The pandemic has forced many shoppers online, including those shopping for and sending gifts.
With lockdowns and social distancing likely to be part of our ongoing management strategy for Covid-19, the time is now to consider what delightful gifting experiences look and feel like – especially when only one in four consumers would commend the gifting experience they’ve had in the last six months.*
This means making gifting feel special for purchasers and recipients and seeing it as a channel for customer acquisition.
A snapshot of retail over the last 12 months
During the past year, providing online purchasing and fulfilment has become a priority for multichannel and pure play online brands. Those who are excelling also offer superior customer experiences, with user needs at the heart.
In the wake of this change, retailers rapidly adapted their marketing strategies to build brand affinity amid evolving consumer needs. Whether that’s been through a greater spend on paid advertising, bundled product offerings which make ordering easy, optimising digital experiences or enhancing fulfilment channels.
However, one thing that’s been left behind is creating unforgettable gifting experiences which promote customer acquisition.
Why does gifting matter?
Gifting is an old tradition and plays a psychological role in building and maintaining our relationships. Offering gifts at certain life and time-relevant moments can accentuate a sense of the importance of our human relationships, often conveying consideration and care to a recipient. However, the digital experiences supporting gifting currently fall short of achieving this.
Digital gifting: Introductions to your brand
Every gift your brand delivers is a chance to win a new customer. Naturally, knowing the purchase is intended as a gift is a prerequisite, so you need to ensure your digital experience can make that known to you.
Next, you need to get the basics right: think visually appealing packaging and wrapping, that subtly uses your brand in a non-obstructive way. It also must be the right size for the purchased gift. We’ve heard stories of boxes too big for the gift and low-quality wrapping, both of which cheapen the gifting experience. If you’re failing on this front you’ve let down 45 percent of would-be gifters*.
Other introductions to your brand could include a scannable QR code, which loads a message from the sender of the gift, as well as a welcome message from people at the brand where the gift was purchased. This offers an element of personalisation and exclusivity and could be the perfect moment to make a welcome offer to the recipient on the basis that they send a gift themselves to a new recipient.
Another could be a bespoke premium delivery service where couriers or your own employees act on behalf of your brand as ambassadors to welcome the person receiving the gift. This interaction could follow a bespoke script or include specific branded moments as part of the delivery, opposed to the typical knock and leave.
Although this may create logistical headaches and increase the time to pack and pick a gift and reduce delivery volume, this unparalleled access to new consumers is worth the effort. One way to approach gifting fulfilment that would enhance its value creation would be to create specialist gifting fulfilment centres where the ‘magic’ can happen.
Aiding product discovery
By now it should be clear that any gift a recipient receives is a way of introducing your products and services.
Aiding new product discovery could be as simple as introductory offers to similar or adjacent products or services. It could also be more bespoke like tailored QR codes using smart product/service recommendations based on the item they receive. Upon scanning, the QR code could automatically populate the basket ready for checkout.
This would work well with clothing and jewellery by offering a ‘complete the look’ style interaction, based on what they’ve received i.e. if someone received a ring from a particular collection the recommendation could be a matching necklace.
Convenience for the consumer
In a digital world awash with choice and poor findability it’s becoming harder for consumers to get what they need quickly and easily. On receipt of a gift, you have the perfect opportunity to help offer convenience to them by curating a selection of offerings that can facilitate regifting experiences and to make offers.
This bodes well for businesses who own multiple brands or product/service lines – take Boohoo’s recent acquisitions. Offering convenience here could be aggregating recommendations across the brands within the group.
Another way to offer convenience that builds the likelihood of customer acquisition is to give them control.
Make it known to the gift recipient that they should be expecting something special and let them take control of the receipt of their gift.
Nobody enjoys that feeling of receiving a gift that’s tainted by a box that’s been left outside in the rain or taken back to the depot – meaning a tricky collection experience is imminent.
Based on offering knock-out last-mile gifting experiences you already know what products or services a recipient is likely to be interested in. Moreover, having designed smart activation and onboarding journeys facilitated by QR codes you know how ‘warm’ a customer is based on their interactions with this material.
Be smart and use the digital behaviour that a recipient exhibits on receiving a gift to augment your approach to acquiring them as a customer based on what you know about them. This could involve creating personas and matching them up with other recent recipients of similar gifts, with similar post-receipt behaviour, to inform targeted and personalised approaches that inform your ongoing marketing activities that support customer acquisition.
Designing for gifting
Any experience is only as strong as its weakest point. Even the best pure play online brands fall foul of this truism when it comes to online gifting experiences. Although, in part, this may be down to the pressure some retailers have felt from straining under the initial weight of increased online order volume.
However, as we move forwards, and digital ecommerce ecosystems become more resilient, due to technological and operational enhancements, gifting looks set to be the next big item on the agenda to get right as an online retailer.
When it comes to designing gifting experiences, seamless and slick ordering is important but so is last-mile fulfilment. And the best way to think about last-mile fulfilment is to treat it as a new customer onboarding journey for each and every recipient. Moreover, thinking about gifting in this way could cut customer acquisition cost down if done right.
Gifting remains an undervalued part of the online retail ecosystem. That’s understandable in a year where online retail has been tested to its utmost. However, moving forward, the provision of online gifting must improve. In 2021, smart, savvy brands will recognise this service as a genuine opportunity to welcome new customers into their ecosystem.
* 2,000+ UK consumers, November 2020.