Personalized Contactless Gifting in a Coronavirus World

Checking recipients off our proverbial gift lists will look a little different this year. Here’s why Lauren Freedman of the e-tailing group recommends retailers embrace contactless gifting solutions.

I’m not sure contactless is a word I was familiar with or uttered once in my lifetime before the pandemic. It’s now an entrenched part of our 2020 culture. It’s woven into our everyday vernacular when reading news or shopping online and is shared daily via television advertising. While the term “contactless” originated from a payments point of view, there are many other iterations—from curbside pickup at neighborhood retailers to completely digital experiences that allow businesses to capture e-commerce demand with little to no physical interaction. For the purposes of this post, my focus will be on ordering digital gifts including gift cards.

In the past, gift giving was often accomplished by visiting a brick-and-mortar store. Some of us even enjoyed the sport of happening upon items that we thought might just be perfect for the loved ones on our list. For others, we embraced the art of gift giving to stay connected with those we love. 

Then came gift cards and their digital counterparts, egift cards. They were readily available on websites and at grocery stores, and their convenience was hard to beat. The downside was that both options lacked the personal touch many of us associated with gifting.

We at the e-tailing group and GiftNow are in the process of completing our 2020 gifting review of 50 sites and, not surprisingly, most top retailers offer both gift card options. The important distinction we’ll be covering in further detail in future posts is how they vary in terms of onsite execution, levels of personalization, and visibility as the season progresses.

As I thought about my holiday list this year, however, I was disgruntled with how I would approach it during these challenging times. I was frustrated that it would be a faceless experience for everyone. Ultimately, I came to terms with the new normal and found that digital gifting provided just the right solution for my holiday needs—with an added touch: I could ensure it still felt personal.

4 key reasons why I’m personalizing my contactless gifting for the 2020 holidays

1. I’m taking a safety-first mentality.

In these unprecedented times, most of us are likely to be home for the holidays. We will not be trekking across town, let alone across the country. Logistically speaking, digital gifting is the most efficient option to accomplish our shopping needs.

Digital gifting requires no contact with recipients and I can avoid stepping into stores to boot. One can expect that impatient shoppers like me will be challenged as crowd control in a COVID-19-world will be mandatory. While I love stores, I certainly don’t like waiting for anything. This way I can shop on my own terms, no standing in lines in frigid weather to get in, no unnecessary exposure, and no disappointment when the stores I selected simply could not fulfill my needs. 

While I may have a yen to venture out, I have to remind myself not to be selfish. Since products and/or gift cards delivered digitally come contactless via email, I’m saving all of my friends from making an unnecessary stop at the store. I’m also doing a favor for the retailer who still realizes revenue gains while keeping unnecessary traffic out of their stores and—most importantly—also mitigating returns.

Shopping online from home just went up a notch in my book.

2. I found a personal approach.

Even though you can’t personally hand a digital gift to your recipient, there’s still a way to feel good about your gift.

While other retailers allow me to choose my theme to drive the digital opening experience, one retailer’s digital gift card experience (powered by GiftNow) has the added feature of including video. The personal touch is a deal breaker for me and can be for many others, so knowing that many of my gifts could be accompanied by personalized photos or videos made me feel better about this option.

Another twist on the video greeting was that it meant that we could involve the entire family. It was a way for me to collaborate with the kids who typically shy away from such activities.

3. The efficiency factor could not be beat.

As I have two high risk parents, I was on the hunt for gifts I could send without having to be in-person and came across another personalized digital gifting option. My mom loves Coach and, in browsing their site, I found they offered GiftNow. I had found the best of a digital gift card while still being able to suggest an actual product I thought my mom would like—with the knowledge that she could easily exchange or customize the gift before it shipped. This technology took digital gifting to a new level and felt like an innovation in a relatively stagnant niche.

Another personal example was when I went in search of a gift for a friend’s birthday. With the pandemic, I didn’t have time to hassle with in-store shopping where I might not find what I needed. I had no clue what my friend would want but, like many of us, I figured I would know it when I saw it. This revelation made me realize that I could schedule my purchase in advance with GiftNow, so her gift would be delivered at just the right time to coincide with her birthday.

There’s no substitute for being able to get the job done swiftly. This would prevent me from having to remember the items I had seen along the way and enable me to shop when I was in the moment. Just like I schedule food delivery or bill pay, I could schedule these purchases and not worry about my long list as the season rolled on. I was hooked and working my way through that holiday gift list.

4. It didn’t matter if I got it exactly right.

Probably the best part of using GiftNow for me was that I could make an educated guess about a product or even the size and color. No matter my know-how, the gift recipient would have the option to exchange or modify their gift based on their personal needs. The benefits of this were greater in that they too could avoid contact with the store if they so desired. Contactless for the recipient may be the best gift of all, and stores benefit by limiting returns during these challenging times.

My wish is that this personal, efficient, and thoughtful digital gifting solution would be available from more of the retailers I shop.

Happy Holidays! 

Lauren Freedman is President of the e-tailing group

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