The ecommerce gift-giving experience is more customer-driven in a digital-first world. Whether it’s with fine jewelry, health and beauty or fragrances, brands are equipping customers with digital tools to enable customization and flexibility. In turn, brands must be just as nimble with their ecommerce fulfillment operations.
It used to be that when customers bought a gift set online, everything from what was in the box to how the box was packaged was largely predetermined by the brand. Brands would offer mostly prefabricated gifts — a few select items placed in a gift box or a reusable bag. Today, though, brands are learning to be more agile with online gift orders as they strive to provide a unique customer experience.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Brands are offering more flexible packaging options in an effort to provide more custom shopping experiences. Customers now have the choice to opt out of the full gifting experience. Suppose they want the gift in a pretty bag, but with no extra tissue paper. Or perhaps they want a specific color of ribbon. Or maybe they simply want to include a gift message. These customizable offerings, in addition to branded packing materials, creative messaging, personalized products and more, add up to a feeling of personalization that, when executed successfully, creates memorable customer experiences.
Eco-friendly packaging options are growing in popularity as well, as brands accelerate their corporate initiatives for sustainability. More and more brands are equipping shoppers with multiple choices when it comes to how their gifts are packaged. If sustainability is a high priority, they can skip the fancy, non-recyclable gift box for standard packaging that is eco-friendly.
Split orders are another way brands are personalizing the online shopping experience. With a more traditional checkout experience, it was one box for the entire online order. Now, customers can buy a gift as well as their own items in the same order and still designate which item needs to be gift-wrapped with a special message. This type of split order requires coordination between your digital website and your distribution center (DC) to make sure the order is processed correctly.
Custom Sets Versus ‘Pre-kitted’ Gifts
Whether it’s a seasonal earring and necklace set or a makeup sampler, brands are giving customers more freedom to mix-and-match and build their own custom gift sets. Brands are still pre-packing gift sets, but there’s been a huge proliferation of “build-your-own” options in recent years.
Variety is what consumers want, and it’s what more and more brands are offering when it comes to ecommerce gift giving. Shoppers are in control of what lipstick and eyeshadow go with what body wash or fragrance, and a fulfillment partner can populate those according to each individual order.
The ongoing shift is resulting in a more digital experience when it comes to making gift sets, with predetermined “sets” becoming less common. From a fulfillment standpoint, this approach actually stands to benefit brands that have a robust inventory management system in place. Unlike with pre-kitted orders where any gift sets that don’t sell have to be de-kitted, brands are able to eliminate additional labor costs by kitting product on demand for a customized kit.
Expect to see more of this kind of customization moving forward as it serves multiple needs. For example, in the health and beauty space this type of approach is ideal for brands that are focused on more diversity and representation when it comes to the color palette you need.
Replicating the Beauty Counter Experience
When they go to a beauty counter at a department store, consumers are encouraged to sample multiple products. The ability to choose and try out sample-sized products is another feature driving customer satisfaction by replicating this beauty counter experience online. If consumers want to try a new fragrance or skincare line, they can sample several with a “mini” gift box. Brands are providing “mini” and “travel size” gift boxes to give customers a greater sense of comfort in trying a new shade of blush or a different moisturizer before making a bigger investment.
Maybe you want to enable customers to try new fragrances or your latest skincare line while shopping online. With reduced foot traffic in stores, it’s important that brands can find other avenues for customers to try new products without a big investment upfront.
There is No Tolerance for Late Gifts
Brands that lean into flexibility in the gifting space online can put a lot of pressure on their fulfillment operations. However, it is essential that online gift purchases maintain a brand’s commitment to their customers. If someone is sending a gift, it is critical that it arrives on time. If it doesn’t, that fractures consumer trust in a much more significant way than if something you bought for yourself arrived a day late.
Brands need to be dialed into their ability to deliver on promises and be able to scale operations as needed to support seasonal spikes. If brands promote gift giving and custom gift boxes, they need a fulfillment operation that can quickly ramp up headcount, offers the latest order cutoff times possible and supports a diverse carrier network so they can maintain customer satisfaction when it counts most.
Brands can partner with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider that knows how to take advantage of regional carriers. Utilizing a multi-node fulfillment network that leverages regional carriers keeps goods on the ground and closer to customers. This strategy can support improved delivery times and mitigates the risk of delayed orders during peak season. Carrier diversification also can help solve the immediate issue around high fuel costs, along with other benefits such as sustainability and customer satisfaction.
Partnering with a 3PL can help brands manage their multi-node network more efficiently — enabling them to provide a reliable experience for their customers from the moment an order is placed to when the package arrives at the doorstep. It’s all about maintaining consumer trust and providing that memorable gifting experience.
As Senior VP of Business Operations, Jamie Saucedo is responsible for PFS‘s global portfolio of 70 brands. Throughout her 10+ years at PFS she has served in various roles across the organization, giving her a wealth of industry knowledge across verticals. Saucedo applies her expertise to guide PFS clients to successful ecommerce operations.