A gift guide is one of the most powerful tools you can have during the holidays. It allows you to showcase your products, inspire shoppers, and stay top of mind throughout the season.
But it’s important to note that creating a winning gift guide takes more than just rounding up your products and putting them in a catalog. Releasing gift guides is a tradition in the retail world, so yours would have to be thoughtfully curated and marketed.
Today we’ll talk about how you can accomplish that. Below are some of the things you could do to ensure shoppers actually pay attention to your gift guides.
1. Look at sales data and trends to determine which products to include
How do you decide which products should make it into your gift guide? One reliable way is through the use of data. Here are some ideas:
Generate reports on your top sellers, identify the items that would make for great presents, and include those in your guide. You could, for example, have a “Featured” section on your guide to showcase gifts that everyone would love.
The “Gift” section on Alex and Ani’s website, for example, has a subcategory called “Our Best Gifts” which compiles the brand’s bestsellers.
Ideally, your gift guide should contain products that would appeal to various shopper segments. If you can, generate sales reports according to customer category.
For example, if you’re able to segment your customers according to their gender, then you can use that information to curate “Gifts for Him” and “Gifts for Her” collections (more on this in a bit.)
It’s also a good idea to look at market and consumer trends. What styles or activities are popular among your target consumers? Are there any trends or products that everyone seems to be getting into? Get a feel of what’s happening in your market and incorporate those trending products into your guide.
Use a tool such as Google Trends to identify opportunities in your location or industry.
Let’s say many of your customers are getting into health and wellness. If this is the case, then consider stocking products for improving one’s health, and then include those items in your gift catalog.
2. Make it a team effort
Numbers and sales trends, while helpful, aren’t the only things you should rely on. Be sure to gather qualitative information from your associates and get their say on which products would do well during the holidays (or the specific occasion that you’re creating the gift guide for).
PGA TOUR Superstore, a national retail chain of golf stores, does this when they’re creating their gift guides, and according to Chief Marketing Officer Matt Corey, the practice has worked well for them.
“Our internal team reviews every product category to hand-pick the best products that we want to present as gift ideas, then we present those items both in-store and through various online marketing efforts as well,” he says.
3. Ask your customers
You shouldn’t be creating your gift guide in a vacuum. Go out there and talk to your customers about their ideas or any items that they think should be included.
When chatting up shoppers in-store, casually ask them about what they’re planning to buy for the holidays and what they’d like to receive. You’ll get a lot of anecdotal information, but if you do it enough times you and your staff should be able to spot patterns.
You could also use social media and online polls to gather insights.
PGA TOUR Superstore, for example, leverages social media to let customers share the items the love, as well as vote on their top gift ideas.
Consider doing something similar in your business. Post a quick social media update asking your fans and followers which of your products would they like to receive this season. Or if you’re considering adding a particular item to your gift guide, try posting an image of it on Facebook and Instagram and see how your customers react.
Got a huge following on Twitter? Interact with your followers using polls. For instance, here’s an poll from Stowaway Cosmetics asking their followers about their mascara presences:
What’s your mascara go-to: length or fibers?
— Stowaway Cosmetics (@Stowaway) November 2, 2015
Or, check out this example from Denny’s diner which asked followers about their taste in food (while injecting some humor in the process).
at this point in your life which do you want more:
— Denny’s (@DennysDiner) March 28, 2017
Do something similar, but for your gift guides. Create a poll listing some of your products and ask people to vote on which items would make for great gifts.
4. Work with your suppliers
Another potential source for gift guide input would be your suppliers. Have a talk with some of your vendors and ask them which items are hot and trending. Their insights could prove to be valuable when you’re creating your guide.
And who knows? If your conversation goes well, you might even get the opportunity to score a great deal on your next order.
5. Think about how you’re going to categorize your products
How products are arranged and categorized can make or break your guide, so take some time to come up with the right categories. There’s no one right answer when it comes to how to categorize your products, as this depends on your business and customers.
But if you need inspiration, consider the following:
For example, if you sell a wide range of products, then you could use categories like “For Him,” “For Her,” or “For the Home,” similar to what Macy’s is doing.
Others such as Bed, Bath, and Beyond are using product categories such as “For Bedroom” or “For Living Room.”
Another option is to categorize gifts according to people’s personalities or roles. Nordstrom, for example, curates gifts according to categories like “The Tech Collector,” “The Traveler,” “Fitness Fanatic,” and more.
And you have a lot of price-conscious customers, consider adding a category like “Gifts under $100 / $50 / $25,” to help them quickly find products that are within their budget.
6. Have a guide for last-minute shoppers
Often, the customers who need gift guides the most are those who are shopping for last-minute presents.
Do them a favor and create a gift guide (or a section within your existing guide) that spotlights easy-to-buy and crowd-pleasing gifts. You could include your bestsellers or items that are practical and can be used by a lot of people.
Total Wine & More did just that last year. The beverage retailer sent a last-minute gift guide which had gift recommendations based on top-selling wines, award-winning spirits, and beverage accessories.
And if all else fails, market your gift cards. They’re the perfect option for customers who are in a rush and are unsure of what to buy.
7. Include bundles
Showcasing individual items is great, but you should also consider throwing in a few bundles or gift sets here and there. It’ll give you the opportunity to showcase items that go together, while subtly upselling products at the same time.
Take a look at the “Gift” section on Sephora’s website. Not only does Sephora put gift sets and bundles front and center, but the company takes a step further by categorizing those gift sets. You’ll find collections like “Value Sets” and gift bundles marked $25 and under.
8. Make sure your gift guide looks great on different channels or platforms
Your customers are likely going to view your gift guide on different channels or platforms, so you’ll want to make sure that your guide looks great no matter what. If you’re creating a digital gift guide, see to it that it’s responsive, so people can view it with ease whether they’re on their desktop or phone.
Giving out physical gift guides? Invest in high-quality paper and printing. You want people actually peruse your guide, rather than treat it like a cheap flyer and just throw it out.
And whether you’re creating physical or digital guides (or both), be sure to only use original, high-quality images. Gift guides are meant to be highly visual, so using low-quality images is a no-no.
9. Consider video
If you have resources to spare, consider creating a video gift guide. Video has proven to be effective in gaining traffic, views, and engagement, so a video gift guide could be just the thing to get people interested in your products.
Check out this example from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The retailer created a very quick video that gives an overview of some of their products and the people who would appreciate them.
See if you can go down a similar route this holiday season.
10. Target not just your customers, but also those who would be giving them gifts
See to it that your gift guide appeals to people outside your ideal clientele. Remember, your guides should also engage those who would be buying gifts for your target customer. For example, if you’re selling women’s jewelry, then the people who be buying your merchandise as gifts would likely include husbands and sons.
Avoid using jargon or industry-specific terms in your gift guides, as you might end up confusing those outside your market. This tip is particularly helpful if you own a specialty retail store that’s frequented by hobbyists or aficionados.
PGA TOUR Superstore is a great example of a retailer that creates relatable gift guides. They recognize that the people buying from them during gift-giving seasons aren’t necessarily golfers, so they’ve made it simple for these individuals to use their guides. According to Corey, doing this has resulted in a lot of positive feedback from shoppers.
“Non-golfers really love that we make it easy for them to buy a variety of key items, and golfers can find unique specials and items that they may not have found before just because we make those items come alive in our stores and online. It’s about making it fun and easy for people to find the perfect golf gifts.”
Want more holiday advice?
Watch our webinar How to Turn Lookers into Buyers This Holiday Season, with special guest and top 5 industry expert, Bob Phibbs.
This resource teaches you all about:
- Staff training techniques to implement now, before the holidays
- How to create displays to ensure your best & brightest will draw repeat shoppers
- What to promote in your email messages (and what to minimize) to drive sales
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.