As our work lives moved online via Zoom, WebEx and Google meetings, events followed suit. Webinars, lunch-and-learns and conferences quickly migrated to the Internet. And virtual gifting, which had already been gaining traction, exploded in popularity. Though face-to-face events are beginning to return in the second half of 2021, virtual and hybrid events, which are estimated to grow to $774 billion by 2030, will remain a key component of the marketing mix. Gifts for virtual events can help make your events more memorable and successful.
Gifts for Virtual Events
Who would have thought that the pandemic would have transformed – for the better – one of life’s little moments of happiness?
I am talking about giving and receiving a gift.
In the pre-pandemic world of conferences and events, gifting had become an expected, if routine, activity. If you spoke at a conference, you received a present as a thank you. It was nice. If you visited a trade show booth, you got some swag.
Of course, everyone usually received the same gift, which made it a bit impersonal. And sometimes, you might not have room in your luggage for a bulky gift. Plus, if the item was fragile or liquid you might even have to check your bag at the airport for the flight home, which can certainly be aggravating. The result? The hotel staff collects USB sticks and coffee mugs left behind in peoples’ hotel rooms.
For the event planner, there were other inconveniences as well. Gifts had to be shipped to the venue ahead of time and stored in a secure place – adding considerable expense and logistics hassles.
Time for an Update
So, you could say that this time-honored but lackluster tradition was due for an update. The pandemic, which has served as a catalyst for transforming work itself, provided the opportunity. As our work lives moved online via Zoom, WebEx and Google meetings, events followed suit. Webinars, lunch-and-learns and conferences quickly migrated to the Internet. And giving gifts for virtual events, which had already been gaining traction, exploded in popularity. Though face-to-face events are beginning to return in the second half of 2021, virtual and hybrid events will remain a key component of the marketing mix.
By virtual gifting, I mean gifts that are delivered digitally via email or text to the recipient. The gift giver can personalize a message and provide a selection of gifts. The recipient can then choose the gift they like and, as necessary, select a color or size. They then provide the shipping address and the gift they want is delivered to their preferred location, be it their home or their office.
Event planners love this because giving gifts for virtual events made customers happier while also reducing costs and logistics challenges. They no longer needed to keep inventory at an office they couldn’t access, in their garage or storage locker somewhere. They didn’t need to estimate how many ‘sizes’ to order. Instead, event managers could focus on other strategic components of their event and leave the gifting ‘operations’ to a virtual gifting provider.
Gift recipients loved virtual gifting because it was much more personal. They got to choose their own gifts, versus being handed something that was selected by someone else.
Returning to the New Normal
Now, with the end of the pandemic in sight, event organizers are preparing for physical events once again. We are starting to hear conversations about dinners and holiday events returning in the fourth quarter; and 2022 is shaping up to be closer to back to normal – or at least a “new normal.”
Event and conferences firm CommerceNext was already leveraging virtual gifting prior to the in-person restrictions that came with the pandemic. CommerceNext’s Scott Silverman said that the early pivot and ability to put the power of choosing a desirable gift back in the hands of the speaker or attendee has been a major differentiator. The firm has plans to commence in-person events in late Q3 but anticipates it will continue a hybrid model of virtual and in-person events for the foreseeable future. To resort to previous ways of gift giving even when things get back to normal no longer seems practical in the eyes of Silverman. “Regardless of the type of event we activate, the fact we don’t have to worry about the gift logistics, inventory and personalization is a huge weight off our shoulders, so we can focus on executing other elements to make it the most memorable event possible.”
Will gifting return to the status quo of 2019? I think that would be a mistake because virtual gifting is just as effective when the event is in person. What could be better than selecting an item at your leisure and then having it arrive at your doorstep after you arrive back home?
In the past year, many businesses have reevaluated the future of work. They have come to the realization that working from home can be productive and effective, and they are planning to continue remote work policies after the pandemic is over. Similarly, virtual gifting is an idea that, having come to prominence during the quarantine, looks to gain even more relevance once the pandemic is behind us.
This is one area where conference attendees and event organizers are in perfect agreement: the gifting may be virtual, but the benefits are very real. Learn how GiftNow can help make your virtual events better.
Jenn Muller is the CMO of GiftNow