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Home Depot climbs the rungs on digital gifting by embracing mobile

The Home Depot’s mobile-first focus has awarded the brand the top spot among retailers offering digital gift cards, proving that consumers require easy ways of sending virtual store credit to friends and family via smartphones, according to a report from CashStar and Retail Systems Research.

Honing in on mobile experiences for buyers and recipients is now an industry standard for any major brand, although some marketers have not taken full advantage of some of mobile’s potentially lucrative aspects for driving sales, such as distributing gift cards via social media. CashStar and Retail Systems Research named The Home Depot, Sephora and Dunkin’ Donuts as the top three retailers, respectively, excelling in digital gifting initiatives.

“Mobile’s role in digital gifting is constantly evolving and growing as consumers want the ability to engage with their favorite brands across all channels seamlessly,” said Anne Klein, senior director of client success at CashStar, Portland, ME. “According to the report, mobile is crucial as evidenced by the top five digital gifting experiences – The Home Depot, Sephora, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks and Ulta Cosmetics – which offered consumers mobile-optimized purchases on both mobile Web and mobile apps, and extensive notification options to both the buyer and the recipient.

“As consumers operate across channels, the mobile platform is a way for brands to create a unified experience, including when it comes to digital gifting.”

Paramount experiences
All of the study’s top brands included a base of important experiences that must be included in digital gifting platforms. These included easily findable gift cards regardless of channel, mobile-optimized checkout on sites and applications, mobile delivery and notification options to buyers and recipients and personalization options to customize the card.

Additionally, consumers appreciated some ability to add the store credit into a mobile wallet for safekeeping.

Consistency should also be an utmost concern, as brands including Outback Steakhouse and REI received the highest possible scores for making their cards easily findable on desktop, but failed at making them easy to find on the mobile Web experience.

The Home Depot managed to score high on many parameters set forth by Retail Systems Research, such as speediness of delivery, loyalty program integration and ability to deliver via social networks.

The brand has been ramping up its focus on mobile recently, especially as it continues discovering how personal devices can also affect in-store sales.

A Home Depot executive at eTail East 2015 said that the retailer is getting closer to bridging the gap between online and offline conversion as it weighs the benefits of digital and mobile against the pull of the chain’s stores (see story).

Mobile will likely play an increasingly more significant role in digital gifting as the holiday season approaches. The personalization capabilities that it offers, such as adding a photo to the card or changing the accompanying message, is a major cachet for buyers.

Additionally, card recipients appreciate features such as the ability to save the amount to their loyalty program and add or manage cards in the retailer’s mobile application.

Sephora, the study’s number-two winner, has a popular loyalty platform called Beauty Insider that enables consumers to earn one point per each dollar spent. The points can then be redeemed for sample cosmetics and perfumes.

The ability to add a Sephora gift card into the Beauty Insider program alleviates hassle for makeup fans and also allows them to conduct an entire transaction on their personal device, regardless of whether they are in-store or at home.

Social media’s spotlight
The research discovered that many retailers are missing the mark in effectively leveraging social media platforms such as Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook – communication avenues where they can easily access millions of fans at once.

Cabela’s and Neiman Marcus are the only non-restaurant brands that allow social media users to purchase gift cards directly on their Facebook pages.

Users appreciate having the option of sending gift cards via social media

Although quite a few marketers use their social media accounts to promote sales events and discounts, there is ample opportunity to drive sales by enabling consumers to easily purchase mobile-optimized gift cards to send to their friends and family.

This strategy can be implemented year-round, especially as Facebook users may want to buy last-minute gifts to send to friends, but may be even more effective around the holiday season.

“Mobile digital gifting has enormous potential when implemented by applying best practices across mobile touch points,” Ms. Klein said. “A customer’s mobile engagement may be an indicator of the last minute consumer demand as we see over 80 percent of transactions are still considered ‘last minute’ gifting.

“Therefore, the digital gift card must be easy to locate on the mobile site, and the retailer should offer a quick purchase experience,” she said. “Retailers who have apps must also deliver experiences that enable the customer to access and personalize the card with their stored contacts and photos/videos.

“Finally, at redemption, consumers should be able to easily pull the digital gift card up on their phone and easily redeem.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York