Retailers know holiday gifting can be a major pain, so they’re leveraging digital technologies to help consumers accelerate the process.
Building upon emerging technologies that were prominent this year, such as chatbots, subscription services and mobile apps, brands are getting innovative about helping shoppers identify gifts. Here are some of the digital hacks they’re offering:
The chatbot method
Earlier this year, Macy’s debuted its shopping assistant chatbot in partnership with Watson, IBM’s cognitive intelligence system. The program, called Macy’s On Call, serves as a digital shopping assistant, providing prospective products and insight to shoppers. The function is easily accessible on the Macy’s website via the “Help” dropdown, and it’s especially helpful for culling through inventory to choose gifts.
Nordstrom also launched a chatbot of its own on Wednesday, accessible through Facebook chat and the messenger service Kik. The Nordstrom bot, developed in collaboration with mobile messaging company Snaps, will be offered only through December 24 to help holiday shoppers find products and make purchases. To pinpoint perfect gifts, users are asked a series of questions, like “Where would you find this person on the weekends?” and “Which emoji relates to this person?” The bot then presents ideas that can be purchased directly through messenger.
The Nordstrom holiday bot in action
When all else fails…
For the person who is impossible to satisfy (or, perhaps, a finicky teenager), money is probably your best bet. However, rather than slipping a crisp bill into an envelope and calling it a day, you can look to one digital platform to add some pizazz to money transfers. PayPal teamed with whimsy-loving designer Jonathan Adler on six holiday-themed virtual cards to accompany money-based gifts. Users can select patterns, colors and greetings before sending over the cash.
One of the Jonathan Adler for PayPal designs
The gift that keeps on giving
When in doubt, you can look to a subscription service to ensure that your recipient gets a little bit of everything — and their monthly gifts can be catered to their personal preferences. Services like Birchbox offer monthly boxes filled with up-and-coming beauty products, while StitchFix allows users to select several clothing items, keep what they want and send back the rest. This year, there has also been a growing market of children’s subscription boxes, a good alternative for a child’s present or a gift for busy parents. Some brands, including Sprouting Threads, Rockets of Awesome and Runchkins, even offer services that anticipate size increases as the child grows.
To mitigate the stress of selecting the perfect gift, Nordstrom is offering the opportunity for consumers to send gifts via email: Recipients are allowed to accept the offer, exchange their gift or opt out for a gift card. The effort is in partnership with CashStar Inc., a gift card provider, and part of a larger effort to bolster holiday sales amid a difficult year for the department store. Though Nordstrom reported an increase in revenue of 7.2 percent in the third quarter, this didn’t include a hefty $197 million write-down and devaluation of Trunk Club, its subscription-based menswear company based out of Chicago.
Finally, if you’re really stuck, you can go ahead and send your loved one a rock. Yes, a rock. A leather-bound Nordstrom rock took the internet by storm last week, when it debuted on the retailer’s site for $85. It sold out a few days ago, but it will likely be restocked soon. Because nothing says happy holidays like an exorbitantly priced pebble.
The Nordstrom rock in all its glory