How retailers can deliver a magical gifting experience for consumers

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By George Ioannou, partner at Foolproof, a Zensar company

Ioannou: retailers yet to
focus on gifting

With shops still closed and no sign of life returning to normal in the immediate term, retailers have developed all-new ways of trading online. Overnight, businesses adapted to meet online demand and introduced click and collect as well as next-day delivery services. 

As robust and sophisticated as most online purchasing journeyshave become, retailers are yet to focus on the gifting experience. This notoriously neglected element of purchases is rarely considered, let alone invested in. But while shops are closed and we have limited access to friends and family, nailing this experience is important to harness new revenue streams, improve retention and win new customers altogether. 

The option to personalise gifts, or opt for different packaging is available to most consumers. Yet, in November, we found* that “43% of consumers in the UK expected to purchase gifts either online or instore before wrapping and sending them themselves to their loved ones”. This suggested a lot of UK shoppers aren’t comfortable with choosing to use the options available and that they expend unnecessary effort i.e. wrapping the gift and sending it on themselves, when it comes to gifting. 

Gifting made easy

If you’re already serving the vast majority of online shopping needs, you shouldn’t need to alter your tech stack or enlist the help of additional or specialist talent. With some smart technology solutions which overlay your existing architecture and alterations to your fulfilment journey, lots can be achieved in a short time frame.  

Your first port of call to inform changes to gifting is qualitative research i.e. talk to your customers. You’ll want to use their views to inform the future direction of your gifting experience, seeing as only 28% of consumers would consider the online gifting experience they’ve had in the last six months impressive. 

Brands should also be prepared to experiment with initial designs across channels. A/B testing ideas is a good way of assessing their value and longevity before scaling. It’s a relatively low cost but yields high impact and with rigour, can achieve results quickly. 

Operationally, gifting can be troublesome. Amongst the retailers we’ve spoken to in recent months this is a shared barrier. Managing the wrapping of gifts, ensuring they look presentable, are uniform and arrive in good shape is fraught with challenges. Opening up lines of communication with trusted couriers is an absolute must as is considering creating gifting hubs which remove the logistical pressure from fulfilling other purchases.

However, creating a great gifting experience doesn’t stop there and is more than offering a bespoke wrap vs. your regular default packaging. 

Top tips for creating gifting experiences 

In our experience, customers value relatively small and thoughtful options; ones that won’t necessarily cost the earth. To help retailers looking into their gifting experience and in doing so, acquire custom, , here are our top tips to consider:

  • Provide a direct to recipient option

Too often customers still aren’t given the option to gift purchases directly, or it’s hidden. If at the point of sale, retailers provide an option to send gifts directly to recipients that is clearly signposted, brands can leverage this moment in the gifting journey to create a point of differentiation and remove the friction we so often associate with current experiences. Friction that often creates a logistical headache for your customers who should have complete autonomy of the delivery and its handling.

  • Harness new technologies 

There’s nothing to stop retailers leveraging QR codes to create a dynamic and personal gifting experience. Printing a QR code onto packaging or a separate note to scan and activate is simple enough, but is bound to act as another point of differentiation and delight recipients. Thoughtful touches like this go a long way in terms of adding magic, particularly while the online gifting bar is low. 

  • Offer flexible payment methods

When gifting in person, it’s not unusual to have a “whip-round” and collect money from several people before making a purchase. As such, there’s a real opportunity for brands to digitise this tendency and introduce a collection pot option to capture multiple contributions. This would remove the need of having others make bank transfers which can be convoluted and time-consuming. 

  • Get ready to experiment 

Not every idea is going to work the first time around, and that’s fine. Design is all about experimenting. Think of your gifting experience as a testing ground to begin with. Try new things and identify key measures to see where your experience excels vs. falls down. That way, you can iterate while feeling both informed and confident.

  • Don’t over-egg it

Options are great, but you don’t want to clutter the experience with ones that don’t add much value. You also don’t want to detract entirely from the purchase journey and risk losing a sale if your site is slow due to overloading. Offering the earth is going to be much harder on your team as well, especially if you have lots of stock at different price points. Consider separate web and fulfillment journeys for a segment of your products. 

One last thing

Retailers have a blank canvas in terms of gifting. There’s no experience to retrofit, and no one is reinventing the wheel. With the breadth of tools, skills and data at the fingertips of many online retailers, the gifting experience is ready and waiting to be executed well. 

Delighting customers is probably far easier than you may think. Given the right consideration and qualitative input, brands with the advantage of insight have an opportunity to seize and monopolise while their competitors play catch up. 

* 2,000+ UK consumers, November 2020.