How the Internet Has Changed the Gift Giving Process

A couple of years ago I was in the hospital after giving birth to my second child. Numb from the spinal tap and half asleep, a nurse brought in a gorgeous bouquet of brightly colored daisies and lilacs – my favorite. Thinking it was from a relative, I was surprised to read the card to see that it had actually come from a collection of users to a forum I had been a part of for five years. They had collected money, emailed my friend for the hospital info, and bought the flowers online to congratulate me on the newest addition to my family.

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This is no longer an uncommon occurrence. The Internet has changed a great many things, including the way we shop for ourselves and others. Gift giving is something entirely different from what it was twenty years ago, or even a decade ago. Now it takes a couple of clicks and you can send a gift to anyone, even without knowing their home address.

While you could make a lot of arguments about how ecommerce and marketing have dominated the changes in online shopping, I find the ways it has changed gift giving much more interesting. These are the five ways that I feel the adaption is most evident.

Easier To Shop

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I used to dread Christmas shopping all year round. There were always so many people to buy gifts for, and I hated wandering through crowded stores and malls for hours on end. Most the time I would get there with a particular gift in mind only to find it was sold out, so I would have to spend even more time finding something else. It is a nightmare that can put a real damper on the holiday.

Now you can do all of your shopping in your free time without leaving your home. Every gift I have bought the past couple of years has been done online. It is easy, and I can send things directly to those I want without having to take a trip to the post office. Though you can also ship from home if you have a printer handy. For example, speaking about flowers that inspired this article, Flowers24hours.co.uk says online flowers are most popular gifts because it’s so easy and fast!

Better Brainstorming

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If you don’t know what in the world to get someone for their birthday, a holiday or just because, you can find some excellent ideas by browsing the web. Blogs are written entirely for giving advice to seeking gift givers. You can find the latest products that are being released, or see what is on sale. All from your own computer.

Sometimes I will think of something I am not even sure exists. A Google search will help me out, and I either find that it is an idea created before, the tools I need to make it myself, or a way to adjust existing items to match my needs.

Comparing Prices

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Do you like to save money? Obviously, you do…everyone does. But you don’t have to sacrifice quality to do it. Just compare prices using the many handy tools on the web to do it. Google has a shopping section that will give you a rundown of all the different prices from around the web. You can find out about sales going on at local places or online storefronts.

Using FreeShipping.org to find places that offer free shipping on orders can cut a lot of cost. There are also extensions like PriceBlink or Shoptimate that compare prices as you shop, or alert you to price drops on other sites.

Social Media Shopping

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The other day I bought a friend of mine some toffees through Facebook. I just made the purchase, it gave her an email and an alert on her wall, and she put in her address to have the gift shipped to her. A couple weeks before I sent someone a gift card from a local fast food place they enjoy as thanks for helping me with some computer issues I was having.

Sending gifts through social media, especially Facebook, is a great option. Especially since you don’t have to know their address in order to do it. They put in the information for it to be sent, so it is safe, secure and easy to do. Just go to the person’s Facebook profile and click on ‘gifts’. Other sites are developing the same kind of services, such as Pinterest.

Digital and Virtual Gifts

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Speaking of gift cards, you can send them to email addresses from most businesses at this point. So it doesn’t have to be done via social media. I have sent Amazon gift cards, Netflix subscriptions, Fandango tickets and more in the past. I love this around the holidays, as I can send gift cards to people I am not that close to, but still want to shop for.

But there are also ‘virtual’ gifts some people enjoy. These are MP3 downloads from sites like iTunes or Google Play, in-game downloadable content for things like World of Warcraft, or even game upgrades for social media programs on Facebook, like Farmville. My mother-in-law loves those ones.

Conclusion

The web has certainly changed things for the better. Getting those flowers from my forum friends was a touching surprise, and occasionally I like to pay it forward through little gifts to people on Facebook or friends of mine who are having a bad day. The net makes it so much easier to do that when the impulse strikes.

What ways has the web changed gift giving for you? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

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