ó Itís Christmas Eve, you still have gifts to buy,
and as the hours tick by, your options grow thin.
you order online wonít arrive in time. A gift card
feels impersonal. Youíre skeptical that something
picked primarily because it was in stock at a retailer
open late on a holiday will be a hit, and donít want
to saddle the recipient, or yourself, with the hassle of
returning a slapdash gift.
year, more retailers are giving desperate last-minute
shoppers another option ó e-gifts.
choosing an item to give on a retailerís website, a
gift-giver can send a message by email, text or Facebook
message inviting the recipient to "unwrap"
their present. The customer doesnít have to know the
size, color, or even home address ó the recipient
provides all that information. If the recipient doesnít
like it, the giver never has to know ó the giftís
value can be applied to something else.
gift cards, which more than half of consumers plan to
buy this holiday season, e-gifts are
procrastinator-friendly and reduce the risk of guessing
wrong on size or style. But unlike the ubiquitous gift
card, which can be grabbed while in line at the
supermarket or printed from a home computer, e-gifts are
designed to let givers show they put in at least a bit
Macyís and American Giant have offered e-gifting
options for at least a year. But more retailers have
joined the bandwagon within the last year, including
Target, Lilly Pulitzer, Vera Bradley and Gapís Banana
Republic and Athleta divisions.
donít necessarily know what size their friends or
family fit in, or what flatters them. Fit isnít just
size, but how they like it to fit, which can be very
personal," said Noam Paransky, senior vice
president of digital at Gap. "This gives the
gift-giver the option of choosing something they think
would be great or want to share, but they can give
without the concerns around having to make those
concept seems to be catching on with last-minute
shoppers, said Loop Commerce CEO and co-founder Roy Erez,
who is working with several retailers to provide the
GiftNow service. About 40-50 percent of all gifts bought
through GiftNow are purchased within a day of their
intended delivery, he said.
while digital gifts can eliminate some of the barriers
to last-minute buying and hassles of dealing with
returns, theyíre not entirely seamless.
can see whether an item is in stock when they purchase
it through GiftNow but canít reserve a specific item.
If the item has sold out by the time the gift is
delivered, the retailer will provide a credit equivalent
to the giftís value. Erez says thatís rarely an
issue in practice, since most recipients claim gifts
also can change by the time the recipient opens the
gift, especially during the promotion-heavy holiday
season, and policies vary by retailer.
the gift goes on sale after the giver purchases it, the
recipient will get a credit for the difference at Target
and Athleta, while Neiman Marcus says it will refund the
giver. If the price goes up post-purchase, Nordstrom
says the recipient can choose to cover the difference,
or accept a gift card for the amount the giver initially
paid, while other retailers say they will let the
recipient claim the gift without paying more.
Ladner, 57, of Western Springs, who recently bought her
daughter a digital gift at Oakbrook Centerís Athleta
store, considered it a "win-win." "I get
to personalize it, and if she changes her mind, she has
that option," Ladner said.
Lynn Hare, 54, of Oak Brook, was skeptical when told the
gift would be unveiled to its recipient as an image on a
smartphone or laptop. "Eew. Thatís not
nice," Hare said. "Thatís like something a
college boyfriend does."
should help stores reduce returns since most people do a
better job picking out items for themselves than other
people, said Bobby Stephens, a senior manager in
consultancy Deloitte Digitalís retail practice. Some
retailers limit the items available for e-gifting,
suggesting it could be used to nudge customers to
relatively high-margin products or away from those that
are selling out, he said.
think itís a holiday wish for retailers that it will
catch on," Stephens said.
new version of the GiftNow service being tested in 10
Athleta stores this holiday season, including one at
Oakbrook Center, lets customers who buy an e-gift take
home a square purple card. When the recipient unwraps
the card and visits the website address on the back, the
selected gift is shown.
manager Lisa Stasch said she could see it being popular
with customers who donít want to risk guessing wrong.
"I believe it will be a big sell for men,
especially as it gets closer to the holidays," she