7 Ways Ecommerce Websites Can Drive Gift Purchases

With the major gifting window of last year recently over and the first major gift event of 2016, Valentine’s Day, already in the bag, we’re fast approaching Mother’s Day. You may have noticed retailers getting a little excited about big calendar events.

In this blog I look at 7 ways that retailers can attract customers by providing services and onsite features that help people to find and buy gifts. Please note I’ve deliberately avoided discussing pricing and promotion strategies, simply because brands take different approaches to promotions and discounts, some shying away from discounting for fear of brand damage.

1. Provide a gift finder

Sometimes people struggle to know what to buy for friends and family. Gift finders can help users narrow down their search by guiding them through a series of structured questions that result in a set of matching products/services. Gift finders can be functional (refine by person, price, product category etc.) and lifestyle (refine by recipient personality, likes, hobbies etc.).

Master of Malt has a well-structured gift finder that provides a clear progress bar and starts to return product recommendations after you answer a few simple questions. As you answer more questions, the recommendations refine and users can add each item to the basket. Users can also opt for staff recommendations to help reduce the mental effort!


2. Integrate gifting into site navigation

As well as custom landing pages for marketing campaigns, ensure that customers can find gift content easily using standard site navigation like menus and site search. For example, add a header category to the navigation tree for ‘Gifts’ and ensure that relevant searches for keywords including ‘gifts’ are redirected to the most appropriate landing page.

The example below shows how House of Fraser has updated its site wide navigation menu to include a strong visual promotion for Mother’s Day, which replicates the creative treatment on the homepage.


Earlier in February, if you searched for ‘valentines’ the site automatically redirected you to the Valentine’s Day Gifts landing page.

3. Let customers personalise gifts

Personalisation of products isn’t new but demand peaks around key gift seasons and Mother’s Day is a good example. Brands like Photobox, Vistaprint and Moonpig have offered personalised products for years, providing online tools to guide users through the personalisation steps.

Moonpig gives customers different personalisation options for gift cards:

  • Edit individual sections of the card
  • Upload photos
  • Edit content g. add names

4. Provide product recommendations

Be proactive in how you merchandise gift pages. Don’t just provide a long list of products and expect users to do the work and filter down to relevant options. Use engaging content, features and product recommendations to deals, bestsellers, new in and most popular.

Some websites also use persuasion techniques on product details pages to highlight how many people are currently viewing a product and how many have recently bought it. This can help drive add to basket.

Debenhams has a long landing page for Valentine’s Day that is cut into different types of content and product recommendation, including:

  • Gift experiences
  • Discounts and promotions
  • Inspiration including Editor’s Picks
  • Gift Cards

5. Enable gift orders

Make sure customers can specify an order as a gift order, which means two simple things:

  1. Let them add a gift message

Gift messages can be printed on the dispatch note and require a field in the checkout. This should have a clear character limit and ideally a countdown showing how many characters are left as the user types.

  1. Allow them to specify contact details for the recipient

If the order is being delivered to someone else, the person paying won’t want the delivery driver to call them ahead of the delivery, they’ll want this to be done directly with the recipient.

  1. Remove pricing from the paperwork the recipient receives

You don’t want the recipient seeing how much (or little!) the buyer has spent on their gift. Ensure that a gift order has this information removed from the dispatch note.

6. Let customers split deliveries to multiple destinations

Split delivery is great for people wanting to send gifts to multiple recipients, although few people will use it. It’s also rare to find a retail ecommerce websites offering split delivery, mainly due to the order management complexity it entails.

I’ve seen split delivery work well for small business owners sending Christmas gifts to clients. It avoids users having to create separate checkouts for each recipient, speeding up the checkout.

Amazon has a neat UI design for organising split deliveries, allowing users to split out items as well as send the same item to multiple addresses.


7. Make the checkout simple and fast

To secure gift orders, it has to be quick and easy for customers to create basket and complete the checkout. There are so many elements to this but the one I’ll focus on is form completion and validation.

A good example is adding delivery and billing addresses. First, customers should be able to use the same address for both and only enter it once; forcing them to type it in twice creates frustration. Websites should also use address lookup and validation technology to avoid customers having to manually enter addresses. This is especially important for mobile checkout because of the time added having to use the keypad to manually add each address field.

Below is an example from the Barbour mobile checkout, showing how predictive address lookup is used to speed up address capture:


This style of validation is particularly useful when you don’t know your recipient’s postcode.

Forms should also adhere to the following standards:

  • Clearly labelled (ideally labels above the fields as this works best in a one-column mobile layout)
  • Obvious which fields are required and which are optional
  • There is a logical flow between fields and users can tab between them (desktop)
  • Errors are shown inline as soon as users have completed each field – don’t wait until they submit the entire form to tell them there are mistakes
  • Fields with an error should have a clear state change to denote an error – a common pattern is a red border and error symbol/message
  • Tool tips are provided to give users guidance g. for the password field, explain the minimum requirements.

Comments and questions

So what do you think is essential for gifting on ecommerce websites? And who do you think is doing this well?

Please drop by and share your comments, questions and experience.