Why is gifting so hard?

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately to understand the unique challenges in today’s gifting experience. It is way too hard to determine the right gift for every person and for every gifting occasion in our lives, according to the 4,000 people that took our surveys. Consumers are craving an experience that is more personal, more gratifying and frankly, more fun. That’s why Bridget Johns, and I are launching To&From, a gifting intelligence company that leverages data-driven curation to deliver a great gift every time.

But why is gift-giving so hard? Here are the key reasons we identified. 

Tired To&From girl sitting at a desk with her head down

Gifting is a regular occurrence. Buying gifts is something we don’t think practically about until we actually need something…including those important gifts, such as something for your sister’s wedding, for a close friend’s birthday, or for a colleague’s retirement. Then, there are those little somethings you want to offer for Teacher Appreciation Week and to the neighbor who watched your house while you were away. The reality is we are regularly in need of something for a gift. In fact, we learned that the average consumer will make a gift purchase within the next 30 days and, over the course of a year, will purchase gifts for 20 different people. It’s a lot! 

This frequency of gifting means that we, as Gifters, are repeating the gift-search work over and over again. With busy lives and competing priorities, we frankly don’t have time to put the same effort into every single gifting occasion. That is one reason why 90% of people we surveyed said they wanted help improving the gifting experience. 

Gifting is personal. Every gift is an expression of a relationship between two people, the Gifter and Giftee. We all know relationships aren’t easy, right? So it follows that gifting isn’t easy. The gift that someone is offering in theory represents how well that person knows the recipient – their taste and preferences, their aspirations, their state of mind, etc. And the choice of the gift for a spouse, parent, sibling or friend is presumably based on that relationship and information. But so often even the most well-intentioned and researched gifts fall flat. For example, a husband giving his wife a vacuum cleaner for her birthday could send him to the dog house, but the same gift from a sister or close friend could be perfect.

Sometimes a failed gift happens because we’re disconnected. Other times, we are so scared of making a mistake that we become overwhelmed with the idea of where to even start. More often, however, we are just unsure of what to shop for because people change, their taste evolves, and there are SO many options out there. “What on earth should I get?”, we will ask ourselves. 

Gifting is emotionally loaded. According to a 2017 report from Marketwatch, every year roughly $16 billion is spent on gifts we don’t actually want or use. Another $3 billion is spent on gift cards that are never redeemed. Putting these figures into perspective illustrates that millions of people every year know exactly what it feels like to experience the dread and disappointment that comes from giving and/or receiving a lackluster gift. 

This all-to-familiar feeling adds to the pressure and expectations that mount with each gifting experience. As Gifters, we may resort to a “safe” path with a gift card that may or not get used. Or, the anxiety about mucking up a gift becomes so great that we end up not giving anything. These choices eliminate the opportunity to experience what it feels like to get it right and hear the Giftee exclaim delightedly, “Wow! How did you know!” Don’t we all want more of those “get-it-right” moments? 

We need smarter gifting solutions. Retailers do a lot to support gifting purchases during the fourth quarter holiday season. During this time, we are inundated with a frenzy of articles, emails, tv news segments and catalogs featuring the “best” gifts where we learn about cool new brands and all the must-have products. But many of these items are not right for our gift recipients. And, furthermore, what about the rest of the year? More than half of gifting purchases actually happen outside of the holiday period, according to Forbes, leaving Gifters on their own to figure out where to start. 

At the same time, the days of window shopping, an activity where shoppers used to get a lot of inspiration, are dwindling. Nowadays, we typically go online first to do “research.” Then, after hours of endless scrolling, we may give up, not buy anything, and pledge to try again later. Our social feeds are filled with ads for products we might like based on our own shopping habits, but what about the people we’re actually buying for? What would they love?  

Let’s face it, the only predominant gifting solutions that exist in retail, Wishlists or Registries, have been the same for years. These lists, established by the gift recipient, imply that if you buy what they ask for, everyone will be happy, right? Wrong! Our survey showed that the majority of gift recipients (60%) actually want to be surprised. Don’t get me wrong: Gift Registries are a great option for those big life changes (i.e. wedding, baby) but for other occasions and celebrations, we need more. 

What we really need is a smart, innovative gifting solution, and that’s where To&From comes in. We are bringing together the key players in every gifting experience – the Giftee, the Gifter, and great brands to produce the best gifts for every occasion. We are building a dynamic, data-driven gift recommendation engine that keeps up with trends as they change, understands interests and style preferences as they evolve, and sources new brands that are coming into the market with incredible products that would be perfect for that special someone. We call this “intelligent gifting.” And we can’t wait for you to try it!

So, yeah, gifting can be hard. But thanks to To&From, it doesn’t have to be.

Join the Waitlist here.

Kristina Eastman, 

To&From, Co-Founder