Wednesday 12th August 2020

Gifting: Are You Ready for Peak?

Amba Wilkes

In light of the events 2020 has thrown our way, the world of eCommerce has certainly had a shakeup. With online retail fast becoming the go-to method for shopping, 31 percent of UK consumers have shopped online with new brands that they hadn’t before the pandemic.

A shift in demand and shopping behaviour presents opportunities for businesses to find new customers and convert them into loyal, long term brand advocates. But how do you prepare for eCommerce peak trading during a global pandemic? With regional lockdowns occurring across the country along with the uncertainty around what COVID-19 could still bring, many brands are rightly focused on catering for their online audience.

Research shows that shoppers will spend approximately £512 on Christmas gifts this year, making it integral to get your online store prepared for the demand. Online gifting services are set to rise, providing an option to remotely gift physical and virtual gifts via an online store. As we progress through the third quarter of the year, now is the time to prepare your website and provide the gifting functionality your customers want, and in many cases, need.

 

Why is online gifting so important this year?

Let us rewind to peak 2019 when times were more ‘normal’. During your Christmas shopping spree, you’d buy the item in store or online, take it home, wrap it up, write your card and deliver by hand or by post. But with travel restrictions now the norm, couriers likely to struggle with demand which will cause delivery delays and some bricks-and-mortar stores not yet open, this once simple tradition becomes increasingly difficult.

By providing a gifting service, you can cut out the hassle for your customers, allowing them to send a gift direct from you to the recipient. Many businesses offer all the bells and whistles that go with this service including gift recommendations, personalised messaging, gift wrapping and dedicated delivery dates.

As an eCommerce merchant, you will likely understand just how important it is to meet your audience’s changing expectations. But have you considered what needs to be in place to offer a gifting service? How will you provide gift receipts? How will you organise the logistical elements? What kind of features should you be offering? Take a read to find out what you need to consider now in order to get your online store ready for gifting.

 

Highlight your gifting service as a USP

A USP, such as offering an end-to-end gifting service that makes online shopping experiences a whole lot easier, helps your brand stand out from the competition. Promoting your USP across different touchpoints of your website alongside your email marketing and social media communications is integral to success. The only way your audience will know what you offer is by regularly telling them.

Whichever page or channel your consumers land on, ensure your USP is clearly visible. Here are some touchpoints we advise displaying it on:

  • USP bar: A USP bar could be added at the top of your header image for maximum exposure when a user lands on your homepage. This feature needs to be designed for desktop and mobile meaning your messaging may need to be punchier on mobile for maximum impact.
  • Product pages: Reinforcing why the customer should purchase from you, adding a dedicated USP block on your product pages is an effective place to communicate with your audience. Bullet points on what your gifting service includes and how the customer can go about adding this to their basket are important features to display.   
  • During the checkout: Once the customer has moved to this point in their buying journey, it’s a perfect opportunity to point out your gifting service. Although you may think the user has made their decision on your product, over 80 percent of people abandon their cart at the checkout. This is a chance to give them confidence in purchasing from you, highlighting any added benefits of choosing your brand over the competition.
  • Email: Adding a USP block to the header or footer of your emails is a brilliant and engaging touchpoint for customers. Communicating what your gifting offering includes through a few punchy lines within your marketing or automated emails is an effective way of cementing why a customer should buy from you.

 

It’s also important to make it as easy as possible for users to add the gifting service to their order. This could be done with a simple tick box on the product page that says ‘Add gift wrap for an extra £XX’ before adding the item to the basket, or these options could be reinforced on the checkout page too.

 

Be clear with exactly what you are offering 

As all elements of a gifting transaction take place solely online, it’s important to ensure the ins and outs of your service are communicated well to avoid disappointment. For example, if you offer gift wrapping, we advise to include an image of what the gift bag or wrapping paper and final product would look like.

The same should be considered for your personalised gift messaging too. What does the card look like? Are there options to choose from? What’s the maximum characters you can use? Can you choose the typography or change the layout? Don’t frustrate your users, that could be the difference between them choosing to shop with you or go elsewhere.

 

Dated delivery options

Order now for delivery in the future is an extremely useful function for those early shoppers in particular, but it requires considerations around stock levels, logistics and your supply chain. If a customer places an order now but doesn’t want it to be delivered until 10th September, can your logistics and fulfillment operations support this as well as your website?

An expert agency would be able to build and integrate this bespoke functionality into your site, but it’s also important to have these conversations early with your suppliers, delivery providers and warehousing team. In order to know what you’re able to promote, these parties need to understand what demand they may have to scale to and whether this is realistic. Even if the delivery provider misses the specified delivery date, it will still reflect your brand in a negative light, highlighting the importance of keeping everyone in the loop.

Be clear with your delivery timescales

There’s nothing worse than ordering a gift and having it show up after the event has taken place. It’s important to be completely transparent with your delivery timescales and highlight your cut off dates and times to ensure your customers won’t be disappointed.

Implementing bespoke functionality on our client lights4fun’s website, customers can select the delivery option best suited to their requirements. Even better, if you can guarantee delivery by a specific date, make sure you’re promoting this in obvious places across your site.


Creating a FAQ section on your website can act as a central information source for your online shoppers covering topics such as delivery timescales and return options. Reviewing these frequently asked questions also highlights the kind of information that should be reiterated across your product and checkout pages.

Communicate your returns policy

As sales increase, it’s likely your returns will too, especially at Christmas when it’s inevitable that not everyone will receive their ideal gift. Even more important when the recipient hasn’t ordered the item themselves, it’s integral to communicate how the product can be returned.

Particularly around the peak period and while restrictions are in place, individuals may not be able to reach the post office as much as they’d like, and courier services will experience increased pressure. As a result, you may want to consider extending your returns policy to maintain a positive ongoing relationship between your customers and your brand.

 

Offer gift receipts

In line with refunds, it’s also important to offer gift receipts for the recipient. Normally, when an item purchased online is delivered, you will receive the product along with an invoice showing your order number, details and pricing. However, that’s goes against gift giving etiquette, you would not want these details sharing with the recipient.

Ideally, you should aim to offer the functionality to send an item directly to a specific person with only the gift receipt included. This way, the recipient can still return the item if it doesn’t suit but will be unaware of the price up to this point.

 

Integrating dropper hints

Using an app integration with Shopify Plus known as ‘Drop a Hint’, your visitors can send ‘hints’ via email to a person of their choice highlighting what products they hope to receive. Appearing as a link with a heart on each product, this feature helps to curate a personalised and easy to use shopping experience.


Even better, this app integration captures both emails, doubling your email list in no time. By having valid email addresses linked to specific items, you can gain insight into what your consumers are interested in which can be leveraged within your wider marketing efforts and email campaigns. Integrating relevant promotions with your ‘Drop a Hint’ emails, you can optimise your retargeting campaigns to help increase conversions.

Create product bundles and recommendations

Many of us are grateful for the present inspiration and gifting guidance brands can provide. Using Shopify Plus, you can quickly group compatible products together to create appealing bundles at a discounted offer.


 For example, a skincare brand like our client Green People, could bundle together a range of toiletries and offer the package at a discounted price. These discounted bundles make choosing a gift or creating a hamper even easier for the user, and, when complete with the full gifting experience, can take all the hassle out of shopping.

 

Cross sell and up sell

When a user is buying for someone else, cross selling and upselling can help locate the right gifting set. Do you sell a hairbrush to go with those hair straighteners? Be sure to communicate this with your audience. Shoppers are inclined to look for small, relevant items to get their order over the free delivery or discount threshold. Do you have a best seller? Make sure you advertise it well! Many shoppers will look for guidance when shopping for someone else, a feature that NEOM display across their home page.


Cross selling and upselling can also make consumers notice a product which they may not have considered. This can be done by showing complimentary and personalised product recommendations in the basket or on product pages using a third-party solution such as Nosto. By recommending the most relevant products, the user journey is naturally much more inspiring. NEOM do this effectively by highlighting their Pod starter packs featuring essential oils when a user shows interest in purchasing their Pod.


Leverage your supporting content

Annual events such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day are the perfect time to promote your supporting content such as gift guides, imagery and diagrams. These assets can really aid in the product discovery process and also provide inspiration on what to buy for who.

Let’s imagine you want to purchase a gift for your friend who has recently moved into their new home. Using NEOM’s feel good gift guides, you can get recommendations on suited products as well as having the gift delivered direct to their door. We also advise making pricing guides available too as many people prefer to shop by price, for example, ‘Gift ideas for under £10’.


The supporting assets can also help answer any product questions while in the browsing stage. For example, there are countless styles of earrings which come in different sizes and are made for different areas of the ear. An accompanying diagram or piece of content explaining the differences can help in purchasing the correct gift, which naturally creates a more positive shopping experience.

 

Product personalisation functionality

Just because your customers aren’t delivering their gift by hand, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to make their gift personal. Why not make your products as unique as the recipient with product customisation?

This functionality, which can be built bespoke for Shopify Plus sites, takes your gift offering to the next level, allowing users to add monogramming or personalisation to specific products at an extra cost. A USP worth shouting about, Cloud Nine advertise this feature across their website, product pages and checkout.


In addition to product personalisation, it’s also a good idea to offer personalised messaging functionality within your gifting service. For example, including a message such as “Do not open until 25th December”, or “Happy 30th Birthday Dan!” evokes an emotional response that the recipient will continue associating with your brand. Additionally, if you have the email of the recipient, why not target them with an email featuring a £10 discount off their first order enticing them to use your gifting service in the future or shop with you direct?

 

Get more mileage from your UGC

This experience isn’t just about the person buying the gift, it’s also about the person receiving it. Whether it’s from the individual making the purchase or the person receiving the gift, there’s a whole lot of love going on when it comes to gifting! Make the most of this and don’t let your customer engagement end once the product has been purchased.

Encourage your audience to share their reviews, images and thoughts on their gifting experience. A product review is an authentic and effective way of showing customers why they should shop with you. Integrating with a third-party platform such as Yotpo, you can leverage your user generated content (UGC) and allow your shopping experience to speak for itself. These reviews can then be used as assets across your marketing channels including your social media feeds, emails and various website touchpoints. By leveraging genuine feedback and encouraging people to advocate for your brand, you can help build a loyal following while appealing to new customers.

 

Consider your navigation

By implementing some of the features mentioned in this blog such as product bundles and gift guides, your navigation structure and categories may need to be restructured. It’s important to consider how this may be affected and implement these alterations way ahead of the peak gifting period.

Ensure your navigation is easy to use and as relevant as possible, allowing users to visit the pages they need to fast. For example, Green People split each of their drop-down menus into further categories including ‘By Product’, ‘By Skin Need’, ‘By Range’ and ‘Featured’. If a user is looking for a gift set, they can quickly navigate to the page they need, allowing for increased ease of purchase.


In addition, if you have the space on your nav bar, we advise having your gifting pages as the top header on your navigation.

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This year, peak has the potential to be bigger than any year previous. But one thing we know for certain, the global pandemic has caused our buying habits to change with UK eCommerce sales up by 48 percent in the month of July. From meeting demand, to catering to a new type of shopper, there are many considerations that need to be taking place ahead of peak 2020 and gifting is key to this.

No matter the circumstances, to continue succeeding it’s important to cater for your audience and their needs in the way that suits them best. If you need a helping hand to get ready for peak, contact our team of eCommerce experts who can share their insights and expertise on how to succeed in the changing landscape of online retail.

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