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Thoughtful gifting made easy: the two-step process to present buying

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Christmas present

Christmas shopping has never been harder, but don’t let it phase you: this two-step process (steeped in psychology) should help you find the perfect gift in no time. 

There’s no denying it: Christmas shopping is stressful, and this year it’s not even going to be fun. With most of the country under heavy restrictions there’s going to be fewer people on the street clutching bags brimming with gifts and enjoying mulled wine after ticking off that all-important present list. (Because the real fun of Christmas shopping is the hustle and bustle of shops, right?) 

If we’re being honest about our shopping habits, I bet a huge number of us have bought gifts for people without really understanding if the recipient will like or enjoy the present. But being stumped for gift ideas is not fun, so often socks are our go-to for dads or that same perfume set for your best friend is a reliable favourite.

So how can we make meaningful change this year? 

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TK Maxx has been working with a team of behavioural scientists to help us understand the psychology around buying gifts, and eventually getting to the bottom of what our friends and family really want under the tree this year. 

Mike Hughes, a scientist on the team tells Stylist: “After the year we’ve all had, meaningful gifting has taken on renewed importance and people are looking to give thoughtful gifts to their loved ones this Christmas. Armed with our psychologically informed prompts, shoppers will be able to find extra special gifts for the people that mean the most.”

The behavioural scientists have taken the premise of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and our five physiological needs of - reaching our potential, self-esteem, feeling loved, feeling safe and basic survival - and applied this to helping us identify the characteristics of our loved ones and what they might need this Christmas. 

From this, behavioural strategies have been used to create hints to help people decide on a gift that will make their loved one feel truly special. So without further ado, here’s the team’s two-step approach to buying the best, most thoughtful gifts ever to make 2020 that little bit brighter.

Christmas gifts
Thoughtful gifts: this Christmas, resist the urge to gift on autopilot.

Firstly, identify which of the below categories your giftee fits into:

The Curious Spirit

• They are happiest when losing themselves in their passions and interests

• This year they have mostly missed the freedom to explore and be inspired by new sights and sounds

• In 2021, they will mostly be planning new adventures

The Big Achiever

• They are happiest when reaching a personal goal

• This year they have mostly missed, being recognised for all the great things that they do

• In 2021, they will mostly be kick-starting their next project

The Social Connector

• They are happiest when surrounded by their loved ones

• This year they have mostly missed, physical connections in real life

• In 2021, they will mostly be staying in touch with family and friends

The Simplicity Seeker

• They are happiest when enjoying home comforts and the simple things in life

• This year they have mostly missed very little – they always makes the most of what they have

• In 2021, they will mostly be focusing on the things that matter most

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Brilliant. Now you’ve identified which category your friend fits into it’s time to have a real deep-dive into their likes, wants and needs. This is where Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a motivational theory in psychology, really comes into play. 

You’re going to think about the five universal human needs (represented as hierarchical levels within a pyramid) that we are all constantly striving to meet. They include: physiological needs (e.g. food, water, rest), safety needs (resources, shelter), love and belonging (friendship, trust and intimacy), esteem needs (reputation, accomplishment) and self-actualisation (achieving full potential and being the best you can be).

You can use these hints to help think about the kind of gift that will make your friend feel truly special (and thus stops you buying needless gifts, reducing waste).

The Curious Spirit

• How can you help them develop their unique talents? Your giftee loves to create and express themselves.

• This person leads rather than follows - what are the latest trends to make sure they stay ahead of the curve in 2021?

• They love new discoveries. How can you help introduce them to something new?

The Big Achiever

• Does this person know what you love about them? Can you find a gift that specifically tells them why they’re so great?

• They love to celebrate their achievements – gifts that recognise their best qualities will hit the mark this year.

• This person loves to push themselves – what gift can help them to start a new goal?

The Social Connector

• This friend cherishes special memories. What gift might remind them of a favourite moment you’ve shared together?

• The thought really does count with this person. How can you add your personal touch to their gift to make it truly personal to them?

• They love quality time with friends and family. What are the sights, sounds (and smells!) that make you feel closer when you can’t be there in person?

The Simplicity Seeker

• This person likes to make sure that they and those around them have everything they need. What gifts are they likely to use most next year?

• They prefer the practical things in life. What one gift could make their life easier?

• They don’t spoil themselves as much as they should. What’s the unexpected treat that will make them feel extra special?

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For the ultimate thoughtful gift, why not think outside the box with the presents you buy this Christmas? From subscription boxes to experience gifts, it’s easier than ever to find a truly unique gift for the people you love.

So this Christmas, be mindful with the gifts you’re buying. It’s very tempting to pick up the shiniest, biggest gift set in the shop, but ask yourself whether the person you’re buying for would actually appreciate it before you buy. Giving gifts is one of the most enjoyable parts of the festive season, but it’s about time we said no to all the unnecessary waste. 

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