DTC Gifting
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Compete on Ecommerce CX: Zest Gifting vs. Gift Cards

October 2, 2022
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Shopping for holiday gifts has undergone massive shifts the past few decades. It wasn’t too long ago that wishlists and shopping game plans were carefully crafted by way of TV ads and massive seasonal catalogs stuffed into mailboxes. Weeks of circling gift ideas and clipping coupons helped prepare gifters for driving store to store in days-long sprees. 

For some, that scene might trigger some serious nostalgia. But for others, it sounds like the Stone Age of Christmas shopping. Well into the 21st century, consumers have become used to scrolling every possible option for a product they want without ever leaving the couch. And instead of trekking all over town, their purchase materializes on a doorstep within days (or even mere hours). The evolution of how we shop for gifts seemingly happened hard and fast, and that’s not about to change for the 2022 holiday season.

Online gift shopping is continuing to surge in popularity, and more people than ever are choosing ecommerce to check off wishlists and deploy presents across town or across the country. But as convenient as online shopping is for today’s consumers, the only major advancement in ecommerce gifting has been the e-gift card.

Ecommerce gift cards have also increased in popularity with the rise of online shopping, as they make gifting quick and easy. They’re a tidy option for stressful last-minute shopping or when someone isn’t sure what to gift. In short, the flexibility and convenience of gift cards is in sync with what people love about ecommerce, but the experience doesn’t come close to the thrill of perusing products, picking one out, and surprising a lucky recipient with a tangible product they’ll love. 

What if you could give your customers an option beyond the gift card? What if the holidays were still filled with the thrill of picking out the perfect present without sacrificing the ease of ecommerce? Let’s find out.

Why Do Ecommerce Brands Stick with Gift Cards?

Gift cards are big business. It’s a growing industry that’s forecasted to surpass the $1 trillion mark globally by 2026, and they became the go-to gift with the dawn of the coronavirus pandemic. After all, people are still buying gifts, and a gift card’s flexibility and convenience fit the bill for what folks needed in a time of quarantines and isolation.  

While they may seem like the ideal gifting solution, all is not sunshine and butterflies in the world of gift cards. In the US alone, gift card recipients are hanging onto more than $21 billion in unspent vouchers and more than half of adults forget to use them altogether. Whether printed, plastic, or delivered digitally, gift cards are simply forgettable. Only 17% of Americans want to receive a gift card for the holidays, meaning 83% would rather have anything else—like cash, a tangible gift, or an experience. 

Despite the steady rise of gift cards, there are signs that they could fall out of style in the foreseeable future. Most of that cold, hard unspent gift card money is held by millennials and Gen Z, indicating that younger consumers are less likely to use them. And in a recent survey, the top five gifts in America included tech, household goods, and jewelry, but not gift cards.

Gift cards may assuage the stress of frantic shoppers who aren’t sure what to buy, but they don’t live up to the meaningful moment that gifting is supposed to be. And for ecommerce brands, all those unused gift cards can cause headaches and a mountain of liabilities. Plus, when a brand’s gift card is socked away in the nearest junk drawer, that’s one less customer relationship that can be built and nurtured into anything long-term. 

Why have online stores settled on gift cards to carry the weight of their shoppers’ gifting needs? The answer is simple: gift cards have been the only ecommerce gifting solution.

Until now.

The Ecommerce Gift Card Alternative Shoppers Will Remember

Zest modern gifting app elevates your store’s entire gifting experience beyond the gift card. Unlike a gift card SKU tucked away on your website, Zest’s “Send as a gift” button on product pages or in the cart make it as instinctive as clicking “Add to cart.” It’s an accessible button that turns any product into a giftable one.

A mock Shopify store called Pineapple Co. featuring Zest's "Send as a Gift" button on the product page.
Add a Send as a Gift button to product and cart pages to inspire and empower easy gifting.

The frictionless gifting journey doesn’t end at the button, though. Once clicked, gifters can add layers of personalization when they pick a digital gift note, write their own thoughtful message, and choose whether to send the note in the moment via text or email, or schedule for later. Recipients aren’t left out of the fun, though. They get the experience of instant surprise and delight, digital unwrapping, the chance to write a thank you note in return, and the ability to accept their gift or swap for something else. 

It’s an experience that pulls the giddy joy of picking out the perfect product and giving it to someone—much like the days of dog-eared catalogs and browsing store shelves—but in a modern, ecommerce era. Gifters feel the satisfaction that comes with giving a thoughtful gift, and recipients get to enjoy a real product that surely won’t be forgotten.

The Zest gifting experience is the next evolution of online gifting, and it’s one that could help brands differentiate and sell more during the critical holiday shopping season.

The Impact of Zest vs. Gift Cards on the Customer Experience

As with in-person shopping, online stores that offer a better customer experience are going to see the most success. Ecommerce entrepreneurs are no stranger to the struggle of acquiring and retaining customers or how valuable the customer experience is in hitting those goals.

The first challenge is rising above the noise and earning a first-time customer’s business. The next (and never ending) hurdle is trying to get that customer to come back. Recent research shows that providing a stellar customer experience encourages customers to return to your store, building essential customer loyalty. According to 3 Pillar Global, a leading digital innovator, more than 70% of shoppers say they are loyal to some brands, and more than 50% say that customer service influences that loyalty.

Loyal repeat customers are essential to your business’s growth and stability. They not only return to your store to shop again, but are likely to both spend more on return visits and pay more for a product than a new customer will. And that is good news for your bottom line. Creating a unique, supportive, and engaging experience has been a proven strategy for earning customer loyalty, and now Zest is the app ensuring the ecommerce gifting experience is up to snuff.

Gift cards have their time and place in the ecommerce ecosystem, but current consumer trends show they’re pulling away from the alluring ease of gift cards and running toward more thoughtful, intentional gifting.

Many ecommerce brands invest hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in the customer experience. Email marketing, personalized ads, web design, product imagery, customer support—they’re all critical cogs in the overall experience that makes or breaks loyalty. Sticking with gift cards as the only gifting solution this holiday season could jam an impersonal wrench in the whole operation and sour an otherwise wonderful customer journey.

With Zest, ecommerce brands big or small have a way to remove the friction of gifting and render it a satisfying and memorable experience. In a time when it’s becoming harder to find and implement strategies that stand out, moving beyond gift cards could have a hugely positive effect on shoppers in the gifting spirit.

Zest Doesn’t Just Bolster the CX—It Provides a Clear View into Gifting

Zest offers more benefits than just a great customer experience and thoughtful gifting. The Shopify app’s backend dashboard gives merchants real insight into the impact gifting has on their store. Easily see how many gifts you sell, what those gifts are, who’s giving and receiving, and how many new customers you’ve gained as a result. 

Woven within the gifting flow are opportunities for gifters and giftees to opt into your marketing, which means you can even keep the relationship going well past the gifting moment. Unlike gift cards that typically leave you with no connection with recipients, Zest empowers brands to build a robust customer marketing base of warm leads.

Give Your Customers the Gift of a Better Gifting Experience for the Holidays

Many stores offer the same gift card experience today. Customers have come to expect them, and they’re considered standard fare. The same old, same old.

Turns out that “same old, same old” simply isn’t enough to stand out and compete in ecommerce today, especially around the holidays when the desire for an engaging, memorable experience is high. 

This holiday season, step up your customer experience with an option that’s as modern as your store and your customers. With Zest, you can give your customers an easy, enjoyable, standout gifting experience they’ll love, while creating loyal customers who’ll want to return for that experience again and again.

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Liz Lorge
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