The end of the year is a huge sales period for the vast majority of merchants. Why? People are looking for gifts.
From as early as October all the way through to late December, customers’ minds turn to their shopping list for all the different friends and family members they may want to buy gifts for. This concentration of people all looking to order perfect presents makes for a big opportunity for ecommerce merchants to end the year on a sales high. During this period, merchants will market to gift buyers through on-site promotion, email marketing, social media, and more.
So if this audience is so lucrative, why is it that they get so little attention the rest of the year outside of gifting holidays? The straightforward answer is that they’re less of a priority; throughout the year you want to focus on your core target audience who are buying your products for themselves, not for someone else.
While you absolutely should be giving plenty of attention to your core audience, that doesn’t mean gift buyers don’t exist year-round. Whether it’s getting a gift to say “congratulations!”, for a birthday or special occasion, or simply “just because”, people buy plenty of gifts throughout the year. This audience of gift buyers may form a smaller subset of your customers outside of gifting holidays, however they should still have content and resources that speak to them and their unique needs. If your business has a high potential for gifting, such as baby clothes that could be gifted to new parents, or back-to-school essentials, then the opportunity is even greater.
It’s fairly straightforward to create the resources that will improve the gift buying process for your customers, creating a convenient, helpful, and easy experience.
Gift buyers - a high-value audience with unique needs
Let’s first discuss what makes gift buyers different from your usual audience. The needs of a gift buyer are distinctly different from your average customer. They may have limited product or category knowledge, meaning choosing a product isn’t so straightforward. Their purchase intent is also very different - they’re not going to be using the product or gift card for themselves, they’re looking to get something personal and interesting for their recipient. Their concerns are also unique; will it arrive on time? What size should they get? Will this product be compatible with what the recipient already owns? Chances are, they aren’t going to be able to go through your catalog with the same level of interest or knowledge as an average customer, so they need ideas and recommendations and resources that speak to their unique customer journey.
Providing gift buyers with the attention, content, and resources they’re looking for and demonstrating to them that your store considers them a valuable audience will ultimately contribute to a much better customer experience. For many merchants and customers, experience is everything. 73% of customers say experience is an important factor in their purchasing decisions, yet only 49% say companies provide a good experience. As a store owner, you want to make sure every customer has a great experience regardless of their purchase intent or journey. Ultimately, providing gift buyers with their own unique experience tailored to their needs will put you ahead of competitors, improve brand perception, and boost your chances of retention.
How to improve the gift buying experience
So, how do you create those resources without impacting your messaging and promotion for your core audience? You don’t want to dilute your brand, or compromise on the content you create. Luckily, it’s quite easy to create and incorporate content that targets gift buyers into your on-site and promotional strategies. You just need to step back and think “what would I find useful if I were looking for a gift?”. Let’s look at some ideas inspired by that very question.
#1 - Offer customizable gift card options
First and foremost, you need to have a really robust option available for gift cards. We’ve already spoken about some of those common issues gift buyers run into - low product knowledge, time constraints, uncertainty over what to buy. Gift cards are the ideal solution for those customers who want to get a gift from your store, but for whatever reason they’re less keen on buying a physical product. Gift cards are also great for your business, as they can actually increase sales; 33% of customers will spend more on a gift card than on a physical gift. When it comes to redeeming that card, in one survey, 87% of gift card recipients said they are likely to spend more than the value of their gift cards, and studies have shown that US consumers spend an average of $59 above the value of a card. With Govalo, this average is even higher at $75+ when a gift card is redeemed.
So, gift cards are great to have as an option, but in order to drive sales you need to also drive value to your gift buying customers. It isn’t enough just to have them available as a product on your store, you need to think about how customers will actually use them. The native gift card functionality that comes built in to Shopify is pretty basic, and doesn’t make for the best experience for the gift buyer or recipient. You can’t add a note, or even send it directly to the recipient. That’s why it’s important to have a gift card app that will enhance the experience, providing the personal touches a gift buyer is likely to look for.
Govalo is an easy to install gift card app for Shopify that will noticeably improve your gift card experience. Your customers will be able to add gift notes, send directly to the recipient, and even choose the day on which the gift card is sent. It also comes with features such as the ability to display gift cards as an alternative to out-of-stock products, which come in extremely valuable especially during the holiday season. You want your gift cards to be seen as an equally great option as your products, and the only way to do that is by offering the options your customers need to turn a standard purchase into a gift buying experience.
#2 - Publish gift guides year-round
As we approach key holidays throughout the year, merchants are always looking for ways to promote their products to gift buyers. One of the most common is through gift guides - 57% of gift shoppers say they actively look for ideas and recommendations. After all, if a lot of gift buying frustrations center around not knowing what to buy, a list of ideas is sure to be a hit. While gift guides are definitely great for holiday promotion, they also typically have a limited window of relevance. Guides around “best gifts for Valentine’s Day” will only be relevant in the run up to the holiday itself, and won’t become relevant again for another year. Why only make use of this great resource for such a short window of time? That’s why it’s valuable to create gift guides all year round that target different gift buyers relevant to your store.
Gift guides may be relevant to…
- Specific occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.
- Your products, for example “10 gift ideas for amateur chefs” if you sell cookware, or “best gifts for new parents” if you sell baby products.
- Seasons or themes, such as “most romantic gifts for boyfriends”.
You can still tie many of these to different holidays, for example gift guides around romantic themes or for partners might be posted around Valentine’s Day to maximize traction. The benefit of having these year-round guides is that not only will you have relevant content on your site for gift buyers, but they also have the potential to boost your store’s SEO when gift buyers are looking for ideas for the different themes or occasions you’ve written about.
#3 - Develop and promote a gift buying landing page
Landing pages are useful for a variety of reasons, primarily because they give your customers a hub of information, products, and content relevant to their purchase intent. For example you may have a BFCM landing page that you update each year with the products and offers that will be part of your Black Friday promotion so that customers can immediately find which products are definitely included. The same is true for gifting landing pages, again you may do this around key gifting holidays such as Christmas, Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day. While these particular landing pages are only going to be useful for a short window of time, you can create a more permanent, year-round gifting landing page that can serve as a hub for gift buyers regardless of the occasion or holiday, then swap this out for seasonal landing pages.
Having a landing page goes a step further on top of your gift guides, as you’re now also providing your gift buying customers with the actual catalog and product pages and pricing so they can easily navigate to the products they’re thinking of buying. Including your gift cards within these collections also helps to draw attention to those as an option, putting them on an equal footing with your physical products.
As for how to decide what goes on your landing page, you should consider how your gift buyers may shop your products and the category your store falls into. The kind of information that will appeal to gift buyers the most will be:
- Categorized gift ideas e.g. “Indoor plant gifts” or “Pet-friendly plant gifts”
- Gift cards and information about how they work
- Reviews which mention gifts
- Any other information about gift buying e.g. gift wrapping, notes.
This will give gift buyers all the most relevant information for their purchasing journey, given that theirs will look different to your typical customer.
#4 - Create a new gift catalog category
So, you’ve got your landing page as a hub for your customers, but maybe you have different sub-categories of gift ideas and you want to provide gift buyers even more resources to really make their experience more personal. One way to drive even more value for those customers is by creating a category in your catalog just for gift collections that you can update and swap as seasons change and as you see pick-up in each sub-category.
You can then filter your gift collections based on different criteria your gift buyers may have for their purchase. They may have a limited budget, in which case you could have “Gifts under $25” or “Gifts by price”. They may be shopping for a specific person, so it may then be “Gifts for new parents” or “Wedding gifts”. Whatever best suits the personas of your typical gift buying audience should be included, helping them to navigate to a catalog collection that will best suit their needs. If a customer looking for a gift has low product knowledge then they may struggle to navigate through your catalog without any assistance. You know your products better than anyone, so having these gift specific categories will be a huge help as they’re curated for the customer by the people that know the products best. The less work your customers have to do to find that ideal gift, the better their experience will be.
#5 - Make your gift card as visible as possible throughout your site
You know your store like the back of your hand; you know where everything is, how it all links up, and if someone were to ask “where are you gift cards?” you could point to the page in a second flat. Gift buyers on the other hand…they may not even know what categories your catalog has, never mind where to find a specific item. Visibility and accessibility are vital if you want customers to actually find and buy gift cards. Customers may not always immediately consider a gift card as an option, and there’s a strong chance they’re going to browse your catalog first. Purchase journeys for gift buyers are going to be very varied; some may look through products then decide a gift card is a good option, others may immediately go to buy a card, and others may not even think to buy a gift card.
That’s why it’s so important to make your gift cards as visible as possible. There are a few ways you can do this, and some unique site placements you may not have considered before. The first is by including it as a link in your primary navigation similar to your catalog:
If your primary navigation is kept fairly simple and minimal, then there are other creative ways to include gift cards such as this example from Mavi:
You can also include it as an item from your catalog menu items, or in the footer/sitemap for your store
These links will follow your customers as they navigate through your store, ensuring that they can access it wherever they land. When it starts to look like a product as a gift won’t work well, the idea to purchase a gift card instead will be right there ready for them.
However, these are just the basics. If you want to truly capture your customers’ attention with gift cards, you need to get creative. The first is giving your gift cards equal footing to the rest of your catalog as potential gift options. Seasonally, you can do this by including gift cards as an option in gift guides and landing pages so that it appears as a gift idea equal to a physical product.
Another option is for when a customer finds something they’d like to buy, but the size they need or the variant they want is out of stock. Ordinarily, a customer may just enter their details for a back-in-stock notification however gift buyers often are working to some kind of timeline and deadline. They likely don’t have time to wait for the product to maybe be available ahead of when they need it, especially if they’re factoring in delivery time. In these cases, you don’t want them to just abandon their purchase, so you need to provide them with an alternative - a gift card. Govalo’s out-of-stock feature allows you to automatically display the option to purchase a gift card when an item is unavailable, helping to capture those customers looking for gifts.
Lastly, create a collection of gift cards to catch the eye of those gift buyers. Having one gift card hidden away can go overlooked, but to have a suite of cards for different occasions with unique messaging can be a way to help put them on the same level as a physical gift.
#6 - Offer personalized, gift-focussed fulfillment options
Over the last couple of years, it’s become more important than ever to have options that personalize the gift experience. There are plenty of occasions where you won’t be able to hand over a gift to a recipient in person, and in those instances you still want to make the experience as personal as possible. After all, if you’ve spent the time and effort and money to find a gift, you don’t want it to arrive with an invoice in a plain shipping box. You want it to arrive in the same way you’d prepare it if you were to deliver it in person.
When a customer does decide to buy a physical gift and ship it directly to the recipient, make it easy for them to personalize their gift. Some ways are easy to implement with minimal added work for your fulfillment team if you want to test out gift options to start with. The first and easiest is to have a checkbox for the customer at checkout asking if the order is a gift - this will then indicate to your fulfillment team to print a gift invoice, rather than one with pricing. Adding this into your fulfillment workflow and processes is low impact, but makes a big difference to gift buyers. To take this simple solution even further, you can also include the option for the customer to add a gift note. This gives the customer that added bit of personalization, and makes the experience for the recipient even better.
The next step up from gift invoices and notes, is to have the option for gift wrapping and a greeting card. These will take more time and resources to include in your fulfillment process, but over time will make your gifting experience better and potentially be what convinces a new customer to purchase from your store over a competitor.
During high gifting periods like the end-of-year holidays, some customers may be purchasing more than one gift from your store for multiple recipients. Rather than making them order each gift individually, you could consider implementing a feature which allows them to ship multiple gifts from the one order. These kinds of features like gift wrapping and multiple gift shipments will be something that many customers will likely take advantage of.
Gift buying can be stressful, but it’s also something personal where customers want to feel like they’re picking something that their friend or family member will love. Speaking to this audience directly, giving them the resources they need, and offering options exclusive to their purchasing journey will create a positive experience that will greatly enhance their gift buying and benefit your store long-term.