Ten Retail Tactics to Guarantee a
Great Holiday "Gifting" Season

by Pam Danziger

As retailers finalize plans for their most important selling season (the last two months of the year typically generate from 25-40 percent of annual sales), holiday gift shopping will play an even more important role as retailers work to make up for the year's weak first and second quarters.

"Convenience is gift shoppers' top priority this year," says Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing and author of Why People Buy Things They Don't Need (Paramount Market Publishing, 2002). "Shoppers seek special gifts that are just right for the recipient, but what they want most is to shop stores that are convenient and make their gift shopping experience quick and painless."

Gift shoppers this year will return to their favorite mass merchants, Target, or major department stores where they get the widest range of gift choices at the right price. From her research with highly active gift givers, Danziger shares strategies for retailers to increase holiday gift sales.

  1. Focus on enhancing the "gifting" experience, rather than the gift. The goal of gifting is to emotionally connect the giver with the recipient. The gift itself is the means to an end, and that end is an emotional connection between individuals. Gift shoppers will reward retailers that help them enhance the gifting and gift shopping experience.

  2. Know why shoppers buy gifts. With connecting the goal, gift-givers seek gifts that show they know the recipient . After finding the right item, gifters want quality and craftsmanship, uniqueness, and an item that expresses their and the receivers' individuality. Giving shoppers a way to customize gifts, to add a special touch just for the recipient, will be rewarded.

  3. Convenience is key in shopping. While gifters want a special, emotionally evocative gift, they won't trudge from store to store to find it. In choosing a store to buy gifts, they want first and foremost convenience , so they tend to shop where they shop for themselves and know the layout. To maximize gift sales, retailers should compile a list of the top gift ideas for specific relations (e.g. husband, wife, child, coworker) and price points (e.g. $25 and under; $26-$50; $51-$100; $100+) and post this prominently at the front counter, the cash registers, on the window, to entice shoppers in for the most convenient gift shopping experience possible. For those with room, end cap displays or tables stacked high with gift ideas draw crowds.

  4. Gift certificates are key gifting strategy. Gift cards, rather than cash, are preferred by gifters because they show the gifter cares enough to have shopped. Too many stores make their gift certificate or gift card program an afterthought. This misses a HUGE opportunity to build shopper loyalty among gift givers and recipients. Increasing sales of gift certificates should be a cornerstone of a retailer's gifting strategy, since with a gift card you touch two shoppers, not just one. Gift cards should be appealing to give and to receive. Generic cards are hardly enticing . Cards should connect emotionally too, displaying popular themes, such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, SpongeBob, or other art that the individual will want to give and receive.

  5. Gifting goes on all year long. Gift shopping doesn't take place only in the last two months of the year. Heavy gift buyers, in particular, are always out and about, grazing for new ideas. They buy and stash away gifts all year long, so make gifting and gift shopping a key retail focus throughout the year.

  6. Put people back into your store. While retailers are working to remove sales help and make the shopping experience do-it-yourself, gift shoppers value the personal touch. After all they are looking for an emotional experience in the gift they choose and the store they shop, and they want knowledgeable, well-trained sales help to guide them. They also demand that the checkout process be as convenient as possible. Since everybody else is depersonalizing shopping, retailers that put the personal back into it will be greatly rewarded.

  7. Target the gifters' decision process. Gifters have a number of critical decision points in the gift shopping process. They must select something that the individual wants within their price range . To help gifters find the right gift, prepare your staff with a list of open-ended questions that will help shoppers discover the perfect gift. Make sure sales staff on the floor know the stock and can intelligently interview shoppers. The goal of gift retailing is to have the right item, at the right price, for the right person on the right occasion.

  8. Have brands and products people want NOW, not tomorrow or yesterday. Being on trend requires that you keep up with consumer passions and preferences in key product categories. The Internet can be an effective tool to follow the latest product fads and fancies. Be on the leading edge in your product lines and get rid of last year's merchandise if it's still hanging around, so that when the holiday rush hits, shoppers won't see your store looking tired.

  9. Presentation matters. In gift giving, presentation counts. To maximize sales of gifts, make sure you offer expert-quality gift wrap services with a number of gift wrap options. Gift wrap can even become a new profit center, if you think in terms of upscale luxury wrap choices. And make sure your store's name is included somewhere in the gift package, either on the box, complementary gift card or gift receipt.

  10. Position your store as a brand where gifters like to shop. Today branding your store and differentiating it as a good place to shop for gifts is critical. Make gifting a key feature of your brand by enhancing the shoppers' gifting experience, e.g. convenient, offering novel gift ideas and gift presentation options. Understand that gifting is a rare opportunity for a store to touch two consumer segments - buyer and recipient. Make the most of that opportunity by building a loyal following among both.

A new research report is available from Unity Marketing summarizing findings from eight hours of in-depth interviews with shoppers selected for active gift buying and high levels of spending. Called Gifting: The Dynamics of the Gift Giving Consumer, this concise 60+ page report covers how shoppers feel about gift giving and receiving, attributes of a good gift, how they set a gifting budget, how they select across different categories of products, where they shop and why traditional specialty gift stores don't meet their needs. Included are gifters' thoughts on15 major gift categories, such as candles, baskets, boxes and tins, personalized gifts, licensed merchandise, tabletop and dinnerware and collectibles and figurines to name a few. This research is sponsored in part by the gift industry's most forward-thinking companies, including Department 56, Glass Baron, Lenox, Longaberger, and Walt Disney, among others.

About Pam Danziger & Unity Marketing

Found in 1992, Unity Marketing (www.unitymarketingonline.com) is a marketing research and consulting firm that helps companies apply the concept of emotional marketing to corporate branding and marketing initiatives. Using its "why people buy" research strategy, Pam Danziger, company founder, president and author of Why People Buy Things They Don't Need (Ithaca, NY: Paramount Market Publishing, 2002), uncovers the motivations, desires and emotional needs that drive consumers to buy. This approach turns consumer insights into actionable marketing and brand strategies and gives executives "future vision" to plan the direction of their business. Unity produces market research studies that are essential business planning tools for executives competing in the luxury market, jewelry, art, home furnishing, gifts and collectibles, toys, personal care/cosmetics industries among others. Unity also publishes the Luxury Business and Gifts & Collectibles Business newsletters. Today Pam is at work on her next book, Let Them Eat Cake: Marketing Luxury to the Masses (as well as the Classes).


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