One for you, one for me: Encouraging shoppers to gift themselves

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In theory, shoppers would seem unlikely to stray from their gift lists this holiday season. After all, the economy remains shaky, and shoppers reportedly plan to keep spending in check; as the season began, the 2011 MarketLive Shopping Survey found that 56 percent of consumers planned to spend about the same as last year, while 37% said they would spend less.

But strong spending on Black Friday and CyberMonday suggests that deal-hungry shoppers are willing to open their pocketbooks for the right products at the right prices. And here’s a hidden pocket of opportunity: many shoppers are on the lookout for items for themselves and their families — not just for gifts.

These bargain-conscious shoppers are taking advantage of holiday deals to purchase products from their own personal wish lists. Nearly six in ten shoppers have set aside holiday shopping money for themselves, according to the National Retail Federation’s holiday forecast — and spending for non-gift items is expected to increase by 16% this year, to $130.43 per person.

Merchants have long messaged self-gifting to after Christmas, when redemption of gift cards rises to the top of the priority list. But this year, why wait? Plenty of merchants are already encouraging shoppers to think of themselves as well as others when it comes to holiday purchasing. A couple of tactics to try::

Promote holiday readiness. Remind shoppers that the holidays aren’t just about gifts for others — the season also brings plenty of festive gatherings to host and attend. Encourage consumers to look their best with a new outfit or festive makeup, highlight party supplies and serving ware, and promote home decor purchases alongside gift ideas. Beauty brand Get Super urges shoppers to get prepared with “mistletoe-ready skin” — reminding site visitors that they need to take care of themselves as well as gift recipients.

Example of self-gifting message from Get Super

Incentivize wish list creation. Wish lists are a great way to encourage shoppers to buy. Not only will wish list creators share their products with friends who might buy, but the creators themselves may find bargains too good to wait for as they browse the site. And after the holidays are over, you can target wish list holders with personalized emails reminding them about their favorite items and encouraging them to return and purchase.

To convince time-pressed shoppers to register and set up their lists, consider offering a one-time discount as an incentive. Or award extra loyalty program points, as apparel retailer American Eagle Outfitters does.

Wish list incentive from American Eagle Outfitters

Musician’s Friend is one of several merchants taking the concept a step further, entering everyone who creates a wishlist into a prize drawing to win all the items on that list.

Wish list example from Musician's Friend


Message well-deserved indulgence. Invite shoppers treat themselves to a reward to compensate for their harried holiday schedules. Prior to Thanksgiving, lingerie site enticed email subscribers with the subject line “Don’t You Deserve the First Gift of the Season?” The message included a free gift-with-purchase offer as well as a promotion for a $20 gift certificate with every purchase of $100 or more which stated that “the first gift should be for yourself.”

Self-gifting message from HerRoom

Ann Taylor’s Thanksgiving weekend messaging similarly urged shoppers to treat themselves, noting that “we’re big believers in in giving & receiving” and encouraging purchases with a 40% discount sitewide.

Self-gifting message from Ann Taylor

Are your customers treating themselves as well as others? How do you encourage non-gift purchasing during the holidays?

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