Giving an e-Gift could be Better

It’s October and that means many retailers are beginning to finalize their Holiday plans and queuing everything up for release in the next month or so. While some retailers have their Christmas and other holiday decorations up already, most e-commerce websites won’t be rolling that out for another month.  It’s also around this time of year that I remember how terrible of an experience gifting digital downloads remains.

The Current Trend

If you have never given a gift of an mp3, e-card, or e-book to someone for the holidays or other occasion, here’s a quick rundown that I’ve experienced in most retailers.

  1. Locate the Digital Product
  2. Add to Cart (or select “Gift this Product” on some retailers’ sites)
  3. Fill out the Name, Email, and Message Information for the gift
  4. Complete Purchase

The Current Issues

Now this is pretty straight forward and is fairly similar to the experiences associated with gifting physical goods.  However, there’s two big differences between the physical and digital stories.

  1. Gift Notification Emails are delivered immediately.
  2. Gift Contents are located in the body (and sometime subject) of the email.

By immediately providing notification that a person has received a digital gift, the responsibility for delivering the product on a specific date and time falls to the gift giver.  While this is the same concept of giving a gift physical to someone, it is more of a parallel of going to the store, finding the product, buying it, and wrapping it all while you are en route to the person who will receive the gift.

In addition to the speedy delivery of digital gifts, there’s also a lack of surprise in terms of what the gift contains.  While it can be argued that receiving and opening an email could invoke a surprise and delight response, receiving a plain-text email that says someone sent you a gift of a new mp3 album is like receiving an unwrapped gift in person.  It’s a surprise and a delight to receive something but there’s practically zero anticipation and excitement compared to experiencing a wrapped gift.

A Different Approach

So how can we address these trends that burden the giver and provides a lackluster response to the recipient?

1. Specifying a Date and Time of Gift Delivery

The first thing we can do is provide a way for the person buying the gift to specify when the gift should be delivered.  This would allow them to make the purchase well in advance of the event without having to remember to do everything right beforehand.

2. Make the Email Notification Fun

The next thing would be to allow the purchaser a way to select an email template that may correlate to the theme of the event.  This HTML email template could provide an image of a gift and still provide the To/From/Message information that accompanies gifts from e-commerce sites.  In addition, the subject line needs to be generalized in order to not give away the gift’s contents.  This has a potential of being affected by spam filters; however, I’m confident something could be figured out that’ll work without being flagged.

3. Only reveal the gift on the website.

Along with the email, another thing that comes to mind is that the product that was gifted should only be exposed once the person “opens the gift”.  This call to action from the email would direct the person to the website in a similar fashion to the current “download your gift now” links that are common.  The difference is that it wouldn’t be a direct download link but a landing page showcasing the product the person has received.

4. Provide a “Thank You” reply

Lastly, on this new landing page where the person finally receives the gift, give them the option to send the gift giver a “Thank You” message.  This doesn’t have to be anything beyond a traditional Contact form; however, can provide one additional piece to the experience that is completely about sentimental value.  In the event that the site allows anonymous gifting, such would also allow a way of providing thanks without violating the trust of anonymity.

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