The gift journey in e-commerce

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By Margot Bonhomme, Marketing Manager @Botfuel

February 10, 2021

The gift market is evolving and adapting to new french consumption habits. Today, brands offer a variety of products, for all budgets and desires. However, the gift purchase remains complex and very much linked to emotions, which complicates the implementation of effective gift journeys in e-commerce. So How do you do it? What solutions can be put in place?

The gift journey: challenges and issues

Gifts: a timeless purchase

Gifts are everywhere. A must-have for most celebrations and holidays, the gift is, first, a social purchase. Linked to the emotional, it is not a purchase of reason.

Let us take the example of end-of-year celebrations. The 2019 forecasts envisaged an evolution of + 9.5% for gifts. The estimates were lower than expected since the percentage growth was 12%.

Gifts that are deeply rooted in purchasing habits. However, they are impacted by the changes in the consumption habits of the French. According to Fevad, “8 out of 10 online shoppers do their Christmas shopping online”. “Mobile shoppers are on the rise: 43% of them have made online purchases from their phone in the 12 past months. For Christmas, nearly one in two consults their mobile to accommodate their purchases." Explains Marc Lolivier, General Delegate of Fevad. More and more of them are also choosing mobile phones for their purchases. There is an increase of 40%.

This is also the case for all the festivals that punctuate the calendar year. On Valentine's Day, 44% spend more than €50 to please the one they love. More than a third of French people celebrate this day. They are also 61% to celebrate Mother's Day and 43% to celebrate Father's Day.

Depending on the celebration, it is not the same industries that are affected. The toy sector is one of the big winners at Christmas, where flowers and jewelry make a big part of their turnover at the start of the year thanks to Valentine's Day or Mother's Day. When we ask the French about the gifts they plan to give to their partner on the occasion of Valentine's Day, flowers (22%), perfume (16%), and jewelry (13%) form the trio of heads.

When we ask the French about the gifts they offer the most at Christmas, games, and toys (40%), cultural products (40%) and clothes (32%) form the top three.

When we ask the French about the gifts they offer at the last minute for Christmas, books (32%), chocolates (27%), and cosmetics (21%) form the top three. For children, board games (26%), construction toys (25%), and books (23%) come first.

When we ask the French about the gifts they plan to offer their father on the occasion of their birthday, wine (7%), perfume (6%), and a taste experience (6%) form the trio of heads.

The complexity of the gift journey

Online, the gift remains difficult to buy. Giving a gift takes on a strong relational stake and amplifies a fear: that of deceiving. According to a Kantar survey for PayPal, 85% admit having difficulty choosing a gift for a loved one. How to be sure that the gift pleases them?

The buyer must then carefully probe. He has to understand the needs and desires of the person to whom he is offering the gift. He must succeed in conveying emotion with the act of offering. It is on this same emotion that brands must bet. Julien Hervé, Head of Innovation at Gémo, explains betting “both on the emotional, to remove all the irritants from the purchasing process, and, at the very least, not to provoke negative emotions, and on the conversational, to talk to the consumer, to understand him and in fine, to be in affinity with him”.

The emotional is both the problem and the answer for e-merchants, who must succeed in inspiring. Even if the suggestions of relatives (77%) remain the majority source of inspiration for consumers, many of them let themselves be influenced by brands. Advertising catalogs (40%) come in second, followed by in-store promotions (21%), then social networks (15%), and finally the media (10%)1.

Even once the idea is found, it will then be necessary to find the right product. This is the greatest difficulty for brands. How to successfully create a relationship, based on emotions and desires, online? How to succeed in reassuring the consumer in his choice and his purchase?

How to simplify the search for a gift on your e-commerce site?

Optimization of the category page

You have several solutions to highlight a category. One of them is the search bar.

As explained Marie-Aurore Canton, EMEA Regional Digital Director of the Shiseido Group, “Beauty is in essence on the register of emotion.” This is why this industry particularly emphasizes its gift category.

L'Occitane and Yves Rocher promote a gift category throughout the year. Sephora prefers to choose key moments. For Christmas, it highlights its selection of products as well as the boxes specially designed for the occasion.

L'Occitane simplifies the search by offering different categories: price, genre, product… they are mixed but allow visitors to find themselves in two clicks on product pages. The brand has also created a search engine, which with 3 questions will bring you to a selection of boxes. We can nevertheless take a critical look at these assistants, which remain generic and quick. More than finding the real rare pearl, they can inspire and/or complete the main gift.

Creation of a simple gift card program (with example)

In the previous examples, we notice that gift cards are always highlighted, and for good reason. The value of gift cards sold in France represents around 4 billion euros. This market is growing at around 15-20% per year. Easy to offer and without real risk-taking, it is very convenient. Also, thanks to e-commerce, acquiring it requires very little effort: 100% digital, it arrives directly in your mailbox. Some can even be personalized.

The Blackhawk study confirms the interest of consumers for the gift card: 55% of them are interested in giving or receiving one. This interest is even stronger among Millennials who wish to offer one at 69% and receive one at 67%. This is surely linked to the use of smartphones: its users are 3 times more likely to be interested in a digital gift card than others.

And gift cards are used:

  • 42% use them immediately
  • 42% say they have already self-offered a card to accumulate loyalty points

These cards are also sources of upselling for brands: 59% of those surveyed generally spend more than the value of the card. Per household and year, the number of cards purchased is equivalent to 2.6 for an average amount of €56.

How to highlight your program?

All the brands have created a sub-category in their gift idea section. Also, they clearly distinguish between the physical card and the e-card.

The difference is in the reservation. L’Occitane, for example, explains the whole process. Sephora, for its part, removes a step and directly offers to customize it. In both cases, the steps are similar and very clear for the user: choice of visual, the addition of the personalized message, choice of receipt, and then of the amount, and payment.

Optimization of the gift purchase process

The gift is still a physical purchase, due to the lack of advice available online. One of the solutions is to create an experience around this. By optimizing the customer journey, from arrival to exit, you offer a differentiating purchase.

You can either engage your visitors as soon as they arrive at your site, or wait for them to express a wish to buy a gift. Take the example of Christmas. When your users arrive at your site, you can greet them with a specific message reminding them of the period. If the person has come to your site to find a freebie, they will surely be interested. A conversation is then initiated between you and your visitor. Through different questions, you will understand what he is looking for and can therefore offer him different products. All this without leaving the page on which he arrived. If the product interests him, he just has to click on the wizard and is then directly on a product page.

You can also wait until the person is in your gift category. If you feel the visitor is hesitating, offer to help. Through various questions, just like for the previous course, you can lead him to the products that correspond to his needs. Besides, you can promote your gift card program once again.


Through categories, thanks to your gift card program or with the help of a Shopping Assistant, you have many possibilities to offer satisfying gift journeys. Despite everything, the mission is not easy. The complexity of the routes and omnichannel add a challenge for brands, as Julien Hervé explains. “The mix of digital and physical influences is causing an explosion in shopping journeys, with today as many shopping journeys as there are customers.”

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