The modern retail industry uses customer analytics as the main driver for both business and marketing strategies. Brands track customer behavior on their website, through rewards cards programs, social media interaction, etc. - and use that info to make both small and large business decisions.
Retailers break down consumers into market segments based on categories like age, location, etc. and figure out the most efficient way to get more sales with each individual consumer. Analytical data can inform anything from where to place the "buy" button on the screen to whether or not to send sales emails once a week or once a month.
In the digital age, retail companies are relying on this information more and more - making constant tweaks to every aspect of their sales process with the goal of getting as much new and repeat business as possible. And yet, with all that emphasis on customer data to drive marketing, they are still ignoring a massively under-utilized market:
The gift recipient.
Well, "ignoring" might be an overstatement, brands do TRY to market to the gift recipient. They just do it in an antiquated fashion that does not look at all like the sophistication that drives the rest of their marketing strategy. Retailers put inserts in the gift box like discount coupons, offer magazines or even basic flyers. These are the exact same methods used in the 1940s and they expect them to work today.
Here is a thought exercise - try to remember the last time you got a gift (or any box for that matter) and actually looked at anything besides the item and any card that might have come with it. If you even came up with an answer that is not "never," you are in the minority. Further, even if these methods have some measurable effect on sales retailers are not taking advantage of the instant feedback loop of modern tracking technology (like for example, using cookies and tracking pixels to trace exact behavior from the moment of message receipt to the follow up purchase), and so cannot be perfected with the sophistication and direct focus that true analytics provides.
The only way to get this type of real time information is by using technology to reach the gift recipient market, and having that technology work with the product in a seamless and engaging way. Some brands have recognized this and tried methods that ultimately failed. One example is using QR codes to access video gift messages that come with the gift, but must be retrieved by downloading an app and scanning a QR code that appears on a physical box insert. It sounds like a good idea in theory, but QR codes are not nearly as relevant as they were projected to be (a recent survey shows that only 21% of American smartphone users have ever scanned a QR code), and asking people to download an app and put in that amount of work was simply too much to keep the attention of today's average consumer.
Like most things in today's marketplace, the key to the future is recognizing the inherent laziness of the consumer and using technology to reach them in the most non-intrusive, interactive, and most importantly - EASY fashion. Brands need to pinpoint ways to make the consumer WANT to engage, and to make it simple to do so. The answer to the first part, engagement, comes from personalization, and even consumers themselves are asking for it. Retailers are recognizing it but are failing to take advantage, and the major reason for this is that they are either ignoring or mismanaging the simplicity factor. The QR code method was a good idea in that it was engaging for the sender, and the personal message provided incentive for the recipient to participate - but it was too hard to accomplish. The next step in retail is to refine that concept and look towards methods that require less work - a click-and-play model for ease of use - that also quickly connects the recipient to tracking technology and brings them (and their data) into the analytics fold.