Holiday Central

One company is making gifting more personal

Key Points
  • In partnership with Loop Commerce, Banana Republic and Athleta are the latest retailers to go live with GiftNow.
  • Other retailers using GiftNow include Target, Macy's, Michael Kors and Tapestry.
  • The platform works like a gift card, but the gift giver is able to select a specific item for the recipient.
Source: Athleta

We've all been there.

You want to get a close friend, or even a family member, something special for the holidays. But what's their favorite color? Their size? Do they really need a jacket, or maybe a pair of shoes?

A gift card is an easy way around this, but it lacks a personal touch. Still, the last thing anyone wants is to have their unwanted gift returned after the holidays.

To solve this problem, more retailers are turning to GiftNow. The process is almost like sending a gift card, but a shopper is able to select a specific item for the recipient, instead of a dollar amount.

Here's how it works: A gift giver selects an item online before sending it to a recipient. The giftee will receive an email with the gift's details, but he or she then has the opportunity to select a preferred color, size and shipping address. Or, the gift can be exchanged for something entirely different, at equal or lesser value.

In partnership with Loop Commerce, the creator of the gifting technology, Banana Republic and Athleta are the latest retailers to go live with GiftNow. The arrangement was pulled together by the brands' parent company, Gap Inc.

Other retailers using Loop Commerce's platform this holiday season to offer personalized gifts include Target, Macy's, Michael Kors and Tapestry, the parent of the Coach brand. High-end department stores Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue are also on board.

"While online commerce is massive and growing, the majority of the [gift]-commerce opportunity still lies in physical stores, which don't always have in stock what gift-givers want to give, or where consumers are hesitant to purchase the wrong item as a gift," Loop Commerce CEO Roy Erez told CNBC.

This holiday season, Athleta will take GiftNow one step further and bring Loop Commerce's technology to 10 of its stores via a physical gift card.

With this option, an Athleta customer can select a gift for someone at the store and have that gift loaded onto a GiftNow card. When the recipient receives the card, he or she can either accept the chosen gift, customize it, or exchange it altogether.

"By inventing the GiftNow Card, we're providing a seamless alternative to shoppers who want to gift a specific item, which they consider to be more thoughtful than giving a gift card, and we're helping store associates close more sales," Erez said about the product innovation.

"This solution revolutionizes how shoppers are able to buy gifts in physical stores, overcomes the hurdles gift-givers face — such as not knowing the recipient's size or favorite style — and caters to the large and growing base of consumers looking for a more thoughtful alternative to a gift card."

According to Deloitte's 2017 holiday survey of about 5,100 individuals, clothing and gift cards tied this year for the top item shoppers plan to give. Meantime, electronics, gift cards and cash are the favorite items to receive.

Retailers' websites and mass merchants remain the top shopping destinations, Deloitte found, but e-retailers are seen widening their lead over other formats.

"The amount people are actually spending on gifts remains steady compared with prior surveys, but we've watched the mix of total holiday spending shift incrementally over the last five years," said Rod Sides, the leader of Deloitte's U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution practice.

"Whether a retailer is online or store-based, their digital influence is one of the strongest cards to play this holiday season," Sides added.