When I buy gifts I look at the purchasing process a little different from most people. I am empathetic, so I feel emotions. When I go shopping for a present, I look for things that remind me of the person, something that makes me feel the way they make me feel.
So, the first step is to think about the person that you're buying for. Think about what they like to do, what their favorite activities are, what their favorite hobbies and sports are, and what they do outside of work. What is their favorite color, favorite animal, favorite season of the year, and what makes them proud? Think about things that they've bought for themselves, for example, video or card games, the latest electronics, apps, style of music, those types of things. With all of those things in mind, the next step to consider are things that you are familiar with that fit into those categories.
I had a co-worker who was having trouble figuring out what to get her dad, so I asked her a little bit about him. I already knew that he was in banking, and he was a very organized, detail-oriented individual, but I found out that he had an LP collection that he very much loved and he had his own library or study and he did a lot of traveling. He reminded me of an app that I have called, Splash Shopper. This app gives me a grocery shopping list on my phone, where I can check things on and off. I can put as much detail about an item as I want. It also has other types of lists. It has categories for things like music and travel. I thought maybe her father would enjoy an app that would allow him to organize all of his LPs. He could input the artist and album title and the style of music and he would have a quick list of everything he owns and be able to see it nice and organized and available on his phone anytime he wanted. She agreed with me. She got her dad an app, not the one I recommended, but a different one that she found and thought he'd appreciate and sure enough she saw him using it over the holiday and was very excited to be able to give him something that was so personalized.
I also used this technique when a co-worker had a niece's family moving into a new house and she wanted to get them a housewarming present. The things I know about her and the niece were actually presents she had already given them, so it made sense she was having a little bit of trouble and then it hit me that at my house we had been enjoying yard art of recent days and I said as much. My co-worker immediately knew what she wanted to get them.
When you're thinking about buying someone a gift, it's not so much that you can't get what you like, but you have to make sure that what you get overlaps with what you like and what they like, more specifically, the gift should reflect a part of them that you like.