2021: the year retailers must take online gifting seriously

By George Ioannou, Managing Partner, at Foolproof, a Zensar company

Lockdown restrictions look unlikely to ease anytime soon and digital penetration is currently stabilising in the high 20 percent region. For consumers, the good news is that many retailers have developed slick one-click ordering and next-day delivery capabilities to respond to their needs. The bad news is that direct, easy and obvious ways to send gifts to recipients is still lagging behind.

There are countless annual gifting events each and every year including; Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, Diwali, Eid to name but a few – where slick gifting experiences could add value to purchases, lining vendor’s pockets and delighting recipients.

In a study* conducted in the lead up to the holiday season, we found that 43% of consumers in the UK expected to purchase gifts either online or instore before wrapping and sending them themselves to the recipients. This suggests that there is a lot of duplicated effort and cost being worn by the consumer every time they purchase gifts online because retailers’ are not meeting their needs.

Complementary findings

  • 30% of consumers have never chosen to or were unaware you could send a gift directly to a recipient.

  • Only 28% of consumers would consider the online gifting experience they’ve had in the last six months impressive.

  • 14% of consumers don’t expect to send gifts directly to recipients in the future.

These findings paint a stark picture of retailers’ digital gifting experiences. For a significant proportion of would-be purchasers, gifting is failing to deliver on consumer expectations, or fails to show entirely on their radar.

To right this wrong and capture revenue at the point-of-sale, retailers must consider the end-to-end gifting experience and invest in it. Making it easy, obvious and in the interest of consumers to send gifts directly to recipients after purchasing them online must be a top priority for retailers in 2021, especially when we consider that high street footfall continues to fall. In December, for example, high street football dropped by 46.1% when compared to the same month in 2019, according to the monthly BRC-ShopperTrak Monitor.

What do consumers want from direct to recipient digital gifting?

Our study highlighted that consumers had expectations about specific features they would like to see when purchasing a gift online to be sent directly to its recipient:

  • A typed personal message (51%)

  • Having the items gift-wrapped (45%)

  • Notification of when the recipient had received the gift (33%)

  • Presents gift-wrapped in environmentally friendly wrapping (16%)

  • Attaching a personally recorded video message (10%).

Having examined other gifting experiences, such as those offered by Selfridges and The White Company, retailers appear to be expending the most effort on gift wrapping but it isn’t always obvious to consumers that premium wrapping is on offer. For premium brands, a focus on branded gift-packaging makes sense. That said, there’s lots of scope and more that can be done to serve consumers, beyond the initial presentation layer. 

I urge any retailer when contemplating digital gifting to put themselves in the recipient's shoes and consider how you would like a gift to be presented when it comes through the letter box. How would you want it to look? Imagine they are a new customer who has never interacted with your brand before - what do you want their experience to be? What do you want them to feel about your brand? These questions will inform how you should design the experience.

Online Gifting

Five ideas on improving your gifting experience for 2021 today:

Make gifting more tactile

People want to check the quality of their purchases made online. There’s a few ways this can be done. One is by offering better and more immersive product experiences at or following the point of purchase - whether that’s better showrooming natively as part of the browsing experience or an after purchase video. At this point, if the product isn’t right, the person showing the goods could make other suggestions to the purchaser.

Another option is considering having the parcel sent to the purchaser first and then on to the recipient via scheduled recollection. This gives the purchaser time to check the quality and personalise the gift themselves. Of course, this means bolstering logistics and considering greener options for delivery but this additional stop could add value and reduce returns.

Offering a goods check and recollect option at the point of purchase also means you can charge a premium for this service whilst reducing the likelihood of returns.

Use QR codes and other digital signatures

Consider including a QR code on a letter in an envelope for the recipient to scan and open as a greeting video. Alternatively, place it within the gift itself, for example within the card holder of a wallet that a recipient receives. This video could play personal messages and elevate brand image and content. If you take this approach, be sure to convey to the recipient what the code is for and how to activate it.

Let your customers choose what goes where

A lot of online experiences fail to allow or simply convey to users that they can split up products from their basket and send them to different addresses. If a user can’t do this or it’s not obvious, they have to expend effort going through multiple purchase journeys to get what they need. The longer this takes, the more chance you have of that person ditching their order with you and going elsewhere. Often, in purchase experiences, time and ease is of the essence.

Let your customers pay how they want

Collecting money for gifts can be difficult, people often default to switching money via their bank, or even the analogue experience of sending cheques or money via the post. One way to keep people in your ecosystem, and remove another task for your purchasers, is to let users assign different payment methods i.e. paying via shared pots for different products and allowing multiple people to contribute towards gift buying.

Make it clear and easy to separate out delivery and billing addresses

In many experiences, the path of least resistance is to make the delivery address the same as the billing address. At a minimum you must make it easy to switch the delivery and billing addresses. By asking upfront whether this is a gift-buying journey could help you do this, as dynamic suggestions that promote ease and expediency to purchasing a gift could come to the fore.

Another more radical option is considering removing the need to provide a billing address altogether – can you authenticate a purchase more quickly and easily, and still safeguard against fraud, without receiving a billing address?

Online Payment

Wrapping up

Gift-buying online is set to continue in 2021. Our data shows retailers should take seriously investing enhancements that improve the purchase and recipient experience of online gifting. Act now to influence a shift in behaviour that changes outdated and outmoded means of gifting forever. 

For more information about enhancing your digital gifting experience visit www.foolproof.co.uk

* Digital gifting survey, 2,006 UK adults, November 2020

By George Ioannou, Managing Partner, at Foolproof, a Zensar company

Published 02/02/2020

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