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12/05/2011 Social Gift Shopping

Every year, we are continually challenged to find good gifts for our spouses/kids/parents/friends for the December holidays. I had one friend who kept a running list of things she wanted throughout the year. Every time she went shopping she made sure to add one or two things to her list. Whenever someone asked her what she wanted for Christmas/birthday/anniversary, she had a good answer! Most of us, unfortunately, aren’t like that. 

So I was interested to check out some of the new social gift finders this year, in the hope that they would make my life easier over the next few weeks. The two that caught my attention were Etsy's and Amazon’s Facebook integrated gift finders.

Both tap into your Facebook profile with the (as yet unmet) promise that they will scan your friends’ profiles and come up with unique gifts for them. Of the two, Etsy does a better job, since it looks like it’s more focused on keywords than actual products.

Etsy though looks at what you’ve said you’re interested in, rather than what you’re actually talking about on Facebook. So if you’ve loaded up your profile with lots of things you identify with, Etsy will search its catalogue for those keywords. Sometimes it gets a little funny. 

My wife Bella, for example, has only chose Sweden as a topic of interest. So when the Etsy gift finder cranks out its suggestion, guess what I get? Lots of Swedish, not much else.


Another friend, for some reason, has indicated she’s a fan of Red Bull (maybe because her two little boys are wearing her out). So the only thing she gets are Etsy products tagged with Red Bull!


I have to admit that while neither of the recommendations are perfect nor even close to being personal, the gift selection is certainly odd and entertaining, which is not always a bad thing when giving gifts. 

Amazon, on the other hand, looks to see what type of media you’ve liked in your profile, such as records, movies or books. It also searches its own site to see if you have a wish list. 

Unfortunately, it only works if you’re talking about specific titles. Which most of my family is not. It’s why the results can be somewhat absurd, since the last thing my wife would want for Christmas is the Steve Jobs book. 


One thing Amazon does have going for it is that it focuses primarily on birthdays! I’ve never understood why Facebook hasn’t trie to monetize this feature more. I think it’s the single most valuable tool Facebook (or any other social network, for that matter) offers. Remembering birthdays is something that Facebook has moved from my memory to its Web pages, a vast improvement. All they need to implement now is a one-click purchasing option.


While these are pretty good, they’re not perfect. I’ve created interactive gift finders for clients as well and all of these seem to make the mistake of looking for gifts based on expected or canned criteria. I’d like to see a more intelligent social tool that analyzes what you talk about with the most passion, in order to recommend GREAT presents. Maybe we’ll get there.

Or maybe that’s my next project. Happy Holidays.

UPDATE 12:30 PM:
Apparently I missed Shopycat, a gift finder created by Walmart Labs. It's actually be worse than the other two for personalized gifts. As for non-personalized, it suggested the George Foreman Grill to everyone (who wouldn't like that, right?).  While the app says it scans your updates, it's apparent from the list that it doesn't. And as for the suggestions for Bella? I think I'll stick with Etsy.

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