Gift registries were early to e-commerce to help brides, expectant mothers, and others organize their wants ahead of a special event. But with legacy retailers such as Macy’s and Sears dominant offline and everything from Amazon to Zola tapping the online market, integration of offline, online, and mobile tools is still evolving.
Gilt Groupe spinoff Zola offers a one-stop shop of exclusive collections including kitchen utensils, electronics, housewares, tabletop, and linens. The universal MyRegistry accesses virtually any retailer, and the bare-bones Amazon registry site offers pretty much any item.
Couples can curate their own collections through SimpleRegistry and Merci Registry, though they mostly assemble click-throughs to select retailers. Still, other registries help couples solicit charitable donations, crowdsource honeymoons, and build and renovate their dream homes.
The department-store edge
Stocking a variety of goods, large retailers have maintained an edge in the registry arena by adding online capabilities to in-store services. Macy’s, Target, J.C. Penney, Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel and others allow brides to shop in stores using handheld scanners, or pick items online. Similarly, the givers can shop in-store or online.
But for couples and families with a variety of wants, one registry may not be enough.
“One is not enough; 10 is too many. Two to four registries give guests more choices,” according to wedding-planning site The Knot. “To make it easy on yourself and others, pick one store for bedding, another for china, and so on.”
Universal registries help reduce duplications by aggregating selections in one place, allowing small retailers to get in on the action.
“Everything is housed on one gift list,” Nancy Lee, president of universal registry MyRegistry.com told Retail Dive. “They just put the items in the shopping cart and it sends the sales to stores that may not have been getting those sales before.”
“We give gift registry traffic to thousands of retailers that don’t have gift registries,” Lee adds. “Using our software levels the playing field, and makes sure that deserving retailers’ items are seen on the same gift lists as the big guys in the registry business.”
Marrying events to e-commerce
Ease of use is key to any registry. Most online pages allow users to create an account and a registry page in minutes, and many invite the gift requesters to decorate their pages with attractive wallpapers, photos, and other embellishments.
When the registry list is complete, announcements should inform friends and relatives of the selections. “A bride or expectant mom has to let people know where they are registered, or nothing is going to get purchased,” Lee says.
MyRegistry offers a widget retailers can add to their sites to encourage shoppers to click and save selections, similar to Pinterest’s “Pin it” button. “We had it first,” Lee claims. “But our button is more sophisticated, because we grab pricing information and a description. It’s not just a pretty picture—although a pretty picture is important, too.”
MyRegistry can also draw registry information from more than 3,000 retailers nationwide into its system to create a one-stop shop. “A lot of brides and moms-to-be say they already have a gift registry at Target or Crate & Barrel,” Lee says. “We ping those sites and match the data.”
Marketing to males
Electronics superstore Best Buy is the latest major retailer to add a gift registry, inviting customers to pick out their suggestions online, at in-store kiosks and via its mobile app. Best Buy also promotes integration with MyRegistry alongside its in-house options.
“Electronics and small appliances are as important to today’s newlyweds as silverware and towels,” said Wendy Fritz, head of Gifting Strategy at Best Buy, in a statement. “The Best Buy Wedding Registry has the gifts that couples want and need—and that both brides and grooms can get excited about.”
Male-oriented gifts are a growth are for the registry market, by the way. MyRegistry recently declared 2015 to be the “Year of the Groom” due to increases in requests for gaming consoles, tools, camping equipment and other items usually seen as male wants.
Hitting the bricks
Many retailers who want to tap the gift market may want to do so without adding a lot of hardware. “The old gift-registry systems with the scanner and the kiosk are very expensive for retailers to invest in,” Lee says.
Starting this year, ShopKo, Ethan Allen, World Market and other big retailers will post MyRegistry QR codes, encouraging shoppers to download an app and start populating their wishlists in-store. The app syncs with existing POS systems and allows users to scan items with their smartphones, eliminating the need for a dedicated registry system.
For shoppers, it offers a new way to integrate online wants with things they see in-store, as well as on-the-spot convenience beyond the old department store systems, which can create obstacles between product discovery and gift registry.
“To send people to the customer service desk to register for the registry is an opportunity to lose the customer,” Lee says. “You don’t want to lose the customer; you want them to open a registry right there in the baby department.”