Retailers digitize gifting this holiday season

The big names in retail, including Shoppers Drug Mart and Walmart, are encouraging Canadians to shop with them by offering digital solutions that make gift-giving easier.

Nobody likes having to spend an inordinate amount of time fighting the cranky crowds that populate malls during the holidays, or hopelessly searching the net for hours while trying to find the perfect gift. To try to make sure that finicky and often clueless gift hunters make their holiday purchases with them, retailers this year are providing the proper motivation: time-saving tactics in the form of digital gifting tools. Here’s what five of the big guns are doing.

Knowing that social recommendations are a strong influencer of purchase decisions, Shoppers Drug Mart is encouraging people to purchase its products this holiday season with an app that determines the best gift options for friends based on their Facebook activity. The Gifts Made Easy app falls in line with Shoppers’ desire to position itself as the “gifts made easy” destination. Since putting increased effort into its digital presence over the last year, the retailer has seen its Facebook fan base swell to 100,000. Realizing that shoppers tend to go online to do their research before embarking on their gift-purchasing excursions, the retailer decided Facebook was a huge market it could tap into to further its easy-gifting strategy.

“We certainly recognize that where consumers are spending their time has changed,” says Byron Ells, senior director of media and digital, Shoppers Drug Mart. “We know that consumers spend a lot of time on Facebook, Canadians more than anyone else, so we saw this as an opportunity to help people find gift suggestions for the people on their list by tapping into information that people have already said about themselves on Facebook.”

Shoppers has been promoting the social gifting service with an integrated media campaign across TV, radio, newspaper and digital, as well as search, given that’s where many people start their shopping journey, says Ells. He adds that the retailer plans on further investigating the social digi-sphere for contesting and voting initiatives, as well as how to further help customers in making their purchase decisions.

Like Shoppers, Walmart entered the social gifting game with a Facebook app of its own. Called Shopycat, it similarly uses Facebook Connect to track activity in order to present users with relevant gift suggestions for their friends. The Facebook app was developed by @Walmartlabs and was launched to the retail giant’s 10.6 million Facebook fans as well as through its YouTube channel. It drives people to make their customized gift purchases online at, though it also provides users with the location of the nearest Walmart.  The app also sometimes directs users to other retailers for items it doesn’t carry.

Best Buy is also using Facebook to go social with gifting this year, but it’s the one that’s giving the presents.  With DDB Canada it created its “Pass the Present” contest that allows players to unwrap a digital present by committee. Users download a gift – a Facebook app – and are permitted to unwrap one layer of wrapping paper to try to reveal what’s underneath. If they don’t reveal the prize, they then pass it along to a friend who downloads the gift and has a go at unwrapping it. Best Buy is promoting 13 products through the contest, with over 40,000 prizes to be won. Each product has its own Facebook page, which drives customers back to the Best Buy website.

Unlike Shoppers, Walmart and Best Buy, Indigo has taken its social digital gifting efforts to Twitter, helping its customers with gifting emergencies. It’s using the social media platform to promote its Indigo Gift SOS program, using the hashtag #IndigoGiftSOS, which allows people to tweet their gifting dilemmas in order to receive personalized recommendations from Indigo staff.

Finally, Future Shop’s digital gifting effort this year is seeing it approach gift-giving from the opposite side of the equation to the other four. Rather than targeting the gift giver with easy gift options, it’s experimenting with “subliminal messaging” to help people receive the gifts they’ve placed on their own holiday wish lists. Working with Cossette and Media Experts, the retailer launched the Giftertiser, which allows users to create a kind of customizable video wish list. They can take a pre-existing viral video, insert either subliminally or overtly a gift from Future Shop they’d like to receive and then send the vid to their friends.

With files from Megan Haynes and Val Maloney