Tips for Selling Gift Baskets & Baked Goods Online During the Holidays (A Case Study)

According to Don Montuori , people like to gift items that are personal, indulgent, convenient, and fun. Because of this, many people find gift baskets a great way to celebrate a special occasion or show appreciation.

Google Trends revealed that searches for ‘gift baskets’ peaks during the month of December. This suggests that they are the most popular during the holiday season.

gift baskets google trends

However, despite the popularity of gift baskets being searched during December, the scatter plot shows a decline over the years, with 2016 forecasted to follow this downward trend. The graph is illustrated by using annual peak December values in Google Trends.

google searches for gift baskets

Hypothesis: The Outlook for Gift Baskets

Despite attempts of modernizing the traditional gift basket, search trends show that there has been a decline in interest over time. Similarly to views on gift cards, gift baskets are not necessarily good or bad gifts, rather they are ‘safe’ to give because they do not require much thought, creativity or personalization.

Case Study

1-800 Bakery emerged in 2004 as an online bakery selling baked goods, gift baskets and more. Consistent with the downward trend in searches for ‘gift baskets’, it is predicted that 1-800 Bakery will have a flat ROI or a slight decline in overall performance.

In this case study, I analyzed the different campaign focuses. Some of the metrics I looked at were ROI, revenue, impressions, clicks, search queries and top selling products during the months of October 2014 to January 2015.

It is important to note that although 1-800 Bakery does not exclusively sell gift baskets, the purpose of this case study is to:

  • Use the business’ performance as a baseline to predict the success of gift baskets during the holiday season
  • Gain insight into the trends of baked goods during the holiday season
  • Determine which AdWords campaigns worked and which didn’t
  • Provide marketing suggestions for the 2015 holiday season


1800 bakery case study data

While reviewing the data for 1-800-Bakery, I found that the branded campaign generated the most profit. However, branded visibility was low compared to overall visibility. This was due to the fact that product searches were most common.

It was observed that searches for gifts were generally interest based (i.e. sports teams). Gifts had a high order value compared to other campaigns. It’s possible to assume that a consumer who is shopping for gifts is in the mindset with the intention of purchasing a gift – if not, multiple gifts.

The Holiday and Special Occasion campaign revealed that holiday specific searches were not popular. Since it was not a concentrated search category, low bids were placed on this campaign, which resulted in a high ROI.

Despite it being the holiday season, the Birthday campaign (focused on birthday cakes) generated the most converted clicks and the second highest revenue. This adds support to the idea that there is more of a market for special occasions that are not necessarily holiday specific during this time period.

The B2B campaigns were not very successful. “Customized cookies” and “personalized cookies”, for example, were searched more than “corporate logo cookies”. I also found that the landing page did not always match intent; consumers who searched for customized and personalized cookies were directed to a landing page that advertised corporate logo cookies.

Limitations and Discussion

One of the limitations of this case study is that I did not have access to 2013’s data to determine if 1-800 Bakery’s performance had actually declined.

Before I did research for this case study, I was not familiar with consumer behavior related to gift baskets outside of corporate gift-giving. I was surprised to learn that gift baskets are used for a variety of special events and that its contents are not limited to packaged foods. With that in mind, Google Trend’s search results for ‘gift baskets’ is quite confounded since I cannot differentiate the various types of gift baskets (i.e. food, toys, clothes and other miscellanea).

The idea of ordering baked goods online initially came off to me as unconventional despite its growing popularity. As a consumer, my semantic memory  prompted me to do an internet search for gift baskets, not baked goods to send to someone over the holidays. The thought process derived from my connotation of ‘baked goods’; the tradition of being homemade by the giver, for a specific recipient. In retrospect, it would have been more fitting to search for ‘baked goods’ instead of ‘gift baskets’. This ties into the idea that consumers are not necessarily searching for brands, but for actual products that drive them to a retailer’s page for eventual purchase.

Unlike gift baskets, there is a gradual upward trend in search results for ‘baked goods’ during the months of November and December.

*Note that search results in Google Trends for November and December were consistently close, so the means for the two months were used to plot this graph.

google searches for baked goods

Product searches for gift baskets were not easily identifiable in 1-800 Bakery’s campaigns. Based on your client’s advertising goals, the best practice is to divide products into different custom labels for clean performance tracking.

Optimizing Titles and Descriptions to Maximize Product Visibility

Re-Arrange or Omit the word ‘Gift Basket’ in Your Title or Description

1-800 Bakery’s generic campaigns were successful because product searches were common, directing consumers to their website. If you’re looking for an opportunity to increase product visibility, you may want to experiment with omitting or rearranging the word ‘gift basket’ as your long tail key word. This can be done in your title or description.

Depending on the contents of the gift basket, list or group the names of the essential products in the title so it is clear what is actually included in the basket. This way, when a person searches for ‘chocolates’, your gift basket that largely consists of chocolates will show up in the search. Reiterating Koch-McDonald’s insight about gift baskets being sold in stores, people are visual and buy with their eyes; consumers assess both the contents and the overall value of the product by seeing what’s inside. Translating this concept over the eCommerce, you can increase product visibility by using specific product information as your noun instead of your descriptor. Keep a balance and make changes sparingly so you don’t lose visibility to consumers who are searching for gift baskets.

Mention Different Applications in the Product Description

I associate gift baskets within a business context, typically a group with diverse or vaguely known interests. Comparatively, baked goods semantically appeals to a more intimate audience, specifically friends and loved ones. While these applications may not necessarily hold true for other consumers, it is important to be mindful of your audience. In the case study, I found that consumers who were searching for personalized and customized cookies were directed to a landing page that sold corporate logo cookies.

To appeal to a wider audience, consider listing different applications in your product descriptions, but be strategic! Don’t inadvertently limit your product to a specific audience; however, if you open your description up to a broader audience, make sure that the landing page and product you’re selling is applicable. Keep a balance by addressing both a general and specific audience throughout your product descriptions.

Marketing Ideas for Selling Gift Baskets & Baked Goods for 2015

The Importance of Packaging

Business owners in the gift basket and packaged food industry emphasize the importance of keeping up with recent trends to cater to customers’ needs. The most important thing is packaging — to ensure that the presentation appropriately complements the product and that the contents are visible (Kren, Koch-McDonald, 2004). Packaging has also moved away from traditional wicker baskets to containers such as tea cups, mugs, wagons, flower pots, and more. Creative, yet practical contents and packaging makes the product useful instead of something that would be easily discarded. Lastly, with the stereotype of gift baskets being a ‘safe’ gift, it’s important to make sure your gift basket is personal and has value. To begin with, this can be achieved through personalization, assortment, and speaking to the quality of the contents.


References that were not linked to this blog:

Kren, Amy. “Making the Most of Bake Sales.” Food Management Sept. 2004: 64. Print.


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  1. Charlotte Mwagbe says

    As someone who is looking into the gift basket industry as a business to start from home, I greatly appreciate the time and effort put into this case study. Even though I have been doing my own due diligence, I appreciate the different lenses Minh-Thi Nguyen used to look at the industry from different perspectives. For example showing that using an item in the gift basket in advertising as opposed to the word “gift basket” may enable you to find a bigger audience. Another factor brought out in this study is the decline of the gift basket industry over the last few years. I would like to see how specialty gift baskets like Edible Arrangements and Sharri’s Berries have fared over the same period of time. I think the trend may be to specialize within the gift basket industry, which was touched upon, specifically in the importance of packaging. I think going forward, the ability to reuse or repurpose the container that the gift is delivered in is as important as the contents. Again, thank you for the case study, I found it interesting, eye opening and completely thought provoking!

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