This holiday season, many consumers will be skipping the in-person holiday parties and family gatherings. This doesn’t mean there can’t (and won’t) be any gift giving, though. Gift giving this year might just look a bit different than what we’re used to.
This year, many consumers will opt for online shopping instead of their usual trips to the busy malls. Instead, your customers will be in search of convenient shopping that simplifies the experience of selecting, purchasing, and delivering gifts to their loved ones.
Some shoppers who wish to avoid browsing in person might opt to buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS). With BOPIS, customers can pick up the gift they’ve selected, wrap it, and deliver it themselves. But this season, with social distancing limiting the amount of in-person contact that families and friends can have, it makes sense to offer more options.
For customers who want a streamlined gift giving experience, retailers can make their store “virtual” gifting friendly. This means enabling your customers to select a gift, have it wrapped, and mail it directly to the recipient – all via your ecommerce site.
Here’s how you can hit those holiday sales targets by making “virtual gifting” a a breeze:
1. Optimize your PDP page to include important details, including why a product is a good gift.
A product detail page (PDP) is always a key element of the online shopping experience for your customers. It’s on the PDP that customers are delivered the information about a product that propels them to make a purchase with confidence.
Concise product titles, detailed product descriptions, images, video, and a clearly displayed price all contribute to a PDP that converts. But how can a PDP be optimized for the holidays? If you’d like your customers to consider giving your products as gifts this season, then inspire them to do so by making this suggestion in your product descriptions.
Product descriptions provide an opportunity to communicate with your customers. They guide shoppers in the same way that a salesperson in a brick and mortar store will guide a shopper through the uses and benefits of a piece of merchandise. This means that your product descriptions are the perfect place to emphasize that a product might not just be perfect for the person shopping, but for others as well.
In our full guide to writing product descriptions, we explain how important it is to know your buyer. Knowing your buyer allows you to compose descriptions that use language which speaks directly to that buyer. For the holiday season, your customer persona should evolve to include gift givers.
Rather than framing a product description as a product for the shopper themselves, add a few sentences that illustrate who the product could be a gift for, and why that product would be a great gift for them.
For example, weighted blankets are typically described as promoting a better sleep, relaxation, and a cozy, calm feeling. This product description could be expanded to include a sentence that suggests giving the gift of a perfect sleep. With this simple optimization, shoppers are then inspired to consider the blanket as not just a product for themselves, but for others too.
2. Set realistic fulfillment expectations.
Holiday shopping has historically become busier and busier in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day. Traditionally, the week of Christmas is the busiest time of all as consumers scramble to pick up gifts. But in 2020, shoppers won’t be able to rely on their previous last-minute shopping habits.
With the pandemic spurring a sudden acceleration in ecommerce, retailers have already been grappling with interruptions to their supply chain, and other logistics. For some, this has reduced the speed of their fulfillment and shipping times. And shipping times in December will be of particular concern.
Consumers who opt to do their gift shopping online might be doing so for the first time. Or, they might have an established expectation for shipping times based on their previous online shopping experiences. This year, retailers will need to shift the expectations of their customers so that they can accommodate order volume, avoid the December rush, and keep their customers happy.
When purchasing gifts for friends, family, and other loved ones, consumers need to know how quickly that gift will be shipped and received, whether or not it could be returned, and how it would be returned if need be. Your store policies are where customers will look for this information, so now is a good time to review and update them.
Here are some other simple strategies you can implement to set realistic expectations for shipping times, and reduce the December rush:
- Ensure shipping times (and cost) are clearly displayed through the purchase funnel, including at checkout. Consider adding a banner to your website that displays this information clearly.
- Hold a sale in the fall rather than in the lead up to Christmas. They are a great tool for encouraging a high volume of sales. By launching a store sale in October or November, you can organically promote gift shopping earlier in the season.
Of course, it’s important to ensure your store policies and shipping information are up to date and easily accessible all year round. But this holiday season, they’ll be especially key in shifting shopping habits and expectations in a way that avoids customer confusion.
3. Create an email flow that notifies gift recipients that a gift is on the way.
One of the simplest ways to minimize customer frustration is through active communication. Your customers will want to know that their order has been received, is being processed, when it is on its way, and when it has been delivered. The importance of communication is no different when a customer is purchasing a gift to be sent directly to the recipient.
At checkout, most stores offer the option to send an order to an address different from the billing address. This year, in-person gift giving has been interrupted by social distancing measures. So, many consumers will rely on this shipping feature to send gifts directly to their loved ones. Consider extending this experience of “virtual gifting” by introducing an order notification flow that is catered to the recipient of a gift.
An email going to the recipient of the gift can simply let them know, “you have a gift on the way!” The email can also share details like who sent the gift, when they can expect to receive it, and the address it is being mailed to. By introducing communications with both the giver and receiver, you can help to reduce friction in the delivery process.
And, letting someone know they’re receiving a gift isn’t just convenient for them, it gives the giver peace of mind. Much of the time, gift giving is not about the actual merchandise, it’s about the sentiment. A message saying a gift is on the way ensures that the sentiment is communicated, even if there are shipping delays.
This type of automated email flow is already standard in gifting verticals like flowers and gift baskets. But now, it’s relevant for almost all retailers as we expect gifting in 2020 to be more virtual than ever before. And, strong communication will continue to benefit your brand even after the holidays, because it reduces inquiries to your business’s customer service team, and it supports a unified and omnichannel shopping experience for your customers. Overall, active communication will strengthen customer loyalty.
4. Offer options for gift personalization at store checkout.
Shopping online won’t be quite the same experience as shopping in a brick and mortar store, bringing a gift home, wrapping it up with a note, and giving it to the recipient in person. But by offering features on your ecommerce store that emulate the gift giving process, you can create a familiar holiday shopping experience for your customers.
- Offer gift wrapping at checkout
Hallmark estimates that the gift wrapping industry in the U.S. alone generates $3.2 billion in retail sales. That’s because wrapping is an integral part of the gift giving culture. With holiday shoppers relying on ecommerce this year, it’s worth introducing gift wrap as a simple upsell at checkout.
This feature will raise your AOV and provide your customers with added convenience. Plus, by highlighting this checkout feature across your website, you can incentivize consumers to purchase their holiday gifts from your store. By emphasizing that you offer gift wrapping, you can tap into the power of suggestion.
- Offer the option to add a note to a gift
Another simple way to emulate the festivity of the holidays is to provide the option for customers to add a personal note to their gift. Add a form field in the checkout process where customers can write a brief note.
Depending on your fulfillment and shipping process, the note can then be included as a physical note in the package that is sent to the recipient, or, it can be included in the email confirmation that lets the recipient know a gift is on the way. This feature adds an option for personalization that your customers will appreciate!
Prepare for a Season of Virtual Gifting
This holiday season will be more reliant on online shopping than ever before. Customers won’t be able to shop in person, and in many cases won’t be able to deliver their gifts in person. Instead, consumers will rely on ecommerce to emulate the experience of holiday shopping and gift giving.
Updated PDPs, setting realistic shipping expectations, and offering the ability for customers to include a personal note and gift wrapping are all ways to make gift giving feel personal and special. Details like these will not only help boost your sales, but they have the potential to impress the recipients of gifts too. This means, this holiday season is an opportunity to earn new customers. With October around the corner, now is the time to optimize!
This article originally appeared in the Diff Agency blog and has been published here with permission.