Gift Giving - 365 Days a Year
So you make 80 percent of your sales during the last two months of the year? Would you like to flatten the peaks and valleys of the gift-purchase business? Do you want to increase your gift sales overall?
You can do it, but it won't happen magically. You've got to be proactive about encouraging customers to use you as a source of year-round gifts. Here's how.
Reasons to Give
For starters, make a list of all the possible reasons your customers give gifts. Then remind customers that you deliver hassle-free gifts for all of these occasions and more.
For "reasons to give" that go beyond the obvious, visit a greeting card store. The greeting card industry has been very successful and creative in encouraging folks to remember friends and family throughout the year. Keep in mind that people give gifts and send greeting cards for the same occasions, events and holidays, and the same sentiments.
You can also create (or uncover) your own unique gift-giving occasions and holidays that are appropriate for your audience. For example, if you sell chocolate, create a special offer: Declare a Chocolate Lovers' Month. There's a good chance that most customers know someone who's a chocoholic (or rose lover or soccer fan or fruit lover) and they would have fun sharing a special gift with chocolate-loving friends.
However, it's up to you to promote the reason to do so. You may also uncover a little known national day of recognition that applies to your market (e.g., National Rose Month, National Poetry Month, etc.).
Remind customers of these "reasons to give" by adding strategically placed "reminder boxes" throughout your catalog or Web site. Place reminders in outgoing shipments, statements, even space ads. The objective is to promote your year-round gift-giving services to both individual and business customers.
People To Give To
Here again, your job is to plant the seed of a need. Remind customers and prospects of the many people who could or should be on their gift-giving lists. Never assume your customer is already thinking about her sister's approaching birthday or an end-of-year gift for her child's favorite teacher.
Self-indulgence is definitely a hot button for off-season sales. Customers may have used your company for gift-giving and never made a self-purchase. Encourage a self-purchase with the special offer of a "thank you" gift certificate discount for gift purchases made in the past.
If your product or service is perceived as an extravagance ("I may buy fruit by mail for a friend but I'll buy it in the grocery store for myself"), be upfront about it. Tell your customer, "You've been splurging on others—go ahead and treat yourself! And here's a gift certificate to sweeten the deal!"
Don't Be Shy
Make a practice of including gift-giving reminders in all customer communications—online and offline. Depending on your strategy and budget you can:
(1) Devote an entire catalog or mailpiece to a holiday such as Mother's Day;
(2) Use hot spots such as front and back covers to emphasize a gift-giving event;
(3) Or drop in reminders as links, sidebars or other visual violators.
Don't assume people are thinking about giving gifts in March or July. Consistently remind customers throughout the year of the many different reasons they should come to you for help with gifts. Just as many people think of Hallmark when they need greeting cards, you want to be top-of-mind when there is a gift to be bought.
Gift-Giving Made Easy … and Fun!
While most people buy gifts from you because of convenience, service and unique selection, here are some tantalizing tidbits to add to your offer to help push undecided gift-givers over the edge of indecision:
• Offer special finishing touches such as a signature gift wrap and a personalized gift card.
• Make gift wrap FREE with any purchase.
• Provide private confirmation of gift shipments.
• Give special privileges to loyal gift-giving customers. Williams-Sonoma does this through its Preferred Customer Shopping Service which gives priority handling of gift orders made through a special toll-free number.
• Offer special incentives such as FREE shipping or FREE gift wrap for gift purchases made online.
• Add a FREE "thank you" gift for the gift purchaser.
• Send out an annual (not just Christmas) Gift List Reminder of all the gifts your customer gave last year, to whom, and when.
• Offer a volume discount to business gift-givers.
• Consistently promote gift certificates … and not just on the order form in six-point type. Make a big deal out of the fact that they're always appropriate.
• Add perceived value to your gift certificates by sending them in a gift box instead of an envelope.
The important thing to remember is that gift-giving isn't just for the December holidays. Gifts are given 365 days a year.