How to Master Digital Gifting

September 14, 2016

By: Retail Vanguard Team,
Author Title: 
One Rockwell Team

THE CHALLENGE
While the Holiday season has its fair share of “family dinner drama,” the hope is that one’s ecommerce experience is alleviating and not contributing to the monthly therapy bill.

According to Needle, gift shopping now surpasses family obligations and holiday travel as the top stressor during the holiday season. A whopping 84 percent of consumers confess that gift giving raises their blood pressure. The same study found that nearly half of the respondents plan to purchase their gifts online anywhere from just weeks to days before the holiday. This inevitable deliberation and subsequent procrastination only adds to the struggle: backed up delivery schedules, expedited shipping costs, and sold-out merchandise.

Now, we may be tempted to use auto-replenishment features to help with holiday shopping (perhaps it is not acceptable to give the fiancé the same pair of Aviators yearly). However, it is important to create an eCommerce ecosystem that behaves like any significant other should

  • Personable (The perfect compliment to last year’s gift for Grandma)

  • Remindful (The flight is in two days, our presents better be here by then!)

  • Emotionally supportive (Is your step-mother more likely to return a beach hat or a throw blanket)

Fashion brands have it tough. We aren’t talking shopping malls on Black Friday at 6am tough. We are talking months of prep and planning, while squeezing in market appointments, fashion week engagements, new collection promotion, and sample sale season. It’s taxing on a lean team. Companies are required annually to re-brand their products for gifting season in order to embrace a saturated market that is competitive in promotions and forced innovations. The competition for consumer attention is at peak during the holiday season. As every company attempts to increase visibility and drive numbers, it is necessary to rise above the noise with the right messaging, tactics, and technology beginning as early as July to drive maximum customer engagement. Now more then ever, brands have the tools to prepare for and conquer the biggest spending spike of the year.

THE APPROACH
Setting your business up for success during the holidays is a delicate balance of the many moving parts of your organization. It requires intense planning, voraciously picking apart data from holidays past and marketing finesse that drives sales without alienating a single customer. Why is it then that gifting is the most difficult of steps to master in the holiday commerce dance? Mastery can be easily managed by breaking it down into easier to understand concepts.

1. Personalization
The ability to personalize a digital gift is changing what was once seen as a very cold and impersonal present into one of importance and great thoughtfulness. Jewelry retailer Alex and Ani, named Fastest Growing Retailer in the 2015 Internet Retailer 500, puts the emphasis on creating a very personalized gifting experience not only by building stories around the symbolic meanings behind the charms used for their bracelets and necklaces but also in their use of digital gifting platform Loop Commerce.

Setting themselves apart in the prepaid commerce space, Loop combines the ‘thoughtfulness of a chosen gift with the flexibility of a gift card and the convenience of online shopping.’ The key here is that you can send a gift with very little information other than an email address with much of the customization process handled by the recipient.

2. E-Gifts
One of the most difficult parts of gift-giving is the guessing game of what to buy for someone without knowing their exact tastes or styles. Forging beyond traditional e-gifts, merchants can now offer e-gift services, in which the recipient is emailed a gift receipt, and the product is not shipped until the recipient confirms or exchanges the item.  Embarrassing re-gifting crisis averted!

3. Wish Lists
Who doesn’t love a good to-do list? Wish-lists are the shopaholic’s more expensive version of task management. Aside from the obvious benefits of digital hoarding, the merchant is able to gather vital information on what’s resonating with consumers during the holiday period.

Integrated wish lists, in recent years, have proven to capitalize on the success of social networks in order to allow customers to share (or strongly suggest) their must haves for the season. In 2015, for example, Amazon partnered with Twitter to have certain hashtags automatically add one’s desired product to an existent wish list on Amazon. Wish Lists can be re-skinned in a clever manner, in which lists items can be presented as “themed curations” (i.e. Ibiza Packing List, Gag Gifts for the Girls, etc.)

4. Promotions by Category
On-line Sample/ Flash Sales: The industry’s own version of spring cleaning. Vendors need to utilize stock and generate as much revenue before the end of the holiday period, without damaging brand association. In order to cleverly present curated trend shops, heavy amount of merchandising and creative resources are required. Changing multiple prices in a catalog can be time consuming and restrict employees from reacting quickly to real-world situations. By offering price reductions using category promotion rules verses granular SKU price changes, you are truly allowing your merchandisers to eat, drink and be merry. (Never mind Magento 2.1’s content scheduler; it’s like Christmas and Chanukah and the Fourth of July all at once).

5. Bundled Products
Bundled products allow for a consumer to enter a robust product catalog via a single product entry. Bundled products are fantastic in regards to brand communication, product education, and effective style guidance. With an emphasis on increasing AOV and category cross pollination, bundled products are an effective way to introduce consumers into a new category or vertical, while offering financial benefits. Clever messaging around bundled items - Stocking Stuffers, Gifts for Couples, Holiday Looks, Complete the Perfect Red Lip- can allow a brand to present static product in an endearing manner.

6. Mobility
Constant connection and multi-channel access is an expectation, not an aspiration. Mobile payment and mobile incentives encourage consumers to engage with their devices, rather than just using the device as a vehicle for product browsing. Incentives such as early access to VIP sales via mobile or complimentary gift via mobile shopping nurtures our multi device mentality (as if it needed any more nurturing).

7. Consistency and Transparency
While marketing departments work tirelessly to create cohesive brand messaging across multiple channels, the holidays see spikes in “broken links” and multiple pain points for customers. The aim of gift giving, particularly digitally, should be to remove friction and clear blocks in the funnel.

Undoubtedly, email is one of the most powerful marketing channels to drive sales. It is crucial to use this resource to not only reach a wide audience, but to communicate an accurate message. Unavailable product, convoluted promotional messaging, and discrepancies around delivery dates causes emotional crises.   

It is critical to perform iterative testing, analyze the results, and always follow with careful revisions that can be monitored. For any strategic initiative during such a high-stress time to be successful, the entire team must be flexible and agile, ready to alter plans and modify action items quickly and effectively.

With careful consideration of emerging trends and the role they play in seasonal outreach, brands will be able to bridge the gap between the consumer and vendor to ensure inventory and shipping visibility.

8. Shipping
For those last minute “ARGH, I forgot Aunt Mary was coming to Christmas Eve!” moments, services like Uber Rush offer extensive API services that allow you to integrate to their services quickly and incorporate holiday offerings simply into your existing business workflow.

About One Rockwell
One Rockwell is a full-service digital agency with exceptional abilities in intelligent commerce, known for building digital flagships and providing creative business solutions and technical direction for fashion, beauty, wellness and lifestyle brands seeking accelerated success in the online marketplace. With clients such as Oscar de la Renta, Mara Hoffman, Juice Beauty, Loeffler Randall, and ABC Carpet and Home, One Rockwell is a true digital destination for serious brands looking for strategic growth.

Contact hello@onerockwell.com to receive more information on their Holiday Readiness Package—a  how-to-guide. Package includes holiday analysis and review, a workshop with stakeholders to analyze what will achieve maximum ROI and conversion, as well as third-party audit and review and analytical assessment.

About the Contributors
Contributions for this piece were made by Heather Nigro, Paul Healion, and Colleen Oates.

Paul is One Rockwell’s Vice President of Technology and Software Architect with over 20 years of experience in the industry. Previously, he was the chief architect at spiralfrog.com and has since architected and developed solutions for Maxim, Marie Claire, Blender, and Stuff.

Colleen is One Rockwell’s Managing Director, where she oversees new business, client services, and service offering development. Colleen works closely with One Rockwell clients in regards to finding the white space within a heavily saturated digital industry.

Heather is the digital strategist at One Rockwell with experience in both the retail and agency sides since 1999. She is responsible for driving over 1 billion dollars in sales for eCommerce retailers.

Upcoming One Rockwell Event
Thursday, September 22nd, 2016, 5-7:30 pm EST, join One Rockwell, Magento, Dotmailer, Nosto and Instart Logic for a Digital Detox. Check out the details here to RSVP: http://digitaldetox.onerockwell.com/, or send Colleen@onerockwell.com an email with name and number of attendees. Spots are limited, move quick!