Holiday 2016: The Year of Experiential Gifting

Oct 23, 2016
Written by Sandrine Thompson

According to our 2016 Holiday Intelligence Report, shoppers this holiday season will likely dedicate more of their holiday spend to gifts of experience. A growing interest to purchase, for example, a family vacation or a hot air balloon ride with friends as gifts, instead of material goods, could lead to strong sales in travel bookings, concert and sporting event tickets, restaurant certificates, and food and drink items this holiday season.

The rise of the experiential gift is rooted in an increase desire to both give and receive these types of gifts—22 percent of consumers surveyed by the National Retail Federation last year planned to give an experience-type gift and 37 percent said they would like to receive one. Younger shoppers are the most ardent embracers of the trend. Thirty-five percent of 18 - 34 year olds surveyed planned to give experiential gifts and more than half said they'd like to receive one.1

Create Connections

Consumer researchers who study the impact of gifts on happiness found that "when recipients receive an experience, regardless of whether they share in that experience with the gift-giver, they feel more connected to the gift giver as a result of it, compared to receiving a material gift.2"

While people seem to find experiential gifts and material gifts equally thoughtful, experiential gifts invoke stronger emotions when consumed and, in turn, create a stronger connection between the giver and recipient. The complex psychology that drives this response is shared in a fascinating TED talk by Dr. Daniel Kahneman, The Riddle of Experience vs. Memory.

Maximize the Trend

To maximize the trend this holiday season, there are specific strategies that both Publishers and Advertisers can employ:

  • Highlight Experiential Gift Sites: Consumers are primed to react to experiential gift ideas. Knowing this, publishers should highlight the retailers selling these items in multiple ways. A special category or section on a site dedicated to "Experiences" could go a long way to helping shoppers find this content. Savvy publishers will go the extra mile to highlight a few sample gift items—tickets to the latest Broadway or Vegas show, for example—to hopefully inspire a gift for the hard-to-buy-for person.

  • Material Gifts as Experiences: Retailers who sell strictly material goods can participate in the experiential gifting trend by highlighting the experiential aspects of an item. For example, an espresso maker (as a gift) is more than an espresso maker—it will invoke many happy mornings and memories for the recipient. Positioning retail goods in the context of how they contribute to one's idealized lifestyle allows retailers to move into a space where they can amaze and inspire shoppers rather than just meet basic needs.

The Perfect Gift

Experiential gifts are the perfect category of gifts to promote as shipping windows narrow and last minute shoppers need options.

And don't forget gift cards! They are the epitome of the experiential gift. They may not win any awards for creativity, but they deliver the on-going, connection-building experience that we all seem to enjoy.

The CJ Affiliate network has over 300 programs that sell event and movie tickets, specialty food and drinks, restaurant certificates, travel bookings, and unique experiences. Within the CJ Account Manager, search for programs to promote this season within the Gifts, Food & Drink, Events and Travel categories.

Here's wishing you a season of wonderful holiday experiences!

1. [National Retail Federation, Dec 2015] Back to text
2. [Wharton School of Business, Dec 2015] Back to text


Topics: Retail, Holiday,
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