When my daughter Jill was around 12 years old, she started making detailed lists of gifts she hoped to receive for her birthday and the holidays. She would capture pictures from websites and provide specific details about stores, sizes, colors, etc. Then she would email the list to her aunts and uncles.
I was mortified when I first learned about it. I tried to raise my children to be grateful for a gift — whatever it was. A letter to Santa was one thing; a wish list sent to relatives smacked of self-indulgence. Nevertheless, when I apologized to my siblings for her actions, they brushed it off, telling me she had saved them time — and at least they knew they would be giving her something she really wanted.
It turns out Jill was ahead of her time. Gift registries have moved well beyond bridal and baby showers and are emerging as relevant, useful customer service tools imbued with time-saving and lifestyle-sensitive benefits for all — the gift-giver, the recipient and the retailer. No occasion is out of bounds — from the traditional home-buying or wedding events to landing a new job or celebrating a special birthday.
I recently chatted with Susan Miller of Myregistry.com, which operates its own website and powers registries for numerous retailers. She points out that underpinning the relevance and potential of gift registries is consumers’ desire to have their preferences respected. The niece who shares a 700-square-foot urban apartment probably doesn’t need a bulky new sweater; it won’t fit into her already jammed closet. And the aunt who is celebrating her 70th birthday might love a gift of a few ceramic classes in lieu of another handbag.
Gift-givers avoid the “what should I get” stress, choosing instead from a list of items the recipient would appreciate. Recipients not only get what they want, they also get the gift of time — because the process eliminates the hassle of returns. And retailers, dealing with a rising tide of returns, have found that items purchased from a gift registry are far less likely to be returned.
Another gift-giving tool that holds enormous value was created by Loop Commerce. Retailers who use this technology, including Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Diane von Furstenberg, all brand it differently, but it operates the same way. The e-giving system allows a customer to select and purchase an item online for someone else. The retailer then sends the recipient an email notification, giving them the chance to accept the gift, make changes to the size or color or exchange the item before it ships. The gift-giver needs only good intentions and the recipient’s email address.
Shoppers are more time-stressed than ever before. Gift-giving solutions that ease the stress and allow friends and loved ones to receive an item they truly need and will cherish is a win. Curtailing the upsurge of retail returns is a bonus.