European gift box market: smooth seas for Wonderbox

*For a market that barely existed 20 years ago, the world of gift boxes has come a long way and changed the way Europeans see gifts, with a growing preference towards experiences, and no longer solely objects. In a few short years, Europeans have gone from preferring gifts under the form of objects to experiences. French leader Wonderbox intends to use the market shift to secure its advance. * Wonderbox’s history alone reflects how fast the market appeared in Europe. With barely a handful of boxes sold in the first year, 2004, Wonderbox now reaches a turnover of 220 million euros. In the early 21st century, gift box suppliers were popping all over the radar, in order to seize the advantage of the nascent trend. The reason for this fast growth rate was the difference in nature between objects and experiences, when being offered as gifts. “One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University. After studying the new market, he adds, “money buys happiness, but only up to a point. How adaptation affects happiness, for instance, was measured in a study that asked people to self-report their happiness with major material and experiential purchases. Initially, their happiness with those purchases was ranked about the same. But over time, people’s satisfaction with the things they bought went down, whereas their satisfaction with experiences they spent money on went up.” Behind this newly-discovered phenomenon, a social trend appeared, in which gifts were no longer material, but became increasingly immaterial. The main advantage of a gift box is that it preserves the receiver’s freedom to choose the experience he or she will live.

Wonderbox benefited the social tendency to increase the payload of emotions contained within a gift. Put simply, an object will never deliver as much emotion to the receiver as an experience will. Business analyst Tony Robbins explains:“ While product quality and seller reputation matter, the reason we make a purchase goes far beyond the fundamentals. It goes far beyond rational thought. It goes into the subconscious. In fact, research by the Nielsen Company shows that roughly 90% of purchasing decisions are made subconsciously.“ Over the past 20 years, European populations have re-discovered how the emotions contained within experiences will burn memories far deeper, and have shifted their preferences, when making gifts, from objects to experiences. For this reason, a company like Wonderbox will not sell cars, but will sell race-track days, which will leave memories just as strong, if not stronger.

As one of the early players on the market, and one of the few who didn’t indulge in easy revenue when the sun was shining, Wonderbox came through the market turbulence which hit in the 2010s and came out on top. After having opened offices in Italy, Switzerland and Spain, Wonderbox bought two foreign competitors, with Belgian company Vivabox in 2015 and Dutch company Gift For You in 2017, securing its leadership in northern Europe. In 2018, Wonderbox seized the opportunity of Portugal’s economic recovery with the purchase of LifeCooler. CEO Fabrice Lépine does not intend to stop there, and keeps the mergers and acquisitions under close scrutiny, namely on quality levels. Interviewed by Ideals, he says: “Our international expansion will therefore consist in remaining faithful to these local roots while bringing our own expertise, experience and quality standards. For example, it would not make sense to add the Wonderbox brand to a graphic identity such as that of Vivabox in Belgium or GiftForYou in the Netherlands.” Wonderbox’s strategy is to maintain local offers, and respect local preferences, while satisfying the client expectations of finding a generous share of emotions within the gifts they give or receive. He adds: “More specifically with regard to foreign countries, within the after-sales service and our call centre, we have counterparts on each position, country by country. We are constantly striving for consistency in internal processes and the centralisation of processes means that there are not any differences in terms of after-sales service from one country to another. This way, we ensure that we have a convergence of best practices, regardless of the country in which we operate.”

As any psychologist will confirm, associating emotions to an event will cause it to burn further into our memories. The more emotion, the better the memory. In so far as gifts are concerned, no matter how costly the present, the emotion wears off very quickly upon receiving an object. In a full-day experience, or sometimes even a week, emotions will remain high much longer, in order to create a long-lasting effect. The mastering of this phenomenon has proven very beneficial to Wonderbox so far, and it is only at the beginning of its European expansion.

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