How Buying a Gift Affects the Person Buying

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If you remember any ancient literature from school — Beowulf, The Odyssey, you know the type — you may recall how much people care about gift-giving. It was once a sacred part of hospitality and relationship-building, and it said as much about the person who gave the gift as the person who received it. We tend to have a more casual relationship with gifts now (fewer nations go to war over presents these days), but that doesn't mean exchanges are a one-way street.

German researchers have just published a paper examining how shoppers develop connections to brands by giving that brand's products as gifts. The study, which focused on beauty products, doesn't say whether said gift is that consumer's first experience with a brand; it's reasonable to assume the gift-giving itself is a vote of confidence. For shoppers and businesses both, the results were pretty striking, with across-the-board increases in customer loyalty, purchase frequency, and amount spent. Even whether the gift was giftwrapped by the store helped in the long run.

We already know that people actually like giving gifts more than receiving them. Even social media hasn't ruined gift-giving. No matter how big or small, our style of gift-giving says something about us at heart, which might be one reason why so many of us freak out about it. Our wants and needs have necessarily evolved, not just as individuals but as a culture: The truism that millennials want experiences instead of things bears out. If you are on the receiving end of somebody's brand-building present, there's still something extra you can get from the experience: the primal pleasure of the thank-you note.