking outside of the box, this means innovation can also come in the form of execution. Kate Spade’s customer service wisely includes everything from customer care to buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS), private shopping appointments, egift and traditional gift cards, along with personalized gifts and GiftNow.
Retailers in the Digital Commerce pre-holiday survey addressed the all-important issue of what onsite tactics will improve their holiday business. A quick look at the top answer (classified as very important) is a focus of several initiatives seen among retailers when viewing their gifting.
Taking the wishlist up a notch
When asked about the upcoming holidays, only 11% of surveyed online shoppers said they would be using a wishlist. That may be because wishlist strategies haven’t really changed since inception. However, I couldn’t help but notice Lululemon’s execution. The retailer dedicated a significant portion of its website real estate to the tactic. While they have the standard building and sharing of wishlists, they encourage shoppers to check out the mobile app for exclusive wishlist features such as multi-lists. It’s interesting and ideal for a Lululemon aficionado.
Moving beyond a virtual appointment
Taking a cue from virtual appointments, Chico’s, goes one step further. While virtual appointments only received a 13% very important score when it comes to improving one’s holiday business, retailers are benefiting from the service. Chico’s allows shoppers to schedule a virtual appointment when and where it’s convenient.
Amazon influencer gift picks
While only 4% of those surveyed in that same pre-holiday survey say they will likely experience what influencers have to say and just 5% buying influencer-promoted products, one would have to believe it plays an even bigger role especially among younger demographics. This Amazon example displays influencer gift picks by category to embrace those who are socially-minded.
Promotions pop ups
Kendra Scott is in good company as it seems like almost all retailers use pop up promotions in exchange for emails and text. One in five online shoppers report that they are motivated by receiving an email/text offer with a discount on a product in their cart. Certainly, one has to believe that those popups are performing well given their continued visibility.
Members-only product rewards important customers
REI wants to make sure its members feel special. On their Gear Up and Get Out Sale, shoppers can see which products qualify for member savings of up to 50% off. 27% of our surveyed shoppers suggested that perks, points and/or rewards through a retailer’s loyalty program motivates them to make a holiday purchase.
The ultimate customer convenience at retail
My last example is the transition from what is seen online to the physical store. This is the first time I’ve noticed an apparel retailer offer self-checkout using the retailer’s mobile app. American Eagle Outfitters tells shoppers to skip the the checkout line with self-checkout in the app. I’m hoping to test it out over the holidays. My sense is that is that the rationale for its creation is a combination of limited staff and consumer convenience.
It is difficult to spark new trends in gifting. But retailers still have an opportunity to innovate through gift cards and onsite tactics. It will take some creative thinking. Ideally, customers will gravitate to these offers and be inspired to buy over the holidays and year-round.
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