GiftRocket Seeks to Take the Pain (and Loss) Out of Gift Cards

4/7/11Follow @wroush

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dealing directly with merchants—perhaps by distributing discount offers that would entice gift recipients to upspend. After all, closing a sale puts GiftRocket in possession of the kind of data that’s considered golden in the era of mobile commerce: the startup knows to a high degree of certainty that a specific person with a known e-mail address and a location-aware smartphone will soon be spending a specific amount of money at a particular location. (The only thing it doesn’t know is when.)

“There are many interesting possibilities that we haven’t explored fully yet,” says Kale. “But one thing I would love to emphasize is that we already make it possible for merchants who don’t have a gift card program, like small restaurants or bars, to get a card at their business.” In just a few minutes, Kale explains, business owners can grab some code that puts a GiftRocket badge on their website, allowing customers to jump straight to a GiftRocket form prepopulated with the business’s name. (You can check out an example of such a badge at the website for Brennan’s, a famous Houston, TX, eatery.) “This solution gets them 80 percent of the way” to having a gift-card program, says Kale. “It works for anyone who has a smartphone, and it costs nothing.”

Of course, gift cards from large retail chains still have one advantage over GiftRocket’s system: you can use them at any store in the chain, whereas a GiftRocket gift, by definition, can only be redeemed at one specific place. But Kale says “keep your eyes peeled for new feature releases” that address that gap. “Right now a GiftRocket gift for the Gap works for only one location, but it’s not a structural problem to make it work at any Gap in the country.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • http://www.dailygrommet.com Jules Pieri

    Great find Wade…crazy about this idea and it is new to me. I appreciate the emphasis on simplicity in the user experience. It takes a lot of discipline. Kudos to the GiftRocket team.

  • Steve V

    Incredible idea! I constantly find myself with plastic gift cards I never use entirely. The 100% emphasis on the consumer is refreshing.

  • Marcia A

    I really like this idea. Giftcard effort (or less!) with unique-gift thoughtfulness. Can’t wait to have a reason to send one of these…

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  • chris

    Sounds like a lovely idea, but it doesn’t work in practice. The example you give in your article (Brennans in Houston) no longer supports GiftRocket. I was the unlucky recipient of a GiftRocket dinner from a friend there. He assumed that you just went there and they knocked $150 off dinner.

    But no. There are a number of hurdles.

    First you have to convince your iPhone you are at the location. That means you have to linger outside while picking up GPS. Do you really want to get out of the car and stand around outside a restaurant to do this? Well you’ll have to if it’s a basement bar.
    Oh and you have to go to the right branch of Brennan’s. Obviously.

    Next you have to redeem _at the restaurant_. So a fancy place like Brennan’s and you’re there tapping away on your phone trying to tease a weak signal into getting you onto the GiftRocket site to redeem the thing. Meanwhile everyone else is thinking “who is this idiot with a phone at a place like this?”

    So you spend some of your relaxing time redeeming, while everyone else looks at the menu and then… you’re at the mercy of PayPal. Nothing arrives. You wait. A week later you politely inquire, where’s my money? Ah, yes, my friend sent the ‘gift’ to an email address associated with a PayPal account in another country. Many emails back and forth and you finally get the money in the US after considerable delay.

    PayPal’s a menace at the best of times and there you are, with your friend’s gift sitting uselessly in a PayPal account. Tremendous.

    When I told my friend of the saga his wedding present caused he was mortified.

    This works IF you know the recipient can get to the exact location and IF it hasn’t moved and IF you have location services there and IF there’s 3G or Wifi there and IF they have a PayPal account and IF PayPal plays ball.
    A lot of IFs.

    Fall foul of any of that and GiftRocket gets to keep the money.

    • David Sehy

      Confirmed. This is true. Also, despite their exhorbitant fees, they also have the option of blocking a transaction. They questioned a transaction and wasted 2 hours of my time until I just gave up. Their Mission Statement must be so long that it is unintelligible.

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