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As budgets tighten, Aussie gift-givers are seeking more personalisation

Times might be tough for the average Australian – with research showing nine out of 10 consumers will seek better deals this Christmas – but they’re still planning to give gifts. 

Moreover, they are looking to personalise those gifts however they can, even if they purchase online, says Helen Marsh, co-founder of instant digital gift wrap service Gift Flick, who spoke with Inside Retail’s Amie Larter in the latest of our Retail Untangled series, where we quiz industry leaders about current issues. 

“They’re interested in the wrapping of the gift item, and they’re interested in how they can personalise the delivery mechanism,” says Marsh. “Customers might be looking for value, but gift-giving is deeply ingrained in our culture. It’s been here for thousands of years, so it’s not going away.” 

Gift Flick partnered with Inside Retail to survey 750 Australians in September for a special report titled ‘Who Wants What?’. On the podcast, Marsh highlights five key insights from that research: 

  • Consumers are cost-cutting, and this shift in consumer buying behaviour will probably impact every retailer, with no category immune. 
  • Personalising gifts ranks highly in consumer appeal.
  • Consumers are looking to shift to more practical gifts – and gift cards rank highly for practicality.  
  • Different age groups have different gift-buying preferences. For example, 18 to 24-year-olds are looking for experiences – something they cannot afford the luxury of doing for themselves – and clothing and sports items, which are useful and practical. 
  • Online shopping continues to be massive, with 82 per cent of Australians now shopping online.

In the survey, 83 per cent of respondents said they will cut back on non-essential spending this Christmas, so it is clear that looking for deals, ensuring they get the best price, and focusing on value is top of mind among consumers.

When it comes to personalisation, 43 per cent of survey respondents said they saw appeal in being able to personalise the physical item, 39 per cent want to be able to write a personal message, 30 per cent want to be able to choose gift wrapping and 31 per cent want to be able to open a digital gift card to see their present while the real one is on its way. 

“So those are some great ways in which retailers can give their customers a greater emotional shopping experience – rather than focusing on price alone,” explains Marsh.

“It’s really interesting that enhancing the emotional connection between the gift giver and the receiver looks to be an interesting strategy for retailers this year as an option to simply cut the price of items. Personalisation is something every retailer to be thinking about this year.”

A need for sensitivity

Marsh says retailers need to be sensitive to the financial hardships many consumers are currently going through as inflation and rising mortgage rate increases bloat the cost of living, eating into disposable income.  

“When you’re struggling to make ends meet, allocating funds for gifts can trigger feelings of remorse, and inadequacy. This internal conflict can dampen the joy of Christmas and enhance the emotional stress some of us are already feeling when we are juggling our bills.”

Marsh advises retailers to reassure customers they are getting great value for what they are spending. 

“We believe that for the consumer, a lower-price gift that has been personalised in some way – whether that be the item itself, the way it’s been wrapped, or the delivery experience – will have a strong positive impact on the giver and the receiver that will outweigh the reduction in the dollars spent. Essentially, the more thought that’s put into the gift, and the more customisation, the greater the emotional value between the gifter and the receiver.”

Black Friday Cyber Monday

Marsh forecasts an “enormous” upcoming Black Friday Cyber Monday this year as well-organised shoppers look for an opportunity to get their Christmas gifts at the best price. 

“But of course, there are many people who are not that well organised who will be shopping last minute and will be sniffing around for deals, but potentially not able to get them all and needing to deliver gifts to friends and family when the physical item might not arrive in time for the big day.”

Marsh says convenience is still the main reason customers are shopping online again in droves. “It’s all about finding what you want easily, a simple, easy buying journey with minimal steps, multiple payment options and confidence in delivery timelines.”

She says consumers see value in gift wrapping, a key form of personalisation. “Many people are so busy, they are happy to pay a couple of bucks to get it done for them and delivered. When we think about small retailers and the need to fulfil this huge customer expectation around gifting – the product, the price, the wrapping, and the delivery – it can be a bit of a brain stretch.

Country Road recently launched a service called Wrapped For You where staff physically gift wrap items bought online and they use Gift Flick’s digital gift wrap service – which sends the recipient a digital card with an image of the present while the parcel is on its way. 

“The ability to bring some connection and closeness in that gifting exchange is important,” Marsh concludes.

You can download the full report by Gift Flick and Inside Retail – ‘Who Wants What?’ at this link.

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