Up Your Gifting Strategy for Employee Appreciation Day

February 15, 2023
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National Employee Appreciation Day may seem like one of those modern holidays that just appeared out of thin air, and if that thought crossed your mind, you’re partially right.

The celebration is turning a young 28 this year, which explains why you don’t hear your grandpa telling tales about his favorite token of appreciation from his time at the iron foundry while staring into the distance and slowly swishing his glass of whiskey.

While you’re not sure what flashback grandpa is having, you are sure that you want in on this thriving holiday. Perhaps you’re just getting started on your corporate gifting journey, or maybe you’re looking to scale your store’s gifting as a whole. Wherever you are in your ecommerce journey, you know you have a great product and big opportunity to sell more of it during Employee Appreciation Day.

Read on to get a noggin-full of corporate gifting strategies you could set up for your store before Employee Appreciation Day rolls around.

What Is Employee Appreciation Day?

Since 1995, the first Friday of March has been dubbed a day for employers to show their staff some seriously sincere recognition and gratitude. After all, “strong employer-employee relations are at the core of any truly successful business.

At its core, Employee Appreciation Day is committed to showing employees respect and gratefulness, rewarding them for their hard work, and promoting a healthier, happier company culture.

This all sounds great, but it’s not unusual for employers to miss the mark when it comes to execution. Instead of being remembered fondly, the day becomes a burden for everyone involved and authentic appreciation never really seems to manifest. This is one day of the year, but when done without thought or intention, the repercussions could be bad for business.

Why Employee Appreciation Day Matters Even More in the Year 2023

The Great Resignation.

That’s the pithy little name given to the trend of US workers leaving their jobs in 2021. Droves of folks walked from their roles and shot the nation’s “quit rate” up to a 20-year high. Roughly 20% of all non-retired adults in the country said they quit a job in 2021, and the aftershocks are still firing off more than a year later.

Some big reasons cited for The Great Resignation boil down to low pay, limited growth opportunities, bad benefits, and feeling disrespected. When employee attrition was examined even further, it was found that one cultural phenomenon was 10 times more likely to contribute to resignations than pay — toxic corporate culture.

A horizontal bar chart showing the high importance of corporate culture.
Toxic company culture is 10.4X more likely to drive employee attrition.

This all may seem like old news, but the fact is that The Great Resignation is hardly in the rearview while the root causes have hardly been remedied.

Those who left jobs in 2021 have moved onto new ones, and they won’t hesitate to move again if their new company has many of the same poor traits and traditions as their last one. For example, 70% of working Gen Zers (the eldest of which are reaching their mid-20s already) considers themselves loyal to their company but are still “actively or passively seeking new jobs.”

Especially in light of the recent surge in layoffs, employees of all ages are viewing their working relationships more pragmatically.

A line graph showing the extreme upward trend of layoffs in January 2023.

In a nutshell: Employers have to step up their game to attract and retain talented employees.

Beyond that, it’s clear that ping pong tables and videogames plunked in the middle of an office aren’t enough to cover up disrespect, low pay, and minimal support employees otherwise experience. Employees are staying where they’re engaged, recognized, and appreciated.

So, where does your store come in?

People Want Better Employee Gifts, and You Want to Sell Them

More than 80% of US employees have received a workplace gift that they didn’t want. Crap clad in logos, gift cards to stores they’ve never visited, and plaques that simply collect dust on a desk feel transactional, disrespectful, and even downright offensive.

Cord Himelstein, VP Marketing at HALO Recognition, says "If management isn't actively listening and applying feedback in a systematic way, then there's no point in offering gifts at all. Nailing down the right balance of rewards that employees really love takes time and effort."

A quote by Cord Himelstein of HALO Recognition that says "Nailing down the right balance of rewards that employees really love takes time and effort."

A thoughtless gift on this day all about them may not be enough to push an employee to quit, but it will definitely be another notch in the “Reasons to Scram” list they keep in their desk drawer.

There are a few reasons managers continue to gift things that widen the gap between them and their team, including:

  • They simply don’t know about other gift options.
  • They’re unsure what employees actually want.
  • They struggle to find one gift everyone will enjoy.
  • They don’t have time to research or buy more thoughtful gifts.
  • They buy what they like personally.

These unknowns have existed since the dawn of Employee Appreciation Day, but the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated already strained relationships. Employers struggling to understand their team and stay engaged while being in the same building five days a week pre-pandemic have found that, unsurprisingly, it’s an even bigger challenge when your squad is scattered around the country working remotely.

In an effort to stay connected in a virtual working world, companies increased their corporate gifting. More than 90% of companies that shifted how they work during the pandemic plan to maintain or increase their gifting frequency. On the surface, that looks like an impressive and noble mission. However, if the gifts are bad (and cause more harm than good), more gifting isn’t the answer.

Safe and easy, digital and physical gift cards have become the most gifted items by employers. Yet 75% of employees say gift cards are less meaningful than an actual gift. They feel transactional and tend to put a value on an employee’s efforts. Gift cards may benefit the boss when it comes to convenience, but the employees are the star and it’s time they get what they want—thoughtful, meaningful, and intentional gifts.

A ranking of gifts that employees prefer, putting physical gift cards, digital gift cards, gift baskets, and swag as the top four gifts.
Despite employees feeling that gift cards are less meaningful, employers plan to keep gifting them.

5 Steps to Changing Your Store’s Corporate Gifting Strategy to Meet Newfound Needs

Even if your online store already sells gift cards, a very popular employer’s choice for gifting, there's an untapped opportunity to rise to modern corporate gifting needs. Your products may be the thoughtful, curated, or bespoke gifts employees and employers have been hankering.

Now is the time to tweak your corporate gifting strategy and become the go-to destination for the best gifts this side of the Atlantic. Here are some steps to upping your gifting game and rising to the growing need for better corporate gifting.

1. Position your store for the corporate gifting season.

Employee Appreciation Day and corporate gifting go hand in hand. But to make the masses aware that your brand is a fine choice, you need to position your store as the place to go for corporate gifts that meet today’s demands. Successfully spreading the good word boils down to a few factors:

Advertising your store as an Employee Appreciation Day go-to won’t be effective if the timing isn’t right. Since this holiday lands in March, you likely won’t see a high ROI on ads or marketing around it in the summer or even the Q4 holidays. When it comes to timing, many gifters cut it pretty close.

Some holidays, like Valentine’s Day, see gift purchases ramp up during the two weeks preceding the big day. Even the biggest gifting holiday, Christmas, doesn’t see a huge online gifting push until 10 to 14 days beforehand.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t advertise your store as a corporate gifting haven throughout the year, but it does mean that gaining more gift purchases for Employee Appreciation Day probably won’t happen until mid- to late February.

If you want corporate gifters to know that your products are great as employee gifts, then say that. The more direct you are in your messaging, the better. While messaging such as, “BRAND X sells the best gifts!” may align your store with online gifting in general, a message like, “BRAND X has the most memorable gifts for Employee Appreciation Day!” makes the connection crystal clear.

Related to messaging is persistence. The quicker your cadence for pushing specific Employee Appreciation Day messaging, the more your audience will see that connection and stuff it away in their subconscious. The more shoppers see your brand next to corporate gifting messaging, the stronger the link will be in their minds so when the time arises to buy a gift, your store will be the first to come to mind.

This also means placing your Employee Appreciation Day messaging in more places. Consider all the channels you have at your disposal—or which ones you may want to tap into—and tweak the messaging for this holiday. Place Employee Appreciation Day messaging in ads, social media posts, in images, across the announcement bar on your website, in emails, and more. Continue to beat the drum, and corporate gifters will start to notice.

2. Appeal to the need for memorable gifts that convey the right message.

The goal of Employee Appreciation Day is to create a tighter bond between employer and employee. However that’s achieved — an offsite experience, in-office activities, kind words, free food, and gifts — it needs to be authentic. Any crew can sniff out disingenuous actions and empty words pretty easily, and it will only be interpreted as disrespect.

One opportunity you can seize is reassuring gifters that gifting through you means 100% memorable, intentional, and thoughtful gifting. When you set up your brand’s dedicated gifting storefront with Zest, your ready-to-buy gift catalog is already curated with delightful gift options. Then, gifters have the chance to personalize individual gift notes, gift delivery, and the unwrapping experience itself. It’s a moment in time that can be savored and ensures employees feel seen.

3. Take the burden out of corporate gifting.

One of the biggest drawbacks to corporate gifting is the burden it becomes for everyone involved. When holidays like Employee Appreciation Day roll around, instead of feeling enthused, corporate gifters may feel a sense of dread when it comes to finding the right gifts and tackling the logistics. Even with smaller teams, a significant amount of time is needed to:

  • Contact a brand and inquire about a large order.
  • Find a gift that satisfies the whole team.
  • Personalize gift messages and card designs.
  • Collecting current and accurate addresses for every recipient.
  • Tracking gift acceptance and delivery (then following up with every languishing gift order).

That’s a lot of tacked on manual time to make Employee Appreciation Day a hit. If resources are especially lean, one glance at that task list is enough to make anyone settle for the quick convenience of gift cards, pre-made tchotchkes, or even lottery scratch-offs.

If you can take the burden out of corporate gifting, you’re going to earn some diehard fans pretty fast. When you add Zest gifting to your tech stack, you suddenly erase the time-consuming to-do list corporate gifters have faced for years.

Streamlining the corporate gifting process makes it as easy as personal shopping for gifters, and it clears your calendar of endless chatter and back-and-forth conversations trying to figure out the logistics. You can finally crawl out of your corporate gifting fulfillment pit and catch a breath of fresh air with some of that time on your hands.

Martha Krueger, founder of Giften Market, noticed that Zest saved her lean team at least 40 hours of project management time alone during the 2022 holiday season. “Now we can use that extra time to focus on other parts of the business like merchandising and improving turnaround times.”

Zest's customer experience, address collection feature, gift swapping, andorder tracking highlights.
Remove the burden from the gifter — and your team — across the experience.

4. Gain corporate gifter awareness and generate demand.

With your corporate gifting messaging scattered across channels and infiltrating brain waves left and right, you’ll start to generate demand for your goods from corporate gifters. But what if you could offer your corporate gifting experience beyond your website?  

When you partner with Zest as your gifting platform, you can gain gifting traction on your own ecommerce website as well as Zest’s online network. The Zest shopping experience puts your branded storefront in front of corporate gifters looking for products just like yours.

Unlike most marketplaces, this shopping experience lets you showcase your unique brand and products without sacrificing your experience. Throughout the gifting journey, you can gather and keep gifter and recipient records when they opt into marketing (which means even more remarketing opportunities in the future). And even if recipients opt to swap gifts, they stay within your catalog instead of choosing a competing product or brand.

A video scrolling through Zest's gift catalog.
Expand your audience with a branded storefront in Zest's gifting network.

5. Create a customer experience comparable with DTC shopping.

Corporate gifters are, most likely, consumers outside of their 9-to-5. Where they’re a professional human resources rep scouring the web for the best employee gifts during the day, at night, they’re scouring the wide world of ecommerce for their own personal enjoyment.

Knowing this important detail leads to one very important question: Why is the typical corporate gifting experience decades behind the typical ecommerce shopping experience?

When it comes to DTC personal shopping, every nook and cranny of the experience is branded, personalized, optimized, and automated. Corporate gifting, on the other hand, has been relegated to outdated forms, phone calls, and manual processes. This leads a lot of gifters fleeing your form and searching for something better.

With Zest, you can capture all of those orders you may have been missing by bringing the corporate gifting experience up to par with your personal shopping experience. It’s quick and easy for gifters, and it’s aligned with how they already know how to shop online.

Customer experience is an increasingly critical factor when consumers choose where to shop, and that fact isn’t any different when placed in the corporate gifting context. Simply put, offering a slicker corporate gifting customer experience will effortlessly earn repeat business as you set the gold standard.

Corporate Gifting Doesn’t End at Employee Appreciation Day

National Employee Appreciation Day is an obvious opportunity to spin up more corporate gift orders. However, the chance to become a go-to corporate gifting brand and sell more is truly a year round opening — you just need the right tools to help you make the most of it.

Recent history has shown that companies are gifting more frequently and they don’t plan to tone it down anytime soon. With Zest as your gifting platform, you can easily adjust seasonal gift offers, card designs, and more.

Refine your corporate marketing and tap into your growing email list of gifters and giftees. With dedicated email campaigns, clever remarketing, and a regular cadence of gift-specific messaging, corporate gifting can become one of your biggest growth channels all year long.

What are you waiting for? Add Zest today in time for Employee Appreciation Day.

Ready to grow your corporate gifting channel?

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Liz Lorge
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