That feeling of watching a loved one open a handpicked gift won’t exist for many this holiday season. And between the shipping delays and the call to stay at home this holiday season, the ways people can gift -- especially last minute -- are limited.
AAA predicts that 34 million fewer Americans are traveling this holiday season compared to last year.
“People are realizing or have realized over the last month that they had to change how they approach the holiday season,” Darrin Duber-Smith, a consumer behavior expert and professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, said.
Part of that is thanks to e-commerce. The IBM U.S. retail index shows the pandemic has accelerated the move toward online shopping by five years.
The National Retail Federation predicts that 60 percent of holiday shopping will be done online this year, up from 56 percent in 2019.
“Our buying patterns have shifted almost entirely online over the last nine months,” Duber-Smith said. “So many more goods and services are now available online. So many more than even a year ago, so I think consumers have a lot more choices that they can send.”
However, the flower bouquets and gift cards can seem impersonal.
“I really think all bets are off during the pandemic, but there’s going to be lasting effects in consumer attitude and behavior going forward,” he said. “Getting a gift basket that may or may not have a holiday greeting on it is becoming the norm.”
“It’s an hour of work to send someone a gift,” Edward Lando, co-founder of Goody Technologies, said. “If you think about it, you need someone’s address. You need to pick out a gift. You need to make sure if you can add a note. You need to make sure it can get there on time, all that stuff.”
Lando played a role in creating a solution to the problem by creating Goody, a gifting app that lets you send someone a gift in seconds. All you need is a phone number -- no address.
“It’s not a normal form of buying something online, and it's not only e-commerce. It’s like a messaging experience,” Lando said.
The app gives the gift recipient the whole experience of opening a gift virtually -- and the ability to swap out a gift for one of similar value if the recipient doesn’t like it. It also speaks to the need for the gratification the gift-giver gets.
“There's a huge psychological component to gift-giving,” Duber-Smith said.
“When you send a gift to someone and they open it, you get a little notification that says, ‘Melissa opened your gift,'” Lando explained. “And then you get another one that says she accepted your gift and added a note.”
Gifting trends are also shifting to more experiences. “Those are the things that are more personal than gift cards because you understand what the consumer likes,” Duber-Smith said.
And it’s something you can give this holiday season that doesn’t require shipping. “2021 could be the year for experiences as sort of everyone gets out,” he said.
As you shop for your last-minute gifts this week, consider how you’re shopping. “I think what it did is it exposed how important e-commerce is to everyone,” Duber-Smith said.