27 September 2018 | 35 Comments
I recently realized that Stonemaier Games has no strategy for gift commerce. I’d like to change that.
Gift commerce (or retail gifting) is the idea that a significant number of purchases people make are gifts. In fact, one source I found claims that “The average consumer buys more than 20 gifts each year across various life events and holidays.” (source here)
That’s a significant market. Yet many businesses–including Stonemaier–have little to no gift commerce strategy. That is, we have a webstore, but there is nothing about it that encourages or aids the gift-buying process.
So today I’d like to discuss some potential strategies for gift commerce. I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.
At first when I started to brainstorm about gift commerce, I was thinking about it in terms of the holiday season (November/December). However, according to one source, “Christmas and birthdays are the two biggest gifting holidays and occasions, and there are five other major gifting holidays, with Valentine’s Day, Mother’s and Father’s Day taking the lead, followed by Easter/Passover and Halloween. Then there are numerous additional gifting occasions, such as weddings, anniversaries, housewarming, hostess, new baby, graduation and so on that occur throughout the year.” (source here)
This is why people are buying 20 gifts per year–there are so many different occasions to give gifts! They seem to fall into 2 main categories.
- Universal (holidays): Showcase the upcoming holiday on the website and in the e-newsletter, pointing customers to specific gift options for the corresponding holiday.
- Personal (birthdays, weddings, etc): This is more difficult, as it’s person specific. Perhaps a gift guide specifically geared towards special occasions?
During my brainstorming process, I realized that I already had the resources to create a gift guide–it seemed like a good start. So I worked with Dave Hewer, our web designer, to create the gift guide you can see at the end of this article.
Our approach was to create a guide that could help anyone buy a gift based on what they know about the recipient. That’s why we subdivided the guide both on type of gamer and type of person, and we offered two layers of options (“first step” and “next level”). Dave was able to organize the chart so it isn’t overwhelming for someone.
The guide is all one big image, which makes it easy to share on social media (though I realized on Instagram that I would have to zoom way out to share the entire image). It’s certainly is a work in progress, and it will change and grow over time. There are a lot of products we couldn’t fit onto the guide without making it look really cluttered, but they’re on our webstore.
Discounts and Promotions
Do gift buyers need financial enticement? I’ve been debating this internally quite a bit.
The only discounts I like to give are on pre-orders. My reasons are (a) don’t anger retailers, (b) don’t disrespect people who already–even recently–bought the same product at a higher price, and (c) don’t discourage people from buying something now because there might be a discount later.
However, as a consumer myself, I know the power of financial incentives. I also wonder if those concerns aren’t such a big deal when the purchase is a gift. I know that I have a different reaction when someone reaches out to me asking for a favor for their loved one versus a favor for themselves, for example.
So one idea I was considering was limited-time discounts specifically on gifts. This would be on the honor system and only 1 per customer, as there’s really no way of me knowing if someone’s purchase is a gift or not (well, maybe one way–more about that under “Kickstarter”).
For example, leading up to Father’s Day I could change the text on the gift guide to say, “Use promo code DAD2019 to save 19% on X” (all products or a specific product.
I don’t know. I’m still thinking about it. What do you think?
From what I’ve read about gift cards, they’re an important option for gift commerce strategies, as they add a certain amount of flexibility to a gift purchase while still being specific to a store/publisher. Like, if you know your friend has and loves Scythe, but you don’t know which accessories or expansions they have, you might buy them a gift card instead of risking redundancy.
Shopify offers gift card options, but only if you have the $79/mo plan (opposed to the $29/mo plan). So you’re betting on people buying at least $50 of gift cards each month to break even.
I’m going to try it to see how it goes. It’s on our webstore now. I bought one as a test, and it seems to work well.
This addresses the same concern that the gift card addresses: If you’re worried about buying the wrong thing for someone, you might buy nothing at all.
The problem with free returns is that it has the potential to be quite expensive. While I experienced very few takers on the money-back guarantee I offered on Kickstarter, I think part of that is because of the connection I had with backers. A gift recipient may have no affection for Stonemaier Games at all and probably wouldn’t hesitate to return something they didn’t want. So I’m on the fence about this.
I mentioned above that it’s hard to prove that someone is buying a gift versus buying something for themselves. But there is one way that you can increase that possibility, and it also happens to be a method that creators could use on Kickstarter: Offer the option to buy 2 identical products (1 for you, and 1 as a gift).
This could be a viable option for e-commerce discounts as well (I don’t think a further discount is necessary on Kickstarter, as the product is probably already discounted, and you reducing the shipping fee per unit by 50%). Shopify offers the option for “buy X, get Y” discounts. For example, “Buy 1 Viticulture, get another copy of Viticulture at a 20% discount.”
Back to Kickstarter: I’ve bought several gifts on Kickstarter, though I can’t recall a time when a creator has actively reminded me that the product would make a good gift. I think that would help. For example, if you have a product that appeals to kids, remind backers of their nieces and nephews.
Have you ever bought a gift at the last minute? I absolutely have. If I’m buying a gift on a tight timeline, it’s really important that I actually receive it (or that the recipient receives it) on time. Otherwise I won’t buy it at all.
Currently I’m struggling to find a good solution for this in Shopify. Basically, I want to give customers the option of standard or expedited shipping. I’ll keep looking.
Sometimes when I buy a gift for a friend, I want it to be special, something that’s unique, personalized, or hard to get. So I’ve been brainstorming ways to do this for Stonemaier Games products.
The hard part is that we aren’t really built for customization. We mass-produce, and the process takes months.
So far, the only idea I’ve thought of that might work is signed products. I could add a variant to certain products in Shopify to add a signature for $X (my signature isn’t worth anything, but because I work at a different place than the warehouse, it creates a logistical hassle to get a signed game to me). Similarly, I could create a new product listing geared towards personalization, like a handwritten note for the recipient. Again, there is the logistical hassle of getting the note to the warehouse in a timely manner, but it’s a little easier to manage.
What do you think? Any ideas beyond my boring signature? :)
A Note About Commercialism
Even though my company and my livelihood is dependent on selling things, I must admit that it’s still a bit odd for me, as I find some holiday marketing to be quite offputting. There’s a wave of businesses asking us to buy more, more, more, trying to get us to equate love with money.
I don’t want Stonemaier Games to be that type of business. Yes, I want to sell products–my goal is to bring joy to tabletops worldwide, and we do that buy finding ways to get our games to your table. But I don’t want to pressure people into buying gifts. If it’s right for you and the recipient, that’s great. But there are many other ways to express love and generosity, and I hope to encourage them too.
That’s all I have for now! I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas in the comments.
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