We partnered with retail expert Lauren Freedman of the e-tailing group to round up the top 10 tactics retailers should note when preparing for the holiday gifting season.
The holidays are upon us and will soon bring about a virtual gift-giving frenzy. This year, perhaps more than any other, will require creative solutions to help retailers make the most of this gifting season, as the inability to connect in person will almost certainly complicate matters.
Deloitte’s annual holiday projections show that e-commerce sales will grow by 25% to 35%, year-over-year, compared to sales increasing by 14.7% in 2019. E-commerce holiday sales are expected to generate between $182 billion and $196 billion this season.
The e-tailing group has been part of e-commerce for over 25 years. We have watched and written about gifting and will share ten proven tactics to ready your gifting for the holidays. To jumpstart this effort, I worked with the team at GiftNow to review over 50 sites to see what was new and what perennial best practices are still working. What I found, at a high level, is this: Retailers must cover all of their bases—from digital solutions to customer care. They must know the latest trends but still remember old-time favorites. Lastly, messaging to the times can create a greater likelihood of enhancing both customer adoption and retailer success.
As Kate Spade suggested on its site, gifting should be all about “easy.” In a world where many are facing new stressors every day, the holiday season can (and should) introduce simple gifting solutions that save consumers time and reduce stress—a goal that has long been the aspiration of e-commerce.
From personalized gifts to virtual shopping appointments to contactless customer care to the innovative GiftNow technology, retailers have many options to streamline their gifting efforts this year.
Here are the top 10 tactics we at the e-tailing group and GiftNow believe to be instrumental to holiday e-commerce gifting success this year.
1. A comprehensive, one-stop digital destination
Retailers should make every effort to organize their gifting offerings into a holistic experience that is easily found from the homepage. This should start with navigation that includes the ability to easily search for gifts by price, occasion, and recipient (for her, for him, for them, etc.). Inspired merchandising can be as simple as showcasing aggregated filters for new arrivals, popular products, and themed collections. Williams Sonoma, for example, goes all in with bright ideas for great gifts, and their robust left navigation enables searching based on shopper needs, serving as an excellent starting point for the shopper journey.
2. A home for gift cards
Gift cards should also have their own online destination. These locations should highlight both physical and virtual options. The ability to check current gift card values and read FAQs are also welcome. Neiman Marcus does just that on their gift card home page.
3. Contactless gifting solutions
Every retailer should have a contactless gifting solution, starting with making products available for digital gifting and supporting digital gift cards. The ability to offer shoppers a simple solution is important—but what’s also important is giving the shopper the ability to personalize their gift. While most of the sites we reviewed enabled the ability for a gift giver to select a theme and/or add a message, GiftNow seems to be the only solution where shoppers can add a photo or video message, providing the platform for retailers to elevate their digital gift card program even further.
4. Free shipping
Many shoppers’ favorite feature is free shipping. according to a Digital Commerce 360/Toluna Free Shipping report based on 969 consumers. 68% of shoppers will not complete half or more of their orders when no free shipping option is available.
Retailers should let shoppers know if free shipping is available sitewide, or if they need to reach a dollar threshold to receive this benefit. Top navigation, like Michael Kors displayed on its site as part of a seasonal shipping policy, is ideal for that message, which should also be articulated in shipping FAQs.
Pro tip: While early season results often tip towards the dollar threshold, as the season heats up more retailers use unconditional shipping as a trigger to get shoppers to convert.
5. Onsite gifting visibility
It is not enough to adopt gift features—retailers must spread the news. This is particularly critical as the holiday season moves into high gear. Optimal locations to highlight gift offerings include the top navigation and footer. Dropdown navigation also serves to catch the shopper’s attention. The often-visited customer service section is also an ideal place to remind shoppers about gift cards. In all of these areas, using both text and imagery helps to ensure that shoppers don’t miss these important gift options.
Dick’s Sporting Goods hits a home run with their “score more, give more, play more” creative, shown below. This footer-based messaging combines the power of gift cards and rewards programs, demonstrating how gift givers can not only easily accomplish their gifting needs, but also receive benefits themselves as well.
Another site location that is particularly important as the season kicks into high gear is the shopping cart. Once this section is reached, shoppers are in a spending state of mind, and these add-ons are ideal for many folks on their list. Lands’ End is one such company reminding shoppers to add a gift card quickly and easily at checkout if they are on the hunt for the perfect gift.
Chico’s option in the cart to add a gift card in one click is the first we’ve seen of such an approach. Its location is ideal and facilitates ease for the consumer making the purchase without hunting for its onsite location. This too plays into the shopper’s time-saving needs.
6. Shareable wish list
Wish lists can allow a shopper to notify their friends and loved ones of their desired holiday gifts. It serves as an efficiency model helping to drive purchasing. Additionally, wish lists are ideal for shoppers to note their favorites as they make their way on their own shopping journey. Amazon’s tabbed model makes it easy to separate a wish list one has created for herself from those of her friends.
7. Holiday-centric return policies
Returns probably don’t receive the attention they deserve. But it is essential in a pandemic world that retailers lay out their policies and give ample real estate to both FAQ and customer service sections of the site. This should include the returns time frame, (e.g. 30, 60, 90 days), any applicable exceptions, and the cost to make the return. Ideally, onsite returns processing will be integrated as an added convenience for the customer. Any extensions for gift givers around the holiday time will surely be welcomed, as recipients may need more time to make a return this year and beyond.
For some like QVC, the presence of returns-related messaging on the site speaks volume to its importance to their customer base and deserves an honorable mention.
Even better is the approach that GiftNow takes. When the gift recipient receives their gift or gift card, they have the option to exchange it before it even ships. It’s environmentally friendly and incredibly convenient for the shopper, particularly as contactless is more important than ever.
8. Tie into the omnichannel
Now is the time to assist gift givers in their quest to give the perfect gift, no matter what channel they’re using to interact with your brand. Kay, for example, has clearly laid such services out—highlighting their on- and off-site offerings.
9. In-season adjustments
No one can be sure exactly how the holidays will play out. Every retailer has goals they are looking to achieve, so the ability to make timely adjustments to reach the year-end finish line profitably is a must. Promotional flexibility means being nimble and embracing the season’s trends. This can include everything from offering unconditional free shipping in the peak of the holiday season to extending limited-time offers on key items. We will be reporting on this over the next few months, so stay tuned.
10. Last-minute shopper solutions
Procrastinators buy gifts, too, and that means that retailers should put in place messaging that captures their attention. Digital gifting, such as the solution offered by GiftNow, provides the ability to deliver a gift immediately. With inventory likely to be a challenge this holiday, removing logistical and time-sensitive barriers can take care of multiple individuals on one’s gift list.
Message to the time-starved and evaluate all of the places on your site where you can make that happen. Zappos does just that on their gift card page.
BONUS: Noble causes in COVID-19 world
Now more than ever, consumers are hungry for the good things in life. Philanthropic efforts can make it possible to believe in what lies ahead. Capturing this sentiment just in time for the peak gift giving season, Nordstrom has pledged 1% of all gift card sales to local nonprofits, and we commend them.
We wish you a safe, happy and bountiful holiday season!
Now is the time to tweak your holiday strategies. Review these recommendations and test those that are appropriate for your brand.
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