Digital Gifting Can Entice Shoppers, Increase Sales, and Minimize Returns
For retailers and shoppers, 2021 has been an incredibly challenging year. Between the impact of COVID-19, supply chain issues, stocking shelves, and searching for available items, retailers and shoppers have had to make adjustments on a weekly, if not daily, basis. With shoppers increasingly going online to fulfill their shopping lists, a vast majority of retailers are making changes to e-commerce to better serve customer needs, especially this holiday season.
It’s no surprise that the pandemic continues to fuel the e-commerce shopping shift, with six in 10 consumers purchasing their gifts online this year, according to a new study from Coresight Research, sponsored by GiftNow. With the holiday shopping season upon us, changing up retail strategies to entice gift shoppers — with instant digital delivery, personalized greetings, and other e-gifting capabilities — can help improve the user experience and increase sales, especially at a time when the industry is facing increasing shipping surcharges and logistic hurdles. To address these challenges, 90 percent of retailers are planning to upgrade their e-gifting capabilities this Christmas season, and nearly two-thirds plan to include instant digital delivery and gift personalization to improve the user experience, according to a recent studioID Pulse Survey.
Holiday 2021 Trends: Omnichannel and Online Gift Shopping to Remain Strong
The new Coresight study highlights holiday gifting trends in the U.S., including strong online shopping for the season and a longer holiday gift shopping window starting in early October. Anticipating supply chain challenges and shipping delays, nearly 50 percent of consumers surveyed have started shopping earlier this year, weeks ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and will continue shopping through December. This change can impact retailers’ promotions and discounts, further reinforcing the importance of omnichannel retailing and e-commerce solutions to give shoppers a richer, more unified experience.
Coresight’s findings indicate that seven in 10 shoppers expect to purchase at least 40 percent of their total gifts online this year, and 90 percent expect to buy gifts online heading into 2022.
Digital Gifting to the Rescue
Early shipping deadlines for online purchases that typically run one week to two weeks before Christmas are akin to closing your store in a mall the week of Dec. 11. While that’s unthinkable, these deadlines often drive customers away and can impact revenues. Many retailers are extending the holiday shopping window by optimizing their e-commerce platforms to give gift shoppers added flexibility in the weeks and days leading up to the holidays. The studioID survey also revealed that 60 percent of retailers are looking to strengthen the online gift delivery experience by incorporating instant or scheduled digital delivery and gift customization, which can reduce surcharges, costs and returns for the retailers. Considering that returns were up 41 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, this could help to resolve a big pain point.
Imagine if a customer could digitally gift a black cashmere sweater in a medium size — but the recipient prefers gray and wears a large. With digital gifting and a gift experience management solution, the recipient can adjust the gift before the order is shipped, including providing their preferred address. By decoupling the shipping and delivery of gifts and gift cards, retailers can minimize returns, which in addition to saving costs has a residual effect on sustainability. Everyone wins, including the happy wearer of a new gray cashmere sweater that fits perfectly.
Don’t Forget Gift Cards — the 'Hero' Gift in 2021
I was recently at a conference where a retailer summed up one of its biggest challenges going into the holidays: “How can I sell products that are still out in the Pacific Ocean for perhaps another month or two?” For many retailers, gift cards, a $160 billion business, may be the answer this year.
Physical and digital gift cards consistently rank at the top of the list of gifts expected to be purchased and received. Given the supply chain struggles, gift cards can be a “hero” gift this holiday season.
Looking at the numbers from the Coresight research, nearly half of shoppers expect to buy physical gift cards this year, with 26 percent purchasing digital gift cards. Similarly, 55 percent of respondents expect to receive physical gift cards as gifts, with 29 percent expecting to receive digital gift cards as gifts. Even though gift cards are among the most popular gifting options, 93 percent of retailers admit they have low gift card integration with their digital systems, representing a clear opportunity for improvement.
Retailers making upgrades to their digital gift card programs can enable gifters to deliver this popular go-to gift with a thoughtful, personal message, themed digital wrapping, even a heartfelt video. Making the delivery more special and customized can help the gifter feel better about their gift card transaction. The recipient can look forward to securing just the right item from that favorite retailer when they decide to shop .
Fortunately, retailers still have time to make some changes to prioritize e-gifting this holiday shopping season. Gift experience management platforms can help make digital gifting and physical and digital gift cards more personalized and frictionless to help increase customer satisfaction and top-line revenue. By strengthening the online gift delivery experience, retailers can help maximize revenues, improve conversion rates, reduce exchanges, and lessen logistical hassles for the holiday, while solving for retailer and shopper pain points that aren’t likely to go away any time soon.
Kevin Payne is vice president of corporate marketing at GiftNow, a Synchrony solution. GiftNow is a gift experience management platform.
Related story: 2020 Merchant Gift Card Omnichannel Evaluation