The Gift-Giving Event as an Irreplaceable Part of Our Life

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Gift-giving is one of the oldest human activities that became a universal behavior and an integral part of most cultures. The process of exchanging gifts in modern societies begins with the birth of a child and continues throughout the life. In between, the variety of celebrations to exchange gifts include birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, Mothers’ and Father’s days, religious holidays, one of the heaviest gift-buying holidays in Western societies – Christmas, and many others. According to the nature of the occasion, gifts convey important symbolic messages between a giver and receiver. Thus, gifting is a pervasive form of communication as it allows people to connect, show love, care or appreciation.

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The ability of gifts to influence relationship makes them vital socializing tools and increases their importance in people’s lives. Thinking about gifting, many people prescribe altruistic motives to this gesture and do not expect anything in return. However, in reality, social norms of obligation dictate us to reply to gifting with the same action by choosing appropriate gifts. Such self-perpetuating nature of gift-giving cycle drives purchase and consumption (Banks, 1979). Over last years, gift-giving has developed into a huge industry. Global gifts retailing market alone is estimated to generate $77 billion by 2022 (Research and Markets, 2018). Although, it might be impossible to evaluate the exact economic profit because the industry proliferated almost in all spheres as any product can be turned into a gift. A product with the assigned status of a gift is much more difficult in comparison to its non-gift form because of several variations, such as givers, receivers and conditions involved (Clarke, 2008). Gift-giving is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon that requires a comprehensive framework to capture the mechanism of gift-giving behavior to answer the following questions: What types of gifts consumers prefer and why? How people decide which product they chose as a gift? How situational context influences the process? All these questions are needed to be answered in order to make a precise marketing promotion of gift products to differentiate them from others of competitors.

Consequently, during last two decades, the phenomenon of gift consumption is a popular topic in marketing and consumer behavior research. Scholars studied the topic from anthropological, sociological, economic and behavioral point of views that are integral parts of the gifting process. Due to such heterogeneous nature of gift-giving, studies are rather scattered according to various variables, what causes inconsistency in the topic comprehension. Therefore, the aim of the paper is to summarize existent literature on gift-giving consumer behavior to understand general consumption patterns, insights into different antecedents to give and linking them with various aspects of contextual environment. To this end, the paper will delineate what is considered to be a gift, what are its functional components, and how different dimensions of gift-giving interrelate. After, the paper will investigate the most important variations of gift-giving, such as levels of involvement and symbolic typology of gifts. The paper also draws attention to influential gift features and types, namely, gift cards, brand name, and experience gifts. The main endeavor of the paper is to outline a comprehensive framework for the process model of gift-giving behavior that helps to understand why consumers take particular decisions while choosing gifts. Finally, knowing the general process of gift-giving, the paper will look into contextual conditions in which gift-giving can occur, namely cultural and gender contexts and their peculiarities. At the end, the paper suggests important implications for scholars and practitioners.

To get a full picture of such a broad and multidimensional topic as gift-giving, the research was limited to general frameworks, stages of gift-giving process and peculiarities of gift-giving behavior. During the information gathering process I tried to use the full scope of different sources available on the Internet and in libraries which enabled me to read extensively on all important aspects of gift-gifting. Most of the research findings are based on journal articles, blog articles and newspaper articles. The scope of used academic materials ranged from sociological and psychological treatises to marketing and consumer behavioral researches what proofed to be helpful in building a solid theoretical base, which was completed by evidences found in recent researches that were especially insightful. Considerable efforts have been made in the attempt to scrutinize such a multidimensional topic as gift-giving. Every source underwent critical evaluation as some tended to present conflicting results. I noticed this particularly with articles that investigated brand, cultural and gender differences in gift-giving what can be explained by different samples that could yield opposite results. I had this in mind and tried to develop an encompassing and plausible standpoint about gift-giving consumer behavior.

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