Holiday Shipping: Gifting
Did you know that the thrill of opening a holiday gift may have originated in 200 BC? If your eCommerce business isn’t tapping into this ancient human practice, it’s time to start! There are enormous opportunities to benefit both customer experience and your business associated with providing gift wrapping throughout the year—but especially at this time of year.
Here are the main decisions you need to make regarding your gift option(s) strategy:
- Wrapping options: Beyond the binary decision of whether to offer wrapping and gift notes, you need to determine who on your team is the best wrapper (it’s got to look pretty!), how many wrapping options to offer, the operational implications of offering them, whether and how much you should charge for wrapping or whether to use them as a threshold purchase incentive. At a minimum, offering gift notes is essential to capture holiday sentiments and identify the gift giver to the recipient.
- Shipping options: You can also make your customers’ lives easier (and increase your conversion rates and average order size) by allowing multiple shipping addresses for different items in the same order—and allowing different gift options to be chosen for each address. Make sure your selling platform can accommodate these options before you finalize your decision.
- Gift recipient information: When someone sends your product as a gift, they’re giving you a gift—the contact information of a potential new customer and one that probably has an affinity for your merchandise. Think strategically about campaigns you can set up to target these new prospects based on what you know about them: How can you use your knowledge of the gift giver’s buying history? The recipient’s geographic location? The gift they received, and the time they received it?
- Gift item pricing: in most cases, your purchaser will not want the line-item pricing included in your packing slip or anywhere that the gift recipient might see it. You will want to make sure that your packing slips can be customized to exclude this information. In addition, most purchases will expect their message to the gift recipient to make its way into the box. Update your packing slip options to include the gift notes from your selling platform by mapping the correct field.
Preparing eCommerce Orders as Gifts
Prepare to execute your gifting strategy by:
- Wrapping options: If you’re going to offer wrapping, your biggest preparation is selecting a wrapping process; will you use pre-sized wrapping envelopes? Do custom wrapping? How will you set up the wrapping operation and workspace? Is training needed? Equally important are the associated software requirements; any wrapping and note options you offer will need to be reflected in your selling platform’s user experience. Your shipping platform rules will likewise need to be updated to print notes, and possibly to flag or otherwise indicate packages to be wrapped. Finally, remember to order any needed materials like gift wrap, boxes, tape, and ribbon and have them in stock before you deploy the online functionality.
- Shipping options: Supporting multiple shipping addresses on top of wrapping options will add to the checkout process for purchasers, so be sure to keep the options in your selling platform’s online experience clean and easy to understand. You’ll also need to make significant changes to your shipping platform rules to handle the multiple addresses, and potentially to determine optimal carriers for each shipment. Finally, you need to evaluate packaging materials in the context of your wrapping process—there might be opportunities to save on shipping and/or speed up the process if you, for example, switch from free carrier materials to custom packages.
- Gift recipient information: If you want to target gift recipients, first be absolutely certain your Terms & Conditions cover this use of customer-supplied information (talk to your lawyer). Then you will need to design the data flow from your commerce system into your campaign management system and set up the campaigns.
Holiday eCommerce Wrapping and Recipient Execution
When it comes time to execute, consider:
- Wrapping options: Monitor customer selection of wrapping and note options to see if they are in line with your expectations; if not, consider adjusting the user experience and/or pricing. You’ll want to monitor the operational aspects too, to ensure the right reorder cadence for materials and that the wrapping process isn’t causing delays.
- Shipping options: If you’ve changed packaging or carriers, keep an eye on on-time delivery performance to ensure the new choices are working. If you’re seeing consistent errors with multiple shipping addresses you may want to ensure the user experience is clear.
- Gift recipient information: Keep in mind that a gift recipient might not open a gift until the actual holiday arrives—so don’t risk ruining the surprise by sending marketing materials that give it away before the holiday!
- Returns: It’s wise to keep an eye on the correlation of your return rate to all gifting options. If gift returns are higher than non-gift returns you may want to revisit gift wrap pricing as a potential way to make up for the associated cost increase.