Founder & CEO of KNACKSHOPS.COM, building lasting relationships through exceptional business gifts.

We are so over you, 2020. 

That’s what companies large and small seem to be saying as they start planning the holiday season earlier than ever before.

It makes sense. Businesses have been starved of the interpersonal connectedness —  in-person meetings, trade shows, business lunches and dinners — that normally fuels them. And we’re looking ahead at a Q4 without the community-building holiday parties, client open houses and informal “Secret Santa” exchanges that connect us as humans, not just business partners.

These colossal interruptions to “business as usual” in 2020 translate into a holiday season that is especially meaningful as a way to show staff and clients alike that we appreciate all the flexibility and sacrifices 2020 has required. Despite the physical separation, we’re still here for them; we’re together, although physically apart.

In my corporate gifting business, the race to 2021 became obvious over the summer, when we saw an influx of holiday orders from companies planning ahead. This earlier-than-ever start of the corporate gifting season is a smart move because the issue with supply chains is very real. Product availability is already tight and getting tighter. If you need a smaller number of client or staff gifts, you have a little more time (not much), but for any number over 50, we recommend devising a holiday plan by mid-October. Otherwise, you run the risk of not getting enough of the items you really want.

The types of gifts that companies are choosing for both staff and clients in the time of Covid also reflect the unusual circumstances of 2020. Mindfulness and self-care gifts are the clear winners, and we see a lot more family gifts (movie night or game night themes). There is a growing intimacy to corporate gifting that was rare in years past. Anything that touched the body, like bath salts or body lotion, has generally been avoided by business gift givers as too personal. But 2020 stomped all over that strict dividing line between home and office, as we zoomed into each other’s kitchens and living rooms and met pets and small children during online meetings. Suddenly bath bombs, guided journals and herbal tea are all the rage. 

Another trending corporate gifting theme in 2020 is anything home related. Because we’re spending more time at home, gourmet treats, barware and other thoughtfully chosen domestic delights are much appreciated.

We’re also seeing “give back” options become more popular. Whether it’s to support pandemic relief, Blacks Lives Matter or environmental protection, companies are increasingly honoring their employees’ desire to contribute to causes that are important to them. As just one example, we’ve given our corporate customers an option to trade off their normal “early buyer” discount in lieu of a larger charitable donation matched by our company to Black Girls CODE, a San Francisco-based organization. We’ve been gratified to see even $100K+ customers forgo their discount to join us in supporting this worthwhile cause. 

Even the method of corporate gifting has been altered by the pandemic. We see this in the extraordinary growth in corporate use of gift portals and of gifts tied to virtual events.

A private gift portal solves a significant new problem introduced by the pandemic: knowing where to send your business gifts. In previous years most business gifts were sent to offices, but due to the pandemic, business gift recipients are now largely working from their homes, cabins, or family homes. Privacy concerns make it very difficult to obtain accurate mailing addresses, even for intra-company gifting. A hosted private gift portal allows companies to curate a special gift — or even a selection of gifts — and invite the intended recipients to enter their preferred shipping addresses, ensuring that the gift arrives at the right address at the right time. One additional benefit of this approach is a dramatic downturn in “Return to Sender” problems caused by inaccurate addresses. And it also makes the process easier for business gifters. Delays in gathering recipient addresses from our clients has traditionally been hands-down the number one source of delay in the business gifting process. 

The second gifting method, adding a gifting element to a virtual event, introduces the intimacy of “breaking bread” together over a virtual pipe. Since we’ve been forced to cancel large holiday gatherings, virtual happy hours have become the norm. In order to make them more festive, many of our clients are coordinating gifts to be opened during their online events. Whether a present to be enjoyed for years to come or consumables like wine and cheese, sending a surprise to be unboxed elevates a pixelated party by imbuing it with a shared experience. Even if we can’t converse unmasked at a real-life soiree, we can still break bread together, lending a little intimacy to this unconventional moment in our shared history.

The pandemic has ushered in one more twist on holiday gift timing. This year, more than years past, January will be a great time for business gifting. While everyone appreciates a gift in late November/early December, the message of a gift delivered in January is generally more about the future than the past. January gift themes tend to be hopeful, fresh, and optimistic about the year ahead. And if there was ever a year that your gift recipients want to leave behind, it’s 2020!  

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