There are few verticals where business is a guaranteed — basically just food, healthcare, and funerary services. And even those spaces are changing.
Then there’s gifting. People have always given gifts and probably always will. But they don’t always give the same gifts in the same way.
As Jifiti Co-Founder Yaacov Martin sees it, every gift involves three parties: the initiator, the recipient, and the vendor in the middle who’s fulfilling the gift. As the expectations of the first two evolve — and not necessarily in the same direction, either — what’s a vendor to do?
That’s a question that digital gifting has been aiming to answer for a few years now. Yet as retail evolves from digital to omnichannel, so too must gifting, Martin says. That’s why he and Jifiti aim to disrupt the gift card space by taking the gifting experience to the next level.
Shopping for oneself is hard enough, said Martin. There are many considerations to make when choosing which products to buy — from needs to wants, from preferences and taste to size and fit. What’s already in the closet that could match this new blouse? Do you own the first two books in this series? Coffee mugs are fun, but maybe you’re more in need of a set of matching plates?
When one tries to apply the same considerations to someone else, Martin said the challenge becomes exacerbated. Not only does the gift initiator lack access to the necessary details, but it is likely that he or she is trying to convey more with the gift than simply the value of the object. Adding emotional significance onto a gift makes it even more intimidating, said Martin.
Gift cards took away that stress, he said, but introduced a new problem: They communicated value only, without any of the other components that a gift is supposed to express.
Martin said digital gifting has evolved to bridge these two notions — to help shoppers convey what they want to say with a gift while eliminating the challenges of appropriateness and lag time for shipping. Digital has no such logistics, Martin said, and orders are not fulfilled until the recipient makes the choice to do so — so it introduces immediacy without the cost and challenges of one-day shipping.
Martin noted an imbalance between gift initiators and recipients: While givers may feel it inappropriate to give a gift card, those on the receiving end would often prefer one. Given the option to send a tangible gift, many shoppers want to do so, provided the friction of the experience could be reduced. Yet flexible value has proven more desirable among recipients.
Martin said that was the “A-ha!” moment for digital gifting platforms. Both ends of the spectrum have different needs, and these platforms endeavor to close the gap.
Today, it is important for gift recipients to feel they have options when they are ready to redeem their gift card, be it physical or digital. Therefore, said Martin, a gifting experience must be omnichannel on the redemption end, able to be used in stores, online, or on a mobile device.
The reality of gift cards is that customers tend to like spending them in-store — Martin said they are actually an anchor of brick-and-mortar foot traffic. It’s just easier to figure out if something fits and looks good when the customer can try it on. Therefore, a gift card becomes an excuse for him or her to visit the store in person to make use of those funds.
Owning the Beginning of the Gifting Journey
However, Martin says it’s not just about recipients. Equally important is making gift givers feel they have options, too.
“The secret sauce is to figure out where gifters are at, and where they’re feeling pain,” Martin said. “There are many junctions in the digital world where this happens.”
Maybe the shopper is a grandparent, browsing virtual greeting cards to send a grandchild for Christmas. That, said Martin, is a great time to suggest a digital gift to go with the card — indeed, he said that eCard platforms have proven very powerful partners for Jifiti.
He said that’s because it puts the option right in front of shoppers and makes it easy to say yes. That’s especially important among the senior demographic, which may be less comfortable in digital environments and may not think of going to their grandchild’s favorite store’s website to buy a gift card.
Or, maybe the shopper is a teen browsing the mall when she stumbles across signage or a special collection reminding her that her sister’s birthday is coming up. She could go up to the register and buy a gift card the old-fashioned way. But, said Martin, she should also have the option to simply scan the signage or an item’s barcode with her phone to take the experience online.
In either situation, said Martin, the gift card acts as currency, and therefore payments rails are already in place. So as Jifiti strives to disrupt the space, it is upon those rails that it builds, and it looks for triggers like signage or holidays that present opportunities to meet shoppers wherever they’re at.
Disrupting Gifting Includes Registries
Gift registries are a pillar of U.S. gifting, Martin said, and have been expanding beyond the traditional use cases of weddings and baby showers to more and more scenarios, including college and housewarming gift registries.
Registries represent the epitome of omnichannel, in Martin’s eyes. The process starts with a couple walking into a store, signing up and starting their registry. Then they go home and continue to edit the registry online or on mobile before sharing it with friends and family. Then, those friends and family members fulfill the items on the wish list by shopping in store or online, with items getting marked off along the way. Finally, the couple picks up the items in store or has them delivered to their doorstep.
A stored value approach that mirrors gift card functionality can facilitate big-ticket items that were previously problematic in this context, said Martin. Now, brands that could not get into the registry space before are seeing new opportunities to do so as gift cards and gift registries come closer together under the “gifting” umbrella.
To disrupt one thing under that umbrella, said Martin, is to disrupt the entire space.