Assignment #3


My winter sub-topic is HOLIDAY PRESENTS and when we were assigned this week's activity of interviewing people, my first thought was "Who on earth qualifies as an expert on holiday presents?" After some brainstorming, I came to the conclusion that "experts" on holiday present would fall under the categories of personal shopper, professional gift wrapper, someone who has worked in retail during the holidays, and Santa. Santa wasn't a viable option, so I decided to interview someone who worked in retail, because they probably had the most hands-on experience with people and holiday presents. For the other two interviews, I interviewed a classmate of mine who's a junior at the U, and a 14-year-old boy who's a friend of my brother's. I thought this range in age would generate some different insights.

Matt's most common problem with holiday presents was the process of buying them, mainly because of his lack of money and transportation. To make up for this, he usually concentrates his efforts into making thoughtful and creative cards for his family, and spending about $5 on candy and small trinkets from Target for his friends. He said that he had done Secret Santa a couple times with his friends, but that his main holiday present traditions were with his family. One of his favorite gifts he's ever received was a second-hand TV that he uses to play video games on, because he wasn't expecting such a big gift, and he uses it all the time. His least favorite part about holiday gifts is when he picks out a gift that he ends up wanting for himself, and one thing that would make the process easier for him is if people told him exactly what he wanted.

My interview with Jill focused mainly on the pros and cons of online shopping for holiday presents, for both the employee and the buyer. She said that she spends the time before the holiday season prepping for inventory, while the actual buying season is spent mainly on solving unknown problems that come up with online shopping. Sales tend to start rising as early as the week after Halloween, and she's noticed that people really tend to like the convenience of online shopping, especially for holiday presents, because you can avoid crowds and explore your options more. However, she said that her experience with retail and holiday shopping hasn't made her better at picking out holiday presents, partly because she doesn't really like shopping. Her least favorite part about holiday presents is when she can't find a good gift for someone, and has to pick out something mediocre just to have something. She also said that with all the holiday rush at her store, she doesn't really have time to find, buy, ship, and wrap all her presents until the very last minute.

This interview was pretty similar to the one with Matt, but she was a lot more receptive and talkative, plus she had a lot more experience with holiday presents, so I was able to generate a lot more answers. For Emma, the most best holiday gifts that she had received were so great because they had a lot of sentimental value. She got a huge stuffed animal tiger when she was really young, because she loved exotic animals, and she still has it! Her main problem with holiday presents is the pressure that is put on you to pick out the perfect gift for every person on your list. She's also noticed that during college, it becomes a lot more difficult to make time to go shopping for holiday presents, because she's trying to study for finals, too. This usually means that when she does go shopping, she ends up being stuck in crowds and not finding the best gifts.

I usually don't start shopping for holiday presents this early in the year, and it's much too early to experience the act of receiving holiday presents, so I decided to just go through the motions of holiday shopping instead. I visited some websites that I thought people would tend to go to while shopping for holiday gifts online (Target, clothing stores, makeup stores, Hallmark, etc.) Not surprisingly, they were all already advertising their "holiday collections" or "best holiday gifts". I explored the sites a little bit, and noticed that most of them centered around sales and pre-made "gift baskets". Here a a couple screenshots I took of the websites.

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I couldn't think of a good way to observe people with holiday gifts, so I decided to make up for it by conducting a survey for my Facebook friends. I asked questions like "Do you like to give or receive gifts more?", "Do you have any gift-giving traditions during the holidays? What are they?", "Are you good or bad at giving gifts? Why?", "What is the best gift you've given/received? Why?", and "What's the hardest part about shopping for holiday presents?"

The survey generated a lot of similar answers. About 2/3 of people liked giving gifts, and 1/3 liked receiving them. People who thought they were bad at holiday presents felt that way because they never knew what to get people, and the people who thought they were good at it said so because they got really thoughtful and personal gifts. Many people's gift traditions revolved around family, and special little rituals that they had come up with. A couple other people listed White Elephant and Secret Santa as other fun traditions. For most people, the hardest part about shopping for holiday presents was figuring out the best gift to get, or budgeting their money.

Matt needs a way to buy gifts for his friends without spending too much money or just getting them random things.

Jill needs a way to navigate around the holiday shopping scene, and a way to find time to get her shopping done while still keeping up with her work.

Emma needs a way to feel less pressured about buying the "perfect gift", and she wants to be able to avoid huge crowds without just being confined to online shopping.


The way you used different ages of people for your theme was smart. Almost everyone shops for the holidays so it doesn't matter how old they are. Interviewing different age groups allows people to see different problems that may have not come up before.

One thing I would suggest is to include more images. Maybe about what the worst holiday experience could be or the people you interviewed looked like.

It is hard to experience and observe things at this point in the season for some topics and I feel that using screenshots on how the stores are now having all these holiday sales and specials. Also, for some other research you could do is to use YouTube and look up Black Friday videos. I just looked now and there are some good ones.

I thought your ideas for who would be considered an expert in the field were spot on. I know if I had been given that theme I would have also been unsure of who to interview. As someone else had noted it was smart to talk to people of different ages and genders because everyone has their own experience with holiday shopping, some experiences much different than others.

You summarized the interviews you conducted very well. They weren't very long but they gave us enough information to see how each interviewee felt about holiday shopping.

I think instead of online shopping you probably could have gone to actual stores to do your experiencing or even your observing. Stores are starting to play Christmas music, displaying holiday decorations, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. While it isn't exactly close to Christmas yet I think stores are still trying to bring people in this early by attracting them with sales and decorations.

Overall great research. Your problem statements were really well written and I think you'll have a lot of fun trying to solve their problems.

Interesting post. I think you did a good job varying your interviewees by age and type of shopper. It seems like that helped you get a wide variety of responses. As far as a critique goes, I think you could snazz up your blog a bit by breaking up the text with more images. Images help the text look more manageable as a reader (a full page of text looks daunting to a reader and sometimes has the effect of deterring them from wanting to read it). Plus, more images could make your blog look more appealing from a design perspective. Your need statements were good, now you'll just need to turn them into effective "how might we" statements for your brainstorming session. Holiday shopping is a very broad topic with many different possible experiences, so I think making your sessions as focused as possible will help with your research. Good luck!

I'm glad that you interviewed people from different age groups, their different experiences shopping for gifts gave a lot of insight for your research.
It's definitely hard to do any kind of observation on holiday shopping when it's not exactly the holidays yet. Thank goodness that stores always start super early with advertisements!
Overall, great research. You blog post was well written and broken up into different sections, although I think you could use some images of the people you interviewed or maybe with their favorite gift they've received.

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This page contains a single entry by crimm013 published on November 11, 2013 5:39 PM.

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