Nordstrom is launching a new Product eGifting service from prepaid commerce solutions provider CashStar which allows shoppers to send someone an email notification of a gift being purchased for them from the Nordstrom website, but allowing the recipient to pick out details like preferred color, size, model, shipping address and more.
CashStar describes the service as a more personal alternative to gift cards, which gift buyers can use even without direct knowledge of personal details of the individual they are buying for.
The intended recipient of the eGift also can change the product being purchased for them, ensuring they get what they really want.
CashStar positions Product eGifting as a way to increase sales conversion rates and reduce the likelihood that unwanted gifts will be returned. The company cited National Retail Federation data suggesting about 15% of holiday sales — or about $90 billion worth of gifts — were returned last year.
It seems like a really odd service at first glance, as it attempts to improve on the impersonal nature of gift cards by making the gift-giving process in a way even more impersonal: Buyers who don't know much about the people they are buying for send off an e-mail, and the person getting the gift fills in all the blanks — or doesn't even accept the intended gift and changes it to something else they really want. Getting the exact gift you want is not always the most "personal" thing: Sometimes, the thought and the process that went into the buying is what makes it personal. (Yes, we are aware how much this sounds like something from a "Very Special Christmas Episode of Whatever.")
Anyway, that's what comes to mind at first glance, but when you take a second glance specifically at the aforementioned NRF data, this service actually sounds like a pretty practical way to reduce the problem of returns, which is costing the industry a distressing amount of money. Anything that anyone can do to lower the chance that someone will return a purchased gift — like giving them more control over the gift they receive — is worth trying.
This is a new service from CashStar, and Nordstrom is the first to try it, so this particular rollout and the results it delivers will be worth watching. Whether or not a lot of us view gift cards as impersonal, it is clear that physical gift cards and eGift cards continue to grow in popularity. CashStar is offering a pretty straightforward alternative, but we need to see how Nordstom does with it, and whether or not it catches on with more retailers.
This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2016 holiday shopping season. You can browse our holiday page for more stories.