It’s not uncommon to see brands dedicate 365 days of their customer experience strategies to their buyers’ consumer behavior. But to sustain impactful CX in our competitive digital age, brands this holiday season should be thinking about another type of consumer: the gifter.

Making a play for gift-givers

There have been some brands in the past (as well as current) holiday shopping seasons who have put the suggestive power in their customers’ hands to enable their gifters’ shopping.

Walmart and Target, for example, hold fast to the tried-and-true circulars aimed at the pre-media children of the household. For me, this is very nostalgic of the Toys “R” Us Big Book, and yet still strategic for the modern child with the absence of broadcast media to push content into the household through a mailer and let them engage… and ultimately ask.

Even Amazon got on-board with this strategy for the 2019 Holiday Season and nailed it. Complete with stickers, a fill-in and tear-out wish list, scan tags direct to the app, as well as tips and tricks to holiday gift shopping for the gift giver to scan a toy for searching within Amazon {insert mind-blown emoji here}.

There’s the suggestive gifting CX strategy where brands continue to cater to their target customers with content they can share with their gifters. The simplest version of this is a registry – Amazon being the champion using their registry as a tool for holiday gifting to share.

By promoting registries and making it more commonplace for usage during the holiday season, a CX strategy continues down the same path but requires brands (especially those selling through retailers with registries) to shift their content to encourage the use of a registry and a tactful way to share.

Leveraging social influence for gifting

Another clever route to suggestive gifting CX is through social influence. According to Adespresso, 60% of Instagram’s users have discovered new products and services while on the platform, and they’ve been open to learning more and even purchasing. Couple that with the fact that 30% of users say they’ve bought a product they discovered on Instagram (through sponsored ads), you’ve got the makings of a great holiday suggestive gifting CX strategy. Marketers should encourage sharable and shoppable content both in the feed and social stories that put the suggestive gifting in the power of your everyday customer creating a modern wish list.

Mapping the gifter’s buyer persona

A gifter’s buyer persona has one goal in mind: gift the right gift. Targeting this buyer independently from everyday customers, beyond the obvious pay-to-play buying guides, means running a satellite CX strategy. And bear in mind, the gifters have little-to-no experience with the brand and will only engage for a short timeline.

Making products or services seem like the right gift to someone who is not the consumer is a carefully crafted plan that gets the sale and the gifter the experience with the brand – as well as the confidence in sourcing the right gift. Fortunately, shopping habits shifted, especially for the GenZ, millennial, and GenX gifters to online, mobile, BOPUS (buy online, pick-up in-store), and a combo of that on something called the “edge of shopping.”

“This holiday, we expect to see more shopping move to the edge, particularly with younger shoppers who are 3.5x more likely than older generations to purchase on these emerging digital intermediaries,” states SalesForce’s 2019 Holiday Shopping Predictions.

Tactics to consider (when targeted to the gifter)

Offer free shipping. At a minimum, the universal CX strategy for the gifters needs to include free shipping (even if it’s overnight) or a BOPUS option for the last-minute gifting options. Considering the shortest holiday shopping season is occurring this year, CX strategies for the gifters needs to cater to their procrastination side. Search, social, display and review content should bolster this message to showcase the brand in a frictionless gift acquisition experience.

Marketing free shipping is unspeakably easy if your brand gifts services or subscriptions. Plus we, as a consuming society, are on the trends of an “experience economy” anyhow, so a gifters’ CX strategy of purchasing something that the recipient can experience, maybe even with the gifter, is a win-win.

Build from a new audience. Other thoughts on shifting a CX strategy to the gifters for the holiday season are to adapt content to an audience that is brand new. These gifters are entering a foreign land with the brand and they need to feel welcomed. Search terms need to adjust, positioning of content needs to adjust, remarketing content needs to speak to the gifter, etc. as a foreigner in your land. The end consumer knows what they want and how to find it, but the gifter may describe it differently. You say “at home chef,” I say “prepared meals.”

Cover the go-to marketplaces. According to AdEspresso’s 2019 Holiday Consumer Shopping Survey, “Amazon now rivals stores as a starting point for holiday shopping, and outranks all other online gift sources – making a presence on the platform all but mandatory. At the same time, Google remains a valuable holiday shopping tool, with traffic and revenue on its Shopping platform poised for further growth; continued investment in paid search advertising remains critical for the holiday period.” 

Consider organic and paid search. That being noted, gifters are using Amazon and Google as their starting point in general. So beyond having shoppable products within these giants, adapting the SEO and SEM strategy towards the gifter will give brands an advantage. Searching for what to get is the first experience in the process of gifting, period. And bonus tidbit – ”” was the most Googled term in the entire US for Christmas 2018. Any marketing friends want to split a bottle of eggnog with me and dissect the irony of that?

Enabling dynamic search from the gift-givers’ POV adjusts the strategy and effectively connects with the one who would not normally search for this brand. The standards and highest-ranked phrases during the holiday season are “gifts for {insert consumer here}”, but if there’s budget to expand beyond that to “… who like {insert interest here}”, this becomes a simple adaptation to the SEO/SEM strategy and becomes the doorway to a new Gifters’ Customer Experience.

On the topic of SEO/SEM, enabling image recognition search and the associated metadata will capture the interest of the technically advanced gifters who are using AI to scan products as they see them to shop instantly. This enhancement is a bit beyond my comprehension of execution, but certainly a powerful tool to use for the gifters’ customer experience.

Entertain the gifter. Another notable trend, especially around holiday shopping, is retail-tainment that can be applied as part of a gifters’ CX strategy. This has been executed primarily in-store with free coffee or toy testing. But imagine retail-tainment as a form of experiential marketing to target gifters in both a physical and digital sense. Shape a customer experience around the gifter that is entertaining and brands will surely have a purchase as well as a lasting impression. Think gameplay, AR, customization, or personalization of the gifting process.

Lastly, for anyone reading who is thinking about getting me a gift for this holiday season, JetBlue miles please! You will not be disappointed with their CX strategy and I swear, I’ll use the miles to visit.

More about retail for the winter holidays

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Sharon is a marketing and creative ops pro with a deep foundation in advertising. Back by 15-plus years of marketing, she is focused on leading marketing strategies, innovative campaigns and content production for international brands in the retail and hospitality spaces. Boasting agency and in-house executive marketing roles, her roster of clients includes Seaworld Parks & Entertainment, Under Armour, The Limited, Petco and Clinique – to name a few. Currently, Sharon works as a consultant for various organizations to lead CX marketing strategy plans, branding, digital content and experiential activations.