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How Retailers Can Up Their Digital Gifting Game

December 1, 2021

Catherine Salfino

The gift-giving season is definitely in full swing. And while holiday shoppers were warned to buy early due to supply chain delays, December will inevitably be filled with slackers, those who are too busy to shop and those who have no idea what to buy for anybody. Meaning there is a lot of opportunity for merchants who help make gift giving easier, especially in the online marketplace.[quote]

The gifting market will grow from $621 billion in 2019 to $816 billion by 2024, according to a report from Coresight Research. In 2020, ecommerce sales leapt 32.5 percent. Coresight expects online sales to account for 21 percent of total 2021 Q4 sales.

But Coresight Research feels innovation in digital gift cards, as well as personalization and customization options for the recipient, have the potential to significantly improve the online gift-buying experience.

Coresight Research’s Steven Winnick, senior analyst, spoke in the CommerceNext webinar, “The Holiday Gifting Playbook: A Consumer Perspective on 2021 Holidays.” He said $1 of every $4 will be spent online this holiday season.

“We really think there will be an added focus by consumers on convenience and experience, versus deals and door busters,” Winnick said. “They’re going to be expecting personalized and seamless retail experiences both in the store and online. That could be BOPIS (buy online/pickup in store), it could be curbside pickup and it could be your native digital experience, as well. And there are gift cards. A physical gift card from a retailer is going to be local. But if it’s a digital kind of gifting experience, that can open up doors to more international gift buying, which could be super interesting.”

Almost 9 out of 10 holiday shoppers say they plan to shop online for gifts the same (66 percent) or more (27 percent) this year compared to last year, according to the Cotton Incorporated 2021 Lifestyle Monitor™ Survey. Holiday shoppers who do not plan to shop in-store say it’s because they prefer to shop online (49 percent), or they feel it’s safer to use ecommerce during the pandemic (45 percent). The safety concern is down, though, from 65 percent in 2020.



This may be why over half of clothing gift givers plan to purchase their clothing gifts in-store (up significantly from 39 percent in 2020), according to the Monitor™ research.

Still, that leaves a lot of gift givers who could use some guidance not just for this holiday season, but heading into all of 2022’s celebrations, such as Valentine’s Day, Easter, birthdays, and more. John Grech, head of retail partnerships at GiftNow, a gift experience management platform, said during the CommerceNext webinar his company offers a solution that gives online shoppers more options than simply buying a gift card.

“The digital gifting of products has the same ability to deliver things quickly, but you can actually have latency between the time the digital gift arrives and when the product physically arrives,” Grech said. “It’s going to be an important part of go-forward strategy, especially coming out of this year (with potential supply chain delays).”

When a merchant sends a digital gift using the GiftNow platform, it is sent via email or text/messenger. It can also be printed out and hand-delivered. The digital gift is then “unboxed” with personalized videos and photo greetings. Once the recipient views the gift online, they can accept it or modify it by size or color, or make an exchange before it even ships. GiftNow points out this helps eliminate return shipping expenses. And, the company adds, it may speed time-to-redemption as recipients already have a starting point on selecting a product.

Retailers that currently have a GiftNow button on their websites include Coach, Kate Spade, Uniqlo, American Eagle/Aerie, and Michael Kors.

“Retailers have a lot of room to grow in terms of how they merchandise these things,” Grech said. “There’s actually a lot more utility to digital gifts that I think retailers could take advantage of.”

This holiday, more than a fifth of shoppers plan to purchase most of their clothing gifts at Amazon (27 percent), according to the Monitor™ research. That’s followed by mass merchants (20 percent), off-pricers (9 percent), chains (8 percent), department stores (7 percent), fast fashion stores (4 percent), and specialty stores (4 percent).

The online components of shopping have become vital to holiday business. Consider that nearly three-fourths of holiday shoppers (71 percent) say they plan to research online for holiday gifts this season, according to Monitor™ research. And half of all shoppers (50 percent) say they like to browse for clothes in-store for the experience, but they prefer to buy online. And the majority of holiday shoppers (55 percent) say that how much they buy in-store versus online depends on whether stores are open or closed.

That’s why a strong online gifting element can be so powerful during the holidays. Winnick said retailers could also help ecommerce shoppers find the perfect gifts by offering subscription services. He gave a nod to those offered by Best Buy and Walmart Plus, services that take their cue from Amazon Prime in that they allow subscribers access to hard-to-find or limited/exclusive holiday deals.

“So that experience is really starting digitally,” Winnick said. “Retailers and brands understand they need to think creatively. But they also understand the consumer is a bit concerned about items being out of stock. So brands and stores have more leverage than normal to introduce a subscription service like that.”

Retailers also have the option of teaming with Alyce, a smart gifting platform, that recently partnered with sales engagement provider Salesloft, so marketers and sales teams could work with a unified platform that enables personalized gift giving.

“Our partnership with Salesloft is such a natural match,” said Alyce’s Greg Segall, CEO. “We are both committed to enabling revenue teams to build strong relationships and improve business results with the help of smart technology. At Alyce, we are thrilled that our integration with Salesloft is giving marketing and sales teams new gifting superpowers right in their workflow that will allow them to deliver meaningful moments, increase revenue and create greater impact.”