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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

How your retail strategy can help consumers choose the perfect gift

At the end of the day, gift-giving is all about showing love, be that romantic, familial, or friendship. When you can help your consumers find and send the right gifts, you are supporting these efforts.

How your retail strategy can help consumers choose the perfect gift
[Atlas / AdobeStock]

Every year, I panic about finding the right gift for my husband. Last year was especially nerve-wracking because he was turning 50.

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For months, I wracked my brain for an appropriately momentous gift for my husband. A big party? Nope. I threw him a surprise party last year, and when he arrived, he politely chatted for 30 minutes, then made a hasty retreat. A membership to a nice gym? Nope. I’m the one who wants him to exercise. A couples massage? No again—although it sounded nice, it didn’t feel right.

In time, I realized that every gift I thought of had much more to do with me than with him. I wanted him to exercise, I wanted a massage, and I like throwing parties more than he likes attending them. Each of these gifts was based on my own preferences; I needed to think about what he wanted.

What he wanted came to me almost immediately: he wanted the gift of family time—the present of our presence. So on his birthday, we gathered our children, put away our phones, and took a walk to the beach. We mobile ordered a picnic package of his favorite foods and enjoyed time together—the simple gift of a perfect day.

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THE PERFECT GIFT

When finding a gift for a loved one with impeccable taste—the parent who claims to need nothing, the sibling who never likes anything—consumers may feel overwhelmed. It is easy to get so wrapped up in finding the “perfect gift” that gift-givers may lose sight of how that person might just want to receive appreciation and love.

Many shoppers approach the process the roundabout way I did. But if they are entirely focused on finding the “perfect” gift or being the “best” gift-giver, they will likely miss the mark—because the perfect gift isn’t perfect, it’s actually personal.

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ONLINE SHOPPING GETS PERSONAL

Making gifts personal is not only relevant for the gift-giver, but for retailers looking to supply that gift. Retailers may collect web cookies to help better understand who consumers are and where they can be reached, but that doesn’t mean they are going to be able to help me find the perfect gift for my husband.

So, how can retailers help? By taking the same approach I did and really thinking about what customers want—a personalized and easy experience.

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This isn’t just about filters and recommendations, but retailers making it easier than ever to seamlessly browse, purchase and send gifts. If I bought a shirt for my husband last year that he loved, I want to easily be able to refer back to it, see the style and size, and determine other options. If I want to send a gift to my mother from her favorite shop, having her address saved from my last purchase makes it possible to ship the gift in just minutes.

Gift-givers can utilize such online stores to make friends and family feel as beautiful as they truly are. Where others hesitate to purchase outfits for recipients who may sit outside of common sizing, I want to use online guides and recommendations to find something that makes them feel stunning. Personalization features like this on e-commerce websites allow consumers like myself to purchase more personal gifts for loved ones.

IT’S TIME FOR RETAILERS TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

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Helping consumers find the perfect gift is also about creating retail options that go beyond a single shopping experience. When it comes to finding a gift, sometimes it’s better to let the recipient take the lead. Finicky shoppers can create wish lists online with the exact items they are hoping to receive, giving recipients more agency and gift-givers less stress.

Sometimes empowering recipients to seek their own gift is the gift itself. For a friend of mine who is an avid reader, the best gift she could receive is a certificate from her local bookstore. She likes to take the time to roam the aisles of the store and pick out her own books, knowing that she has the money to purchase whichever books jump out at her.

It’s important that retailers think of options like these that go beyond the traditional wrapped item. More and more consumers are looking to gift and receive experiences—be it a picnic or the ability to buy something for themselves.

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In many ways, “the perfect gift” is not actually about the gift at all. It’s about the experience and the intent behind it. This rings true if consumers are purchasing the gift from their favorite retailer or receiving the gift from a close friend.

At the end of the day, gift-giving is all about showing love, be it romantic, familial, or friendship. When you can help your consumers find and send the right gifts, you are supporting these efforts. Retaining a digital memory of consumer and recipient details facilitates the search and makes it easier to send out tokens of love. Customization options also help consumers put a personal touch on any gift, and that can enhance the value of items for everyone. The experience of finding the right gift is just as significant as the joy of opening it.


Efrat is CMO at Quantum Metric, with extensive experience in tech leadership and customer-centric organization strategies.

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