Couples, choose your wedding registry wisely

Professor Xin Wang shares wedding registry do’s and don’ts


When it comes to wedding registries, be careful what you wish for and where you wish for it.  

In a recent study, Xin Wang, assistant professor of marketing at the Brandeis International Business School, explored gift giving behavior in online wedding registries, including how guest motivations impact gift choice, what sells and what goes un-purchased in registries, which stores do better than others and why.  

Wang, with a team of researchers from the University of Houston, Purdue University and Dongduk Women's University in Korea, examined 555 wedding registries with 32,764 registered items.

With wedding season in full swing, BrandeisNow spoke with Wang about her research and asked her to share a few registry tips.  

What did you learn about how wedding guests choose from a registry?

Our research shows that wedding guests have two competing motivations when choosing a wedding gift: a desire for social benefit (e.g. to enhance the relationship), and a desire to limit monetary costs (e.g. to save money). The former motivation favors gifts with higher than average prices whereas the latter favors those with lower than average prices.

Based on your research, what advice would you give to couples designing their registries?

The wedding couple needs to pay attention to three things in order to maximize the chance of their requested gifts being purchased.

First, the store you register at. Among the department stores, Bloomingdale's has the highest fulfillment rate (63 percent) whereas Sears has the lowest (22 percent). Some specialty stores do exceptionally well, too, such as Crate and Barrel (63 percent) and Pottery Barn (52 percent).  

Second, keep in mind the average price of the registry. Our data show that the purchase outcome is heavily influenced by the average price of the registry. Gift givers use the average registry price as the external reference price, based on which they choose a gift to seek social or money-saving benefits.

Third, product categories make a difference. Gift givers tend to choose gifts that they think make a great wedding gift, and stay away from certain categories. 

What sort of products should a couple avoid when choosing their registry?

Gift givers actually show statistically significant aversion to furniture products. Hardware gifts are not selling either. It is interesting that even if the wedding couple requested tools, the guests usually do not purchase them, probably because they don't think they make great wedding gifts.

What products do well on a registry?

As far as fulfillment outcome is concerned, appliances and dining and bar items are by far the best selling gifts on a registry. These two categories perform significantly better than other categories.  

What are the most important traps for a couple to avoid when choosing their registry? 

The most important trap to avoid is requesting too high or too low priced items. Our research showed that these items generally do not get fulfilled. Also, stay away from unattractive product categories, such as tools. 

Categories: Business, Research

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