A vast majority of customers prefer to shop for gifts online. They’re just extremely picky about where they shop.
If they’re not buying their gifts from your store, you’re missing out on a massive chunk of the market. So, how can you encourage your customers to do their gift shopping at your online store?
This guide will help you develop your online store into a gift-shopping powerhouse.
The proportion of shopping done online grows every year, especially during traditionally-busy seasons like the holidays. The words “Black Friday” bring to mind fantastic sales, but also huge, overwhelming crowds that most shoppers would prefer to avoid. Similar situations occur at other times of the year too; although usually on a smaller scale, every time a gift-giving holiday rolls around you’ll see sales everywhere— and mobs of stressed-out shoppers, too. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and more are quickly becoming “miniature Black Fridays” in that respect. Shopping online offers the best of both worlds: deep discounts and no crowds! There’s still a certain level of anxiety, however, when it comes to shopping online for gifts. Usually when shopping for a gift, customers are more cautious than when they shop for themselves. Common fears include:
Plus, gift shoppers also worry that the recipient simply won’t like the item, which means they also have concerns about the ease of the return or exchange process. In short, they don’t want their gift to result in embarrassment for themselves or an unnecessary hassle for the recipient. When buying gifts online, these concerns are amplified. Gift shoppers are handing over much of the responsibility of their gift giving to an eCommerce store. When shopping in person, the customer can hold the item in their hand and examine it personally. Online, they don’t have that luxury. Take the list of common fears above and add to it the concerns that the eCommerce store will:
When you consider these in combination with the usual online shopping concerns (like having personal data stolen), it’s easy to see how a customer’s fears can snowball to the point that they consider online gift shopping to be too big of a risk.
Yet, a vast majority of customers still prefer to shop for gifts online. They’re just extremely picky about where they shop. If they’re not buying their gifts from your store, you’re missing out on a massive chunk of the market. So, how can you encourage your customers to do their gift shopping at your online store?
This guide will help you develop your online store into a gift-shopping powerhouse.
Your customers need, above all, to trust you. At the basic level, you’ll need to have strong security to ensure to them that their personal data will be safe. SSL encryption is an absolute must, and the shopping cart platform you use should be PCI Compliant. With these powerful security features, your customers’ data will be safe.
The other half of the equation when building trust is customer service. If customers know you can always be reached and that you’ll communicate effectively with them, it makes a huge difference in their willingness to buy from you, whether for themselves or for others. A clear return policy is a must, and generous time limits on returns make a good impression on customers. You can also provide special return offers, like free returns for a set period of time. When you give customers an easy, considerate way to return or exchange their items, it gives them the feeling that you value them as people rather than just wanting their money.
If you want your store to become your customers’ favorite place to do their gift shopping, you can’t stop at good security and customer service. There are several features you should implement on your store that will essentially optimize it for buying gifts. With the following features, you’ll be able to address nearly all the usual worries about gift shopping, making the decision to buy from you a breeze.
Gift wrapping is the most obvious feature to implement, and one of the most beneficial to your sales. Offering gift wrapping can earn you more customers almost on its own, simply for the time and effort you’re saving them. Many shoppers don’t have the time, skill, or space to wrap gifts themselves. Plus, if they’re buying a gift that’s being shipped directly to the recipient, they don’t want it to arrive in a plain, boring box! Offer them choices, like Regular and Deluxe wrapping, and set reasonable pricing for both. The charge for gift wrapping can result in an increased average order value when customers select a gift wrap option— and gives you something else to run promotions for, like offering free gift wrapping at certain times.
Ideally, your online store would offer gift wrapping all through the year to serve birthday purchases as well as the holidays. You could even get creative and offer themed gift wrapping for different times of the year. Just remember you’ll need a way to actually wrap the gifts!
Your online store needs the capability to provide all the necessary detail to ensure your customer knows exactly what they’re buying. Remember that customers’ primary concerns about buying gifts all center on getting the “wrong” item, which sometimes just means it’s not what they expected. To ease their worries, provide them with enough information on your product pages to leave no doubt in their minds.
Be sure to write detailed, accurate descriptions and include important information like measurements, specifications, size charts, care instructions, and any other facts that could be of help. Of course, the information you should add will depend on the type of products you sell.
No matter what you’re selling, here’s something that always helps customers with their decision: numerous, detailed product images. High-quality images are the only substitute for personal inspection of an item. If a customer can view the item from multiple angles, zoom in and see details, and look at pictures of the product being worn or used, they’ll be strongly encouraged to make the purchase. Your product images should make it very clear what the customer (and the gift recipient) can expect.
Video is another powerful medium that can be very helpful in a purchasing decision. It’s less useful for some products, like apparel, but very good for products that have moving parts, like toys or power tools. When a gift shopper watches a product video, they’ll be picturing the gift recipient using the item. Seeing it in action can be very convincing.
There are technical considerations involved in providing your customers with these visual aids— you will need storage and bandwidth to handle this media. Pictures and video can take a lot of disk space, especially if you have a large number of products, and they also use bandwidth every time a customer loads them on the page. It’s best to use a shopping cart solution that will give you all the storage and bandwidth you need.
People love wish lists. For gift recipients, they provide an easy way to keep track of desired items and share with friends. For gift givers, they eliminate the risk of buying an unwanted gift and generally make shopping for others much easier. Your sales will benefit from enabling the creation of wish lists on your eCommerce site (and not just for gift giving— wish lists are a powerful word-of-mouth advertising tool).
If your store has wish lists available, customers will pick out items they want to receive and then send others directly to your site to buy their gifts. Ensure you have the option to create public wish lists and provide a shareable URL. For extra convenience, allow your customers to create multiple wish lists. Many serious shoppers appreciate that level of customization.
A gift registry is similar to a wish list, but focused toward a particular event like a wedding or housewarming party, although they can come in handy for just about any type of event. Birthdays, baby showers, anniversary parties, graduation, and more can all benefit from gift registries. The customer holding the event will create a gift registry and populate it with items they want their friends to purchase as gifts for their upcoming event. A customer building a gift registry list will likely go through every item on your site, or at least a substantial number of them.
Gift registries share the same benefits as wish lists, with the added advantage that the list updates when an item is purchased, so no one will buy a gift that has been bought by someone else. They’re strongly attractive to customers. However, some eCommerce platforms lack gift registry features or even implement a “shared” gift registry that can draw your customers away to competitors. Make sure you use a platform with gift registry capabilities that apply internally to your store only.
Recall that a significant number of online shoppers worry that gifts purchased on the internet won’t arrive in time. You can ease this customer concern by making the shipping process as smooth as possible. Consider connecting to multiple shipping carriers to give your customers a choice, and offer real-time shipping rates to prevent unpleasant surprises during checkout. For an attractive bonus, consider offering free shipping wherever it fits your sales strategy.
Customers appreciate prompt attention, so handle and ship their items as soon as possible. Preferably, you’ll be able to print shipping labels right from your online store’s dashboard to help speed up the process and get gifts shipped in a timely manner. To further gain customer confidence, provide tracking numbers for their packages.
When holidays are approaching, be sure to inform your customers as to the latest possible date they can make a purchase and have it arrive in time for the big day
Online shoppers love shortcuts— that’s why they’re shopping online in the first place, after all. If you allow your customers to ship different items from the same order to different destinations, they’ll greatly appreciate it. The ability to have all the items from a single order ship to multiple destinations is the type of feature that causes customers to sigh in relief when they see it available. Anyone who needs to buy a large number of gifts knows it’s much more convenient to be able to buy all 10 gifts in one order and have them sent to 10 different recipients, rather than needing to make 10 separate orders! This is a vital feature during the holidays, but also comes in handy year-round for situations like corporate gift giving.
Ideally, delivery to multiple addresses can be accomplished with the same level of automation as your standard shipping options, and not require that the customer upload a list of addresses or make use of other workarounds. If you rely on those types of measures for multiple ship-to, you’ll lose out on the ability to automatically generate shipping labels, as well as encounter other potential difficulties.
Let’s face it: sometimes, no matter the lengths a customer goes to choose the right gift, the recipient still needs to do a return or exchange. Make sure you have a solid, clear return policy to handle these situations. Include all the important details, like the time frame during which you’ll accept returns, and the condition the item must be in to be accepted.
Return and exchange processing can be vastly simplified by using an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) system. In fact, you should consider this a critical feature. An RMA system provides a way for you to request information from the customer to aid your decision whether to accept the return or exchange.
The option of issuing store credit will greatly complement your refund and exchange system. In many cases, store credit can be a lot simpler for both you and the customer, and ensures your store keeps the sale. The customer is more likely to initiate their return in a timely manner if they know they won’t have to choose an exchange item right away. Ensure the shopping cart software you use has a store credit feature that gives you the convenience of processing store credit directly from an RMA and also allows you to add it to customer accounts manually— it’s a great customer service tool.
Gift certificates have become a very popular option because they eliminate the need for the shopper to choose an item— instead, the giver provides the recipient a way to pick their own gift! If you offer gift certificate codes through email, you also eliminate the problem of shipping time, which makes them perfect for last-minute gifts. Gift certificates can also draw new customers to your store in the opposite way as wish lists and gift registries. Rather than the gift recipient spreading the word by sharing their wish list, they’re drawn to your store to redeem the certificate and may return at a later date to make additional purchases.
It’s important to create your gift certificates to be appealing to your customers. Offer them in different amounts and provide a way for the buyer to add a message for the recipient. Ideally, you’ll also be able to keep track of gift certificates once issued. Summary Some customers will always feel that shopping online, and gift buying, both present an element of risk. If your online store is attractive, easy to use, and has strong security, you’ll earn their trust. If you implement all the features listed in this guide, you’ll build a compelling eCommerce website that customers will feel mitigates the usual risks of online gift shopping.
Your eCommerce Platform If you’re looking for the perfect shopping cart software to build an online store that’s completely optimized for gift shopping, 3dcart comes with all the features— and none of the potential issues— mentioned in this article.