This holiday season, creative and sometimes even unconventional retail tactics abound to capture gift intent.
Many shoppers say they are shopping early or at a minimum, finishing their shopping ahead of schedule. Ironically, it never seems to play out or end that way. It will be interesting to see if this year is different as retailers are warning shoppers every way possible that shopping early is mandated, or deliveries may be delayed—and this is exactly the type of question we’ll be looking to answer in our forthcoming GiftNow + e-tailing group index of the top 50 retailers come January.
For many consumers, procrastination is second nature—and this certainly extends to a shopper’s mindset. This post is going to look at some of the last-minute techniques that retailers have put in play from a merchandising and customer service point-of-view. My goal was to select examples that go the extra mile and deliver two valuable elements during this all-important time of year.
Visibility + Gift Centers
Visibility counts throughout the holiday but becomes even more critical as the season winds down. This is an opportune time to revisit the GiftNow/e-tailing group index of 50 retailers. Starting the week of Thanksgiving, we visited each site to see where retailers were highlighting gifting. Topping the list were their footers and, in most instances, they housed a year-round gift card link. This was followed by top navigation links that began to appear as the holiday season kicked into gear, coming in at 68%. Lastly, home page merchandising was more often dedicated to gift messaging. While some retailers are early to promote, most use the November time frame to allocate this precious real estate.
|Gifting Visibility Locations||Index Penetration|
|Top navigation link||68%|
|Dropdown to gifting links||14%|
Visibility for GameStop starts with their homepage Gift Hub but also includes homepage merchandising and the footer where a link to gift cards is always present. When one clicks through to the Gift Hub, gifts by budget, payment options, and that perfect last-minute digital gifting option for gamers.
I also like the fact that they included a “help” link, so shoppers don’t have to spend too much time searching for answers to their questions.
Digital Gifting + Curbside Pickup
Target shoppers benefit from easy gifting options that can be delivered in the channel that best fits their needs. For example, their gift card page allows shoppers to filter by delivery type, and they have highlighted the potential recipients of gift cards with an array of themes sure to satisfy their customers. To catch your attention, they have also called out their curbside pickup option. While this might not be relevant for those giving gifts long-distance this year, giving customers the option to drive up or stop in ensures they accommodate the changing circumstances in every market they serve.
Give a Gift Card + Customer Service Details
When it comes to gifting, QVC creatively thought through many of the important elements. They clearly have both the gift giver and recipient in mind. For last-minute shoppers, a gift card is often a desirable option. The holiday shipping calendar graphic will surely get the visitor’s attention along with the fact that they have extended returns through January 31st, 2021.
We have learned from our GiftNow/e-tailing group index that only 36% of retailers surveyed extended return dates so they are forward thinking in that regard when compared to the majority of retailers whose websites were reviewed. The creative aspect is in showcasing the products and the ability to zero in by recipient and in this way, they are sure to inspire shoppers.
Gift Cards + Philanthropy
If ever there was a year to give back, it is 2020. Nike is in the game indicating that they will make a charitable donation equal to 1% of gift card purchases made during the holidays.
No matter how late the shopper makes their digital purchase, they can find comfort in knowing that their purchase is taken one step further based on Nike’s generosity. They make going digital feel better than ever.
One For Me + One For You
Over the years, we spend more time online and that is surely the case in this pandemic year. So, every now and then the “one for you, one for me” self-consumption rule is in play. Nordstrom elevates to another level with their gift card, inquiring if it’s for a friend or for you. No reason to feel guilty this year, as we can all use a pick me up at this point in time.
Digital Gifting + Live Chat
Tory Burch takes a customer-centric attitude and reiterates that their gift cards are good in all their channels. The fact that they include customer service information is a nice touch.
Shoppers will appreciate that they make 4 contact options available, factoring in the needs of their customers. They include standard options such as phone and email while text and live chat have emerged as important channels as well. In fact, our index revealed that 76% of retailers surveyed had live chat available on their site.
Ground Shipping + Top Navigation Visibility
While Ann Taylor shared that Black Friday deals were going fast, their holiday link took us directly to their gift guide and holiday-ready outfits. They remind us that being cognizant of cut-offs will help ensure that deliveries are on time, meeting the needs of every shopper. Their standard shipping is in keeping with what we saw in the index.
Surprisingly, only 11 of the retailers (22%) surveyed articulated such cut-off dates, leaving us to speculate and hope for the best. Integrating “Find a store near you” helps last-minute shoppers who may opt to visit the store.
Similarly, Costco sent a very targeted message on this note prior to Thanksgiving, explaining that delivery delays are to be expected this season and included tips for how consumers should structure their gift-giving approach this season.
Same-Day Delivery + Help
Same-day delivery is growing in importance for online shoppers who expect anything is possible, especially when they are willing to pay the price. Based on the index, only 14% of the retailers had a same-day delivery offering. I can remember some retailers were as high as $20 for same-day delivery, which could be a turnoff for many. Others tended to waive the fees when a specified dollar threshold was reached. Whatever the cost, when a customer must have a certain item and time is tight, same-day delivery is one way to ensure the gift arrives on time. Easy access to “Contact Us” options is also a nice touch and smartly positioned here on the Kate Spade website.
GiftNow + Extended Returns
David Yurman’s jewelry is beautiful, and their At Your Service features are a perfect complement to the brand. They start with free shipping, and 26% of the other retailers we surveyed also extend this benefit. Gift cards are noted as a perfect option and GiftNow is highlighted as a way to guarantee they like the product. Lastly, if payment is an issue, they utilize offer financing options at checkout to power payment needs.
They are generous in their return policy and have extended return times to 45 days. Our research shows that 36% of retailers also have extended their traditional return policy. We have learned from the 50 retailers reviewed that the average number of days allowed to return products is 85. This number is somewhat inflated because several retailers included in the survey allow for a 1-year return policy. The majority, however, offer 60 days and under, with 30 days being most typical.
|Return Policy (# days)||Average: 85 days|
|14 – 15||4%|
Savvy retailers are wise to introduce multiple tactics into their gifting experience. As the year winds down, shoppers may feel frantic and in need of help from trusted brands. The combination of gifting visibility with creative execution continues to engage the shopper to the end. Digital gifting solutions are perfect for last-minute options. Should other choices be in order, then understanding shipping cutoffs, return policies, and access to help gives the customer confidence when completing their holiday shopping.
Lauren Freedman is President of the e-tailing group