Gifting: 2020 Online Shopping Behavior of High-Value Customers 

Online gifting trends and the online shopping behavior of high-value customers.

Giving a gift is showing and sharing our love and sentiments with another. During lockdowns in 2020, gifts helped us stay connected to loved ones we couldn’t see or hug. As such, the online gifting industry saw some tremendous growth throughout the coronavirus pandemic as people sought meaningful ways to stay connected. More people navigated the e-commerce landscape, often to order and send gifts to loved ones, and their online shopping behavior evolved alongside the rapid digital transformation and e-commerce expansion.

Within NetElixir’s dataset, as we tracked the daily changes in online shopping behavior and trends throughout the onset of the pandemic, we found that the gifting industry was one of the fastest-growing segments. The online gifting industry saw the biggest growth in new online shoppers within our dataset, growing 8% YoY in 2020 compared to 2019. NetElixir found that Millenials and Gen Z contributed to the pool of new online shoppers the most for the gifting industry, presumably sending gifts to their parents and grandparents.

Udayan Bose, NetElixir’s CEO and Founder surmised that the growth of online gifting came from a sense of compassion in shoppers. “Consumers showed an outpouring of compassion,” Bose said, noting that consumers were in “active gifting modes since March for about two to three months.”

The high-value shopper continued to shop with a sense of urgency and compassion to stay connected with her loved ones. NetElixir’s 2021 FACES research report delves into how high-value customers’ online shopping behavior evolved in response to the e-commerce surge sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The NetElixir Retail Intelligence Lab analyzed over two million unique online consumer paths-to-purchase across ten e-commerce categories for our FACES research. Our goal was to better understand ongoing changes in the online shopping behavior and trends of high-value customers across the e-commerce landscape. We divided our data into three timeframes:

  • Pre-pandemic (Jan. 1 – Mar. 15, 2020)
  • Non-holiday pandemic (Mar. 16 – Nov. 15, 2020)
  • Holiday pandemic (Nov. 16 – Dec. 25, 2020)

Today, we analyze how the high-value shopper of the online gifting industry adapted her online shopping habits to the changing e-commerce landscape. Meet her below:

High-value customer profile for online gifting industry is a woman aged 45-55.

The high-value consumer profile for gifting is a woman aged 45-55.

Online Gifting Trends

Before the pandemic, the high-value customer for the online gifting industry shopped early in the day and week. She visited a website at nine a.m. and made her final purchase mostly at nine a.m. on a Tuesday. She’d wait just over six and a half days between her first website visit and final purchase. In deciding what to buy, she visited a website eleven times before completing her purchase. Presumably, she was fastidious in her gifting habits and took pride in choosing the perfect gift. Her average order value (AOV) totaled $51.55 and she usually had at least six items in her basket.

When the pandemic started in March and she could not see family and friends as much as before, the high-value shopper turned to online gifting to send her regards. ‘Quarantine gifts’ and ‘virtual gifts’ — such as greeting cards, flowers, faith-based products, and self-care items — rose in popularity as a way to stay safe, while still keeping in touch.

She started her gift research earlier throughout the pandemic, visiting a website at around eight a.m. She was most likely to complete her purchase still at nine a.m., but now on a Thursday during the height of the pandemic. Her latency period, between initial website visit and purchase, dropped to under three and a half days. However, she still visited a website eleven times before purchasing, browsing through a website over three times a day.

During the pandemic, the high-value shopper bought fewer items but spent about the same. Her AOV dropped by only one dollar to $50.66 and she averaged fewer than five items per order. Throughout this time, she seemed more concerned with having a gift rather than the price.

The Role of Mobile in Gifting

In her quest for the perfect gift during the pandemic, the high-value shopper used her mobile device for just over 27% of her first website visits and to complete 27% of her purchases. This is up 2% from pre-pandemic times. 

As the holiday season approached, the high-value shopper relied on her mobile more. She conducted just over 40% of her first website visits and completed 39% of her orders on a mobile device. Within NetElixir’s dataset for FACES, the high-value shopper for the online gifting industry had the biggest jump in the adoption of mobile commerce between the pandemic months to the holiday season. Her first-time website visits rose 12% and her online orders rose 13% between the non-holiday and holiday pandemic months.

Gifting Holiday Cheer

The high-value shopper grew more comfortable using her mobile device as the pandemic progressed, allowing her more immediacy in searching for and buying holiday gifts for loved ones. Her online shopping behavior reflected the urgency of the holiday season to secure the perfect gift and send everyone a token of appreciation.

The high-value shopper was no exception to wanting more personal gifts to send to her loved ones. As the 2020 holiday season was different than prior years, the majority of shoppers wanted to send more meaningful and thoughtful gifts. Shoppers sought out more personalized gifts during the 2020 holiday season to feel connected to those they could not meet with in person, reported CNBC. Searches for holiday gifts started earlier, especially on Pinterest. CNBC found that holiday searches typically begin to spike in June in years prior, but started surging in April last year. “Christmas gift ideas” searches were three times higher in April 2020 compared to prior years. 

In her search, the high-value shopper was more likely to browse for gifts at ten a.m. and purchase her presents at ten a.m. on Mondays. Her latency period dropped to one day and eighteen hours, down 46% from the pandemic months. She visited a website seven times in her search, thoroughly ensuring she was buying the right gift for everyone. 

Her AOV jumped to $65.65 and she bought an average of just over four and a half items. Etsy found that people favored gifts that had a purpose and meaning, that exuded comfort and a feeling of nostalgia to feel more connected during the holiday season — a sentiment apparent in the high-value shopper’s online shopping behavior. She did not worry too much about price, favoring instead finding the gift that best suited the recipient and made the holidays special. 

A Gift to Share with High-Value Customers

Personalized gifts with meaning are likely here to stay beyond the holiday season. Etsy found that ‘personalized gift’ was the most searched term on its site in 2020. The retailer predicts that maintaining a sense of connection will continue to be a priority among shoppers. Retailers looking to entice customers like the high-value shopper should offer a selection of diverse and customizable gifts.

Because the high-value shopper is mobile-savvy, consider offering mobile-online deals or selling through Instagram and other shoppable apps. Put together care packages and bundles so the high-value shopper can easily send thoughtful gifts to her loved ones. Make your delivery and shipping options clear, as the high-value shopper loves to send gifts to others.

Showcase your products through lists and blog posts that focus on individuals, such as “gifts for your best friend” or “virtual gift ideas for coworkers” to help your high-value shopper check off everyone on her list. Build out your own high-value customer profile using FACES as a reference. Learn who your high-value shopper is looking to send gifts to so you can structure your blog and social posts around the most impactful products. Your consumer profile will help you cater to your brand’s high-value shoppers by offering a selection of gifts unique to them — after all, everyone loves treating themselves to a gift!

Further Resources on Understanding Your High-Value Customers

NetElixir’s proprietary customer analytics tool, LXRInsights, charts the paths-to-purchase of your high-value customers. Using our technology, you can track customer touchpoints and build customer personas for more personalized and targeted campaigns – just as we explored in our 2021 FACES report. Request a demo of LXRInsights for specifics into your business at

Tune in on Fridays to learn more about your industry’s high-value customers. Browse through our previously published industries:

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