It's that time of year again, when people struggle to choose presents for relatives they see but once a year and barely know. 

The solution to this, beyond just plumping for wine or a selection box, is to use a gift finder tool.

Some of our biggest retailers have kindly provided these tools to assist our present buying this year. So how well do they work?

To find out, I've been looking at how M&S, Net-A-Porter and others use gift finders.

For more on this topic, read our analysis of Argos' gift finder tool or our post on Christmas email marketing campaigns.

Master of Malt

A bottle of booze is always a popular gift choice for your uncle or granddad, and Master of Malt is trying to grab a share of that market with its useful gift finder tool.

The tool can be accessed via a ‘gift ideas’ hub page that is the first option in the top nav.

Users can either opt for staff recommendations or answer three simple questions to get suggestions based on the type of spirit, cost and product preferences.

Overall it’s a very simple tool and it’s quite fun to use – check out the images used to represent the different types of spirits.

Mulberry

Mulberry has created an online one-armed bandit to jazz up its gift finder, and personally I think it’s a great idea.

These things are supposed to be fun and bring some much-needed novelty to the Christmas shopping chores, so Mulberry certainly delivers on this front.

Users have to first select the recipient (mum, daughter or girlfriend) then stipulate how good they’ve been before spinning the wheels.

Basically it just recommends more expensive products if the recipient has been good, but it’s still a neat little game.

Plus it also acts as a data capture tool, as after spinning the wheels users are hit with a pop up window that asks for their email address in return for the chance to win a Mulberry bag.

That’s a pretty good incentive, especially when you know the user is already considering buying one.

The White Company

A slightly lacklustre example from The White Company

Though it has a ‘gifts’ section within the top nav it really just groups things by gender and product type.

The first page of the ‘gifts for him’ section then just includes two dressing gowns and about 20 candles, which isn’t particularly inspiring.

You can filter on price and product type, but compared to others on this list it lacked a bit of pizzazz.

In fairness though, this type of gift hub is quite common among retailers. Even John Lewis, which has a paid search campaign for 'gift finder', largely relies on grouping products by type and gender.

Debenhams

You have to do a bit of searching to locate the Debenhams’ gift finder, and when you finally do it’s not really all that useful.

I found the categories to be a bit random and unrelated to one another (one for gifts under £25, one for your dad, another for ‘tasty treats’), but then they might be popular among Christmas shoppers.

Another fairly major flaw is that the gift finder is hosted on a third-party site (foundit.co.uk) so product information is extremely limited and users are directed back to the Debenhams store to actually make a purchase.

Net-A-Porter

Net-A-Porter doesn’t have a gift finder tool as such, but I’ve included it here as I like the way it has presented its online holiday shop.

The aim is to provide ‘fantasy fashion and fairy-tale gifts’, and as it’s Net-A-Porter all items come with a massive price tag.

For example, in the ‘stocking fillers’ section the first item is a bracelet that costs a mere £17,000.

Other sections include ‘Can’t go wrong’, ‘Fantasy gifts’ and ‘The evening room’, which is more inspiring that the usual ‘gift for him’ categories.

It’s also interesting that Net-A-Porter has avoided all use of the word Christmas, instead referring to the ‘holiday season’. Presumably this is because it caters to an international audience.

M&S

M&S is being quite coy with its gift finder this year. Rather than linking to/promoting it via the homepage, it's there in a sub-menu in the Christmas section. 

This leads us to a page where customers can select the person the gift is for. 

Rather the the age/gender/price range approach, M&S gets all sassy with the descriptions, which grates a little. 

It means that, if I want to look for a present for my six-year-old niece, I have to select 'little princess', then decide which of these fits best: 

It's not actually that useful. If I select bookworm, I get two choices.

M&S would have been better advised to use some decent filters to allow customers to narrow by age and interests. The way this has been designed doesn't really help at all.  

What do you think? Do you find gift finders useful? Are they a useful sales driver at this time of year? Let us know below...

David Moth

Published 25 November, 2014 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Irina Kovalyova, Marketing manager at Allo

Great comments David, however I would say that mostly retailers use pricing inspiration during a holiday season. And also the competition between online stores reaches its maximum at this time. That's why it's vital to use price intelligence tools like http://competera.net/ or http://upstreamcommerce.com/ to make your pricing more competitive

over 3 years ago

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