2020 has thrown us some curveballs. As businesses were forced to close their doors for months on end, eCommerce purchases surged, and brands scrambled to react and adapt in the best way they could to make the most of this sudden demand increase.
No one can predict how this year’s peak period will turn out, but if we take a look at the data, there’s some clear signs of what may come:
- 65 percent of UK shoppers have made more online purchases than usual while almost three quarters of these people plan to shop primarily online during the holiday period
- Global shoppers seem to be undeterred by the virus with 87 percent saying they will still be shopping for Christmas and other seasonal events
- 57 percent are still expected to make purchases on notable dates like Black Friday
Uncertain times they may be, but these stats suggest we could see an even larger shift to eCommerce than previous years which presents huge opportunities for retailers. As regional lockdowns roll on and the virus continues to bring an air of uncertainty to the current time, brands are shifting focus to their online shoppers.
How can you make the most of this increased demand? For one, gifting services are expected to grow in popularity, enabling customers to revel in the act of gift giving remotely despite the restrictions we face. But how can you add to this sense of giving and what do you need to consider to create a great gifting service on your website?
2020: the year of online gifting
How times have changed. Last year, we didn’t think twice about popping to the shops to do our Christmas shopping or to partake in Black Friday deals. It was simple to purchase your gifts, take them home, wrap them up and deliver them by hand or take advantage of the trusty post office. However, travel restrictions continue to curb our plans, social distancing and additional measures cause havoc on the high street with many stores still yet to open their doors, and courier services are already under increased demand – this year requires consumers to adapt as much as brands.
Offering a gifting service through your eCommerce store allows your customers to send a gift directly to the lucky recipient. From dedicated delivery dates to gift wrapping, personal recommendations and unique messaging, you can transform your customers frustrations into a fuss free shopping experience. Keep reading to find out what you should consider to get your online store ready for peak gifting.
Don’t confuse your customers
All taking place online, a gifting service could leave room for confusion if you don’t communicate clearly. Do you offer gift wrapping? If so, let your customers know what the item will look like when wrapped – what colour is the wrapping paper? Can they choose a gift bag instead? Will a note be included and if so, can it be personalised?
By not being specific with the details of what you are offering, it’s hard to manage expectations which could result in disappointed customers. Provide information, FAQs and photographs to answer questions your shoppers may have.
Offer personalised messaging
It’s advisable to offer personalised messaging functionality within your service allowing shoppers to add messages to their gifts such as “Don’t open until Christmas!” or “Happy 25th Wedding Anniversary Sarah & Tom”. Making the gifting experience even more unique to the recipient, this helps create a connection between brand and consumer. Additionally, if you have the email of the recipient, why not send them an email featuring a 5% discount off their first order to entice them and turn them into a loyal customer.
Provide gift receipts
Usually when an item is purchased via an eCommerce store, the product is delivered with an invoice which contains your order details and price. But when you’re gifting a product, you wouldn’t want to share this information.
As such, you should aim to offer the functionality to send an item direct to the recipient with only a gift receipt included or email a receipt direct to the buyer. This ensures a return is simple for the recipient if required but doesn’t divulge any unnecessary details.
Shout about your USP
Your gifting service is a USP that needs to attract the attention of your audience, reinforcing why they should shop with you. eCommerce grows in competition and communicating this USP could be the difference between whether a conversion is with you or with a competitor.
The best way to communicate with your audience is to tell them regularly and at different points in their shopping journey including your social media, email marketing, homepage, product pages and checkout. Wherever your user lands, make sure your USP is effectively communicated. This could be done by:
- Including a USP bar on each page: This could be added to the above or below of your header for maximum exposure. It needs to be designed for both desktop and mobile as your mobile messaging will need to be punchier due to smaller screens. Henry London feature their bar below their header, featuring multiple USPs that each encourage users to shop with them.
- Product pages: The gifting service should be reinforced as the customer continues their shopping journey. Adding a dedicated USP block on your product pages is a great place to communicate with your audience. This is an effective area to go into more detail on the service describing what the service includes and how the customer can add it to their basket.
- In your shopping basket: Once the customer has moved onto this touchpoint, they are seriously considering making a purchase. This makes it the perfect opportunity to promote your gifting service by outlining the benefits of choosing your brand over the competition. L’Occitane does this effectively by giving you the option to select whether or not your item is a gift. The customer is then presented with their available options before they proceed to payment.
You should also make it as quick and simple as possible for a user to add the gifting service to their order. This could be done in the checkout or on product pages with a simple checkbox functionality.
Offer specific delivery dates
This is a useful option to provide your shoppers with, but it requires consideration around your supply chain, logistics and stock levels. If a shopper wants to order a birthday present now but doesn’t want it delivering until three weeks’ time, can the logistical element of your business operations support this as well as your website?
Last year for Father’s Day, Hampers made sure to shout about their guaranteed delivery dates across their website, instilling confidence in their customers and reinforcing yet another reason why the purchase should be made with them.
It’s important to have conversations with your courier provider and warehouse teams as early as possible around dated deliveries to understand what can be achieved. An eCommerce agency will be able to build and integrate this functionality into your site, but it’s just as important to keep your internal teams in the loop. Remember, even if it’s the delivery provider who misses the specific delivery date, this will still reflect negatively on your brand.
Be transparent with deliveries and returns
No one wants to order a gift only to find out it wasn’t delivered to the recipient on time. You must be transparent with your online audience and ensure cut off dates and times are clearly communicated – particularly on the run up to Christmas.
Equally as important, your return policies need to be displayed on various areas of your website. As sales increase, it’s likely your returns will too, particularly over Christmas when people won’t necessarily have received a gift they love. If an item has been gifted through an online service, it becomes all the more important to communicate how recipients can make a return if needed.
Remember, there will be individuals who are unable or reluctant to visit their local postal service at this time and couriers will experience an increased demand. We would always advise extending your returns policy during this time. Not only does it help maintain a good relationship between consumer and brand, but it could also be the deciding factor on whether they purchase from you again. Taking this approach can also help to reduce your returns rate.
Use gifting guides
Your website isn’t the only asset that needs consideration at this time of year. Now is also the perfect time to get supporting content in place such as gift guides, imagery and diagrams. This content can make all the difference in inspiring a shopper along their buying journey by pointing out relevant gift ideas.
We also advise creating pricing guides as many shoppers prefer to browse by price, for example, ‘Gift ideas under £50’.
Create gifting bundles
Take the hassle out of gifting for your customers by creating gift bundles. By grouping appropriate products together, bundles can be discounted at a better value to customers and this also speeds up the process of them having to search through your website for the ideal gifts.
This is a feature that Beer Hawk boasts, offering different bundles based on different calendar dates including birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Oktoberfest. Many shoppers will be grateful for the gifting guidance and the ability to place just one bundle into their basket.
Let’s get personal
Gift buying should be as unique as the recipient receiving the product. Why not integrate functionality that allows customisations of appropriate products? This can be built bespoke into a Magento store, allowing shoppers to personalise their products. An impressive USP, especially over the peak period, Henry London advertise this service across their product page and homepage.
Offer a subscription service
If your brand’s products or services can adapt to a subscription, this can be a great alternative to regular gifts. Once again, this option takes the hassle out of gifting and also allows you to gift a product that lasts months or even a year.
This is another unique gift idea that Beer Hawk offer through their Beer Club. Treating a friend to a gift voucher or online subscription, shoppers have the choice to purchase the option that best suits them – a convenient and unique gifting experience.
Think about your website’s navigation
Preparation for peak begins early for a reason. If you choose to implement some of the features mentioned in this blog such as product bundles, subscription services and gift guides, changes may need to be made to your website to accommodate these. It’s important to consider how these features could affect your navigation and categories way ahead of peak commencing.
Even without adding extra gifting functionality to your website, your navigation bar can still come in handy to create categories that are gift related. These could include “gifts for her” or “gifts for under £30” for example to make your shopper’s experience as straight forward as possible.
Your navigation should always be easy to use and as relevant as possible, allowing shoppers to reach the pages they want fast. If you have space in your navigation bar, we advise placing your gifting pages towards the top of the header. If a user is searching for a gift set or product inspiration, they can see what your brand has to offer upon entering your website which helps to increase ease of purchase.
This experience isn’t just about the person buying the gift, it’s also about the person receiving it. No matter what external circumstances we face, to succeed in eCommerce, it’s important to always place your audience’s wants and needs at the core. Adapting to the way they choose to shop helps to foster brand loyalty and increase conversions.
We understand that this year’s peak period has more uncertainty than any other year. If you need a hand from a team of eCommerce strategists who’s vast insight and years of experience increase website performance, get in touch.