Cracking the Gift Buyer Code

No matter the occasion, science has taught us that we feel a greater sense of happiness when we give gifts to others. But finding the right gift can be difficult and stressful.

New research from Needle reveals gift shopping has surpassed family obligations and holiday travel when it comes to reasons for stressing out during the holiday season. To the stressful experience, online retailers have increased their role in holiday shopping, offering a simple and easy way to purchase anything from socks to scuba diving gear with a few clicks. Nearly half (43 percent) of consumers say they plan to buy at least one gift online this holiday season as a result.
Brick-and-mortar gift shopping has its fair share of stress-inducing challenges. From finding parking and pushing through crowds to long lines and lack of inventory, there are plenty of reasons to sit down and cozy up to your computer or smartphone. But, despite e-commerce’s accessibility and general efficiency, frustration still abounds. One of the biggest frustrations online shoppers report (29 percent) is having too many options, and 24 percent say there are confusing or not enough product details to pinpoint the best-fit gift. Not to mention that many (22 percent) online consumers miss the personalized in-store experience that comes from interacting with live sales associates. The result is that half of the respondents (49 percent) become willing to drop their ideal gift in favor of an “easy” option, the gift card.

How can e-commerce circumvent this gift buyer’s hurdle? Here are a few tips for e-commerce brands to crack the gift buying code and optimize the gift buying process:

Provide a Good Gift Buying Guide

Most online retailers know that gift buyers need specific help, prompting many to put buttons on their homepage promoting gift guides and recommendations—especially during the holidays. But the sites that are doing this well go beyond displaying a generalized list of “gift ideas” and actually glean information from gift buyers to better understand the personality of the recipient. For example, musical instrument manufacturer Fender offers a “gift finder” on their website. Buying a musical instrument is difficult, especially when purchasing it as a gift. Fender’s gift finder interviews the purchaser and then suggests best-fit products. It at least feels like the shopper is getting a recommendation that a human thought about. Gift guides that aren’t too helpful simply make shoppers conduct their own research by checking boxes to narrow the search. There’s no added confidence that the “recommendations” (often just a list of popular items) are a good match for the recipient.

Feature Gift Reviews Instead of Product Reviews

Once shoppers have a few good gift ideas, many of them start sifting through product reviews. The problem is that many reviews are not relevant to individual use cases. This has never been truer than with gift buying. What if e-commerce sites provided a separate tab for reviews from people who purchased the product as a gift? If I’m searching for a drone for my teenage son, I want to read reviews from other parents who purchased this product as a gift to find out how the gift was received, how often the recipient used it, if the gift is safe, etc.

Tap Into Your Authentic and Expert Support Community

Many people still yearn for human input before making a purchase decision. This is especially true with gift buying. We’ve all had experiences where we talked to someone – an expert with firsthand knowledge – who helped us pick out the perfect gift. They take the time to understand your needs, and then make a powerful recommendation. Online retailers that rely solely on automated technologies to serve gift buyers are missing out on a huge opportunity to serve those looking for human input. Online retailers like Adidas, Backcountry, and Horizon Hobby all utilize on-demand labor to provide shoppers with live gift-buying assistance.

Think Like a Gift Buyer

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, the simplest way for e-commerce sites to crack the code for online gift buying is to use the ‘golden rule.’ Ecommerce leaders need to think about their own stressful holiday shopping and design solutions they would actually use themselves. Online retailers have the unique opportunity to leverage many of the best parts of brick-and-mortar shopping, while reducing the overall stress of making a gift purchase.

Morgan Lynch is the CEO at Needle

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