Case Study
0 min read

Fad Turned Lifestyle: Esker Uses Zest Gifting to Spread Self-care

Published
August 30, 2022

The Lowdown

  • Self-care is a trend-turned-lifestyle that is making strides in ecommerce.
  • Customers are buying more wellness goods for themselves, but are also searching for ways to share the gift of health and self-care.
  • Zest provides new pathways to stronger relationships with both gift senders and recipients.

Self-care Isn’t Just a Buzzword—It’s a Lifestyle Taking Priority

Bath bombs, spa days, face masks, cleansing rituals—this swarm of buzzwords has seemingly been on repeat in recent history. While the idea of taking time for yourself and indulging in a peaceful beauty routine might seem like just the trend of the moment, the truth is that self-care isn’t another flash in the pan; it’s a vertical that’s here to stay.

Once seen as selfish, taboo, and hyper-feminine, the sentiment toward working on yourself has dramatically shifted. Signs of a successful life are no longer about the “hustle and grind” or taking pride in an overpacked planner. Instead, working on physical, emotional, and mental well-being are taking priority over running yourself ragged across every demographic. More than half of US consumers looked to prioritize personal wellness in 2022, and the mindset of “filling your cup” has become mainstream.

The current world of lockdowns and quarantining pushed people to explore their new needs, new hobbies, and new ways to simply feel good. Shoppers were supplanting connections to others with connections to themselves. This shift in attitude across every age and gender coupled with ecommerce hyper growth has driven the beauty industry well beyond $500 billion in revenue worldwide—and there’s no slowdown in sight.

A bar graph showing the growth of personal care from 2017 through 2025.

Finding a Business Inside a Self-care Routine

Shannon Davenport is one woman who realized the value of snagging time for herself, long before self-care was the thing to do. As a trend forecaster in her career, Shannon’s schedule was crammed with travel and stress, yet she always carved out 15 minutes for a bath to decompress.

It wasn’t until her own pregnancy, though, did she start to take a closer look at the labels stuck on her self-care goods. Unnecessary, artificial, and potentially harmful ingredients were packed into every tube and bottle. Needless to say, she didn’t love what she saw at a time when what she was putting on her skin was most important. This newfound consciousness had Shannon delving into natural products and essential oils, even taking classes to deepen her knowledge and expand her own routine.

It didn’t take long before she realized she could make a brand out of her fresh know-how and her longtime passion. Plus, her career gave her valuable insight into the beauty industry and its overall beeline to bathing and body care products. In 2018, Shannon took the plunge and Esker Beauty was born. What started as organic, all-natural oils and body washes has since stretched to include everything you could need for the best beauty routine of your life.

Dry brushes, body planes, soothing rollers, shower steamers—a comprehensive roster to tackle every ache and ease every tension in a safe and natural way is turning Esker from a personal practice into a wellbeing destination for all people now taking time for themselves.

A screenshot of Esker Beauty's product catalog including the body plane, dry brush, firming oil, and restorative oil.

Sharing the Love: Self-care Shifts from Selfish to Celebrated

Putting personal needs first has historically been conflated with selfishness. However in recent years, the tone has changed and the delineation between being selfish and self-caring has been underscored. Selfishness is when one takes from others, while self-care is when one gives to themself. In short, when you take care of yourself, you’re often also taking care of those around you by staying well, happy, and replenished.

The coronavirus pandemic drove home this mantra to the point where a life without self-care seems unlikely in the future. This prediction is driven by people of every age and gender who not only want to prioritize themselves, but they also want to show others what a life with self-care is like. How do we know? Esker has a front-row seat to how their own shoppers’ behaviors have shifted for years, and the future is clear.

“We started noticing that people were sending more gift notes with their orders, which helped us understand why customers were coming to us and buying,” says Isabella Reyes, marketing director at Esker. Typically, Esker would see many gifts and messages delivered around holidays like Mother’s Day. “But we were seeing more and more gift notes not tied to any reason other than wanting someone else to take care of themself.”

There doesn't have to be any kind of specific occasion to treat other people. And I think that's still showing strong even when we're trying to exit this pandemic.

— Isabella Reyes, Marketing Director

In lieu of snide remarks or judgment around the practice of self-care, it was clearly being celebrated and encouraged in a time when people needed it most. “Your bathroom can feel like a spa experience, so anyone can take care of themselves. It's not something that's for people who have the luxury of time—it’s truly for everybody,” says Isabella.

Esker is in a unique position to see this wellness lifestyle light up first-hand. But with widespread acceptance of self-care well underway, a new challenge made itself known: how to make Esker’s customer experience align with the steadily growing desire to gift these products.

Gifting Becomes a Customer Experience Priority

More and more, Esker customers were making their own gifting flows to meet their needs. When sending a gift, shoppers would do it the old-fashioned way—changing the shipping address to the recipient’s at checkout. While this seems like a simple solution, this experience often:

  • Ruins the surprise when gifters ask giftees for their address.
  • Lacks the ability for the recipient to swap the product being gifted and choose the size, style, or product they really want.
  • Doesn't replicate the in-person excitement and gratification of gifting.
  • Creates a poor relationship between the recipient and the brand that lacks communication, transparency, and trust.

The team at Esker could have let customers continue gifting goods in this way, but they realized that the lackluster customer experience wasn’t aligned with the rest of the brand. As customers started gifting more, the bigger the opportunity became for Esker to create an intentional and frictionless way to do so.

The first steps toward better gifting involved a more thoughtful website. Gift sets were added to the navigation, and soon products were being categorized by price points, occasions, and self-care rituals. Making the online store a gift-friendly experience was a step in the right direction, but it wasn’t always easy.

We're a lean team, so we're manually going into the website, making tweaks, and just trying to fix things ourselves. We do a lot of A/B testing, trial and error, and just feeling out how customers are shopping based on either direct feedback or seeing what customers are doing.

Once improvements were made to the gift-shopping experience, the gift-buying experience was put in the spotlight. Gift cards are available to shoppers, but Reyes notes that they simply aren’t as integrated in the experience as they would like. “Gift cards are just another product on the site.” And after trying to create a gift-specific prompt in-house, it became clear that another solution was needed.

“Especially our first pandemic holiday season, when people weren’t gifting in person as much, people were inputting the wrong address when checking out or they were stressed about timing and if the gift would get to the giftee in time. Customer service was having difficulties making sure gifts were shipping to the right address. It was then we really started thinking about how to streamline this gifting experience,” recalls Isabella.

It was by chance that Zest and Esker would connect, and the partnership couldn’t have come at a better time. The self-care industry continues to grow and customers continue to gift—some would call this serendipity.

Aligning Personal Care Products with Personal Gifting Experiences

Zest was the final piece to Esker’s gifting infrastructure. The website groundwork had been laid, merchandise had been reorganized, and now the company needed an intentional way to purchase and send gifts without bogging down customer support or making gifters do all the legwork.

The collaborative and hands-on partnership helped Esker set up Zest gifting in moments. “Being able to add a path to gifting basically anywhere on the website, especially the checkout page, has made a huge difference. As soon as we could do that, that’s when we really started seeing results come in,” says Reyes.

Esker's body plane product description page showing a picture of the wood-handled body plane, price, and description.

Since being added to Esker’s website, the brand has unlocked new gifting opportunities, including:

  • Last-minute gifting with same-day digital gift delivery.
  • Gift swapping so that recipients are always satisfied with their present and their experience.
  • Fewer gift returns or exchanges for less strain on your support team.
  • Marketing opt-ins from gifters and giftees for building long-term customer relationships.
  • Clearer insight into their customers' gifting behaviors for info-based strategy and decision making.

Zest is like another lever for us to pull. If a holiday is falling on the next day, it's like, “Oh, last-minute gifts, let’s prompt shoppers to just send a gift with Zest!”

With “Send as a Gift” buttons across Esker’s product and cart pages, shoppers are inspired to give the gift of wellbeing with every product. This experience fosters a new layer of trust and usefulness between gift senders and the brand, but the road to better customer relationships doesn’t end there.

Within the gifting experience, recipients can also opt into receiving offers and info from Esker going forward. This marketing opt-in opens the door to stronger customer relationships, deeper loyalty from the beginning, and greater opportunities for Esker to turn new gift recipients into new customers.

Mirroring the self-care ecommerce vertical, Esker is in the throes of a growth spurt. With Zest, personal care can reach beyond one person and be more easily shared with friends, family, or communities who could use a restorative bath or two.

With a seamless gifting journey, not only do shoppers get the experience they want, but Esker is able to offer memorable and personal ecommerce gifting. When it comes to self-care, Esker is leading the way in both how we care for ourselves and how we’re caring for others.

Authors
Liz Lorge
Marketing
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