July 7, 2022

How to Engage Different Gift Experiences Using QR Codes


For many merchants, the end of the year is a big period for sales growth. The reason isn’t just Black Friday and Cyber Monday - it’s the holiday season, and customers are out in force looking for those perfect gifts. Gifting is a huge sales opportunity for merchants not just during the holidays, but year-round - birthdays, anniversaries, and beyond. 

It’s also a unique opportunity for both acquisition and retention. Your product may be given to someone who has never heard of your brand before, or it may be given to an existing customer who hasn’t placed an order in a while. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Gifting isn’t always as linear as “buy the gift, give the gift”, there are several different paths to purchase for gifts, with multiple people involved and different touch points. 

Crafting a meaningful experience that engages everyone involved can be tricky. After all, what appeals to the original customer may not appeal to the end recipient, and vice versa. However, there is one very simple yet powerful tool every merchant can use quickly to not only engage, but gather useful data on their customers - QR codes.

Why QR codes?

QR codes have been around now for almost a decade, but it’s only been in recent years that adoption and use has increased significantly in the West. Between 2018 and 2020, consumer interactions with QR increased 94%, and in one survey 83% of respondents said they’d used a QR code at least once with 72% having scanned one in the last month. Whether it’s scanning a product for more information, pulling up a digital menu at a restaurant, or directing a customer to an online payment gateway, it’s safe to say that Western consumers are becoming more accustomed to interacting with QR codes. 

They’re a concise way for brands to add more information, and an easily understood and accessible way for consumers to find that information. Brands no longer need to have every single detail on the back of a box, their customers can simply scan the QR code and be directed to a much more interactive and engaging digital experience. This makes them the ideal tool for merchants who want to engage those involved in the gifting journey. 

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Gifting isn’t always as linear as “buy the gift, give the gift”, there are several different paths to purchase for gifts, with multiple people involved and different touch points.

Exploring the different paths of the customer gifting journey

Let’s take a look at some examples of different gifting paths from short and straightforward, to longer and more complex. By doing so, we can look at the touch points throughout and the opportunities to engage the different customers and parties involved. 

Path #1 - The Direct Physical Gift 

This is the path most would think of when they consider what the gifting process looks like. Customer A buys a physical product online, which is then shipped to their home. They then give that product as a gift to their recipient. The timeline for this is generally shorter, usually however long it takes for the customer to buy the product and then give it to their recipient. The time will largely depend on how far in advance of their chosen occasion the customer opts to purchase. 

In this path, there are 3 major touch points where QR codes will be valuable:

Physical Product - The most obvious place for a QR code if you want to target either the customer or recipient is on the product itself. This could direct them to further information on the product use such as instructions, care guidance, or just more story-telling for the product or brand. Alternatively, it might lead them to a landing page where they can collect an incentive in exchange for some personal details such as an email address.

Returns Process - Make it super simple for a customer to begin the returns or exchange process by scanning a QR code on either the order packing slip, or the gift receipt. This will mean you can target both the customer and their recipient, depending on who may need to initiate the returns process. Making this easy will be hugely beneficial to retention, as 92% of customers who have a positive returns experience say they’d make a future purchase.

In Package - This will most likely only target the customer who purchased the product, rather than the recipient, but it’s still a valuable touch point to consider. Inside the package itself, include a QR code on any product flyers that could lead to incentives for future orders, or more information about your loyalty program. These will either help lead the customer to another purchase, or they may pass this on to someone else who is interested in your product if they’re not as familiar with your niche.

This path may be the most linear, but it’s not without its own difficulties. When a customer places an order and they plan to deliver the gift themselves, you won’t actually know if the order is a gift or not. It’s processed just as any regular order would. It’s more likely it’s a gift if it’s around a key gifting holiday and especially if the customer is new to your brand, but you can’t always guarantee it. By adding QR codes to these three touch points, you’ll ensure the best chance possible at engaging the customer and their gift recipient.  

Path #2 - The Indirect Physical Gift

In this scenario, the customer has purchased a gift and is sending it directly to the recipient rather than their own home. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as distance between the customer and recipient, or timing. The timeline is shorter than with a direct physical gift, as there’s no added time between the order being dispatched and the gift being handed over. It’s just the time between dispatch and delivery. 

The touch points you want to consider for QR codes remain largely the same as with the first path we explored, but with a few tweaks to the targeting and messaging. The benefit of QR codes is that you can have a different code unique to each audience. So if an order is marked as a gift, you can have a different QR code to if it was a regular order. This means you can tailor the messaging of whichever page the QR code directs to. The physical product will remain the same, as it’s more difficult to change this if it’s printed on a label or packaging. As for a QR code for returns initiation, it may be easier to have the customer select if it’s a gift they’re returning on the landing page for the code, rather than having a separate code altogether though this is certainly an option. 

As for “In Package”, include a QR code on a flier or other printed material you include in your packaging, with information that speaks to the order being a gift. This can be as simple as “We hope you enjoy your gift!” or “Want to know more about your gift?” with a code which leads them to more information about your brand or the product they received. It could also be an incentive, such as bonus points for joining a loyalty program, or free shipping when they place an order. 

Path #3 - The Gift Card

Gift cards might sound like a straightforward path, but there are actually multiple options for how the card is purchased and given. With physical gift cards, the customer purchases the card either online or at a brick-and-mortar store, then they give it to the recipient. With digital gift cards, either the card is sent to the customer’s inbox to give later, or it’s sent directly to the recipient if your store has the right functionality to facilitate this. Then there’s the timeline, which is going to depend on how long it takes the recipient to redeem the gift card. They may do so the day they receive it, or they may take months. In any case, there are three ways you can use QR codes to enhance the experience. 

Gift card redemption - If it’s a digital gift card and you have a physical retail outlet, including a QR code to make it easy for the customer to redeem it in-store will give them flexibility and improve their experience. They can make use of it across different channels, and this will also make it more likely they’ll redeem it faster. 

Product purchased and in the package - As before, include a QR code on the product itself and if they ordered online, in the package. 

Post-purchase email communication - If the gift card is redeemed online, include QR codes in post-purchase emails that focus on education and retention. Education in delivering them more information about your brand and products if they’re new to your store, and retention in giving them some kind of incentive to return to your store. You could also have QR codes as part of your customer onboarding, where it leads to a quiz flow to learn more about that customer and the kind of products and content they prefer.

#4 - The Gift Subscription

Subscription commerce is huge, and so it makes perfect sense that more customers are looking to send subscriptions as gifts. It does, however, come with its challenges. Subscriptions already have high potential for churn, and this is even higher with gift recipients.

The path here is the customer purchases a subscription, and then either adds the recipient's details or purchases the subscription as a gift which allows the recipient to redeem at a later date. Here there are 2 key touch points that will help you to reduce churn in gift subscriptions:

In the first subscription box - As part of your onboarding process for gift subscribers, add a QR code to the first subscription box that will take them to a page to set up their account or go through your quiz flow so that you can learn more about their individual preferences. You can then use this data to tailor future boxes, adding that level of personalization that will make them more likely to carry that subscription forward. Alternatively, it could lead them to a landing page where they can learn more about the products in the box.

In email communications - With email, QR codes could also lead to a quiz, or product information. To take it a step further, they could also be used as part of a more direct retention strategy, offering gift subscribers different incentives or perks if they carry the subscription forward. 


QR codes are everywhere, and your customers are increasingly using them as part of their everyday lives. When you’re looking for a way to enhance the gifting experience and improve retention, QR codes make for a simple, elegant solution that won’t bulk out communications or take up space on packaging. 

Want to enhance your digital gifting experience? Click here to learn more about Govalo.

When you’re looking for a way to enhance the gifting experience and improve retention, QR codes make for a simple, elegant solution that won’t bulk out communications or take up space on packaging.

Want to learn more about Brij?