Gifting Trends That Capture the Consumer’s Heart This Holiday Season

Holidays are that one time of the year that gifting is central to every retailer—but the strategies used to capture gifting demand can vary.

Here are our thoughts on the top e-commerce strategies used by brands this holiday season.

Just like Christmas trees, Hanukkah menorahs, and holiday celebrations, the efforts retailers use to capture the hearts of gift givers can come in varied shapes and sizes. Sharing gift-centric strategies onsite and via email and making them visible to the consumer is integral to success. Combining that visibility with creativity can help power holiday shopping experiences and allow gift givers the chance to do what they really want—give a thoughtful gift, even in these isolated times.

Here are four ways retailers are capturing the customer’s heart this holiday season.

Heightened visibility of gifting capabilities

We have learned over the years that shoppers go online to save money but, perhaps more importantly, to save time. Best Buy takes prime advantage of their top-level navigation to quickly direct customers to their gift cards and gift ideas pages with one simple click. Of course, many options are present, and their e-gift card is smartly called out as being “perfect for when you are short on time.”

This message may resonate more than ever this year as on-time delivery is expected to face stiff challenges, the likes of which shoppers have never experienced. The unprecedented e-commerce volume that our industry is projecting may equal late deliveries and, amidst that uncertainty, e-gifting serves are a great way for consumers to get their gifts delivered at the perfect moment.

Sephora has also built out a robust gift navigation, with a wide range of creative themes for consumers to browse. (Of course, the standard shopping by price and recipient is also present.) Category options such as “Exclusives” and “Editor’s Picks” are front and center for ease of use, and I particularly like their top-rated gifts category that gives credence to customer reviews, which are also called out in the community section. The gift card option also has strong visibility with both a text and visual option.

Sephora appears to know all too well that self-gifting is prevalent during holiday shopping, and even goes so far as to feature a “Gifts for You” category. With many shoppers potentially shut in and looking for self-care options, this may become an even greater opportunity.

Lastly, their interactive gift finder/quiz asks the usual questions regarding price point, recipient, and categories and returns relevant gift ideas to ease the path-to-purchase for gift givers. It is interesting to note that gift cards are also included, and that “Bestsellers” are an option in the category question.

Email reinforcement aids gifting visibility

Email still remains an effective marketing tactic and one that amplifies online presence during the holiday season. According to Digital Commerce 360’s 2020 digital marketing survey of 105 retailers, 76% of respondents indicated that email is their most effective digital marketing tool.

In particular, a November 6 email from Levi’s stood out, as it sought to position the brand as a premier gift-giving destination. Their 2020 gift guide has the standard tactics, including “Gifts Under $100,” “Bestsellers,” and “Stocking Stuffers,” but what I admire most is the message: “It’s the thought that counts.”

Levi’s also recognizes the power of encouraging shoppers to consider the environmental impact of their gifts by suggesting they can help you give better and more sustainable gifts this holiday season.

Guided gifting decisions

Shoppers are often lost when it comes to gift ideas, and many prefer to be guided by wish lists created by loved ones. Of course, retailers also play an important role in providing gift recommendations as well. While some sites have had their gifting options featured since early October, many tend to prioritize in mid-November as we head into the all-important Cyber-5, the holidays that start with Thanksgiving and end with Cyber Monday. The debut (and soon-to-be-released) e-tailing group & GiftNow holiday index of 50 retailers and brands finds that 41% had wish list functionality on their site. Amazon, for example, sequences their gift guide with a “Shop gift guides now, wrap later” headline. Their visual presentation is enticing and makes it easy for shoppers to take the next step.

Perhaps the best guide is a personal touch, like the free virtual personal shopping assistant option Lululemon provides if you need help finding the perfect gift. They’ve promoted this option at the top of their home page for powerful visibility. This distinguishing approach reinforces the power of their brand vision.

Compelling cost-conscious solutions

These economic times may be tough for some during the holiday season, as spending may be an issue, so capturing the hearts of shoppers means being cognizant of their current circumstances. REI’s holiday gift guide acknowledges that, with a “Piggy Bank-Friendly Gifts” category featured prominently for shoppers looking to score sweet savings this holiday. Finally, the gift card gets a shout out as well making sure that REI provides another cost-conscious option when you’re just not sure or want the recipient to make the call.

Averting dependency on delivery

Our last tactic is likely the most important for shoppers as no one wants to see a disappointed child on Christmas morning when the gifts haven’t arrived. So paying attention to delivery messaging will be more important than ever before. Hopefully shoppers will heed the warnings. 

On November 11, almost 45 days until Christmas, it was unusual but wise for Pottery Barn Teen to dedicate one of their emails to delivery-focused messaging. They used this email to alert shoppers to potential delivery delays during the upcoming holiday season. While they have your attention, they are encouraging their customers to shop early, sharing a curated collection of must-haves.

DSW lays out their time-sensitive gift services explicitly. Customers can choose to have gift cards their way—from mail to email to text. Expectations are that delivery can then be taken off the table, ensuring that choosing these can guarantee online arrival. Additionally, they have a corporate solution for those with bulk needs.

Zappos’ “Can’t wait? Send an egift instead” messaging will have new meaning this holiday. With shoppers lacking confidence in delivery, this tactic resonates more than ever and will likely be replicated across other retail sites. 

Digital solutions play an elevated role in capturing customer hearts

We believe that retailers must be proactive in taking care of their customers to avoid disappointments, and digital gifting can be the perfect solution. 

Capturing the hearts of customers starts with creativity and ends with visibility. It also means acknowledging the challenges consumers will face this holiday season—from budget restrictions to on-time delivery—while showcasing digital solutions that solve for those pain points.

As the peak days of shopping are on the horizon, we will complete the e-tailing group & GiftNow index. Watch for our findings in our next blog article along with early results and key trends from the projected surge in online gifting.

Lauren Freedman is President of the e-tailing group

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