Social Gifting On Facebook Trending Toward Local Experiences

As Facebook looks for ways to monetize its presence, the company rolled out Gifts earlier this year — a program that is now available to all U.S. users. But Facebook wasn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, to test the social gift market. Several other companies — such as Plumfare, Boomerang, Treater, and GiftHit — use Facebook to deliver experiences that can’t be captured with gift cards.

Gifting services love utilizing Facebook not only to connect users to the people they already know and love, but to grow their businesses through open graph actions.

Major brands — Gap and Starbucks, for instance — have become quite popular through gifting apps like Gyft, Wrapp, and Facebook’s native Gifts app. Through these programs, people can purchase gift cards (or in the case of Gyft, send gift cards they already have guilt-free) to major brands and send them to Facebook friends, allowing those friends to scan the codes at stores via their phones to redeem the rewards. Facebook Gifts also offers a wide array of real-life gifts that are delivered to friends’ doors. Wrapp has tapped into Facebook for marked success, as the company explained at the AllFacebook Marketing Conference in New York.

Amazon has also recently gotten into the social gifting game.

However, it seems that social gifting through Facebook may start to trend toward local experiences, such as buying someone a cup of coffee from the shop around the corner or the chance to try a hip-hop dance class at a studio in town.

Instead of focusing on a wide array of options, many social gifting companies are finding success by going small.

Plumfare, an iOS app, offers a wide array of options, but focuses on the experiences you can’t get anywhere else. The company, founded in January, has partnerships with restaurants as large as the Michael Mina Restaurant Group and as small as Tuscan Café in Northville, Mich.

Plumfare CEO and Co-Founder Tali Rapaport talked with AllFacebook about how the world of social gifting is splitting into those who are offering gifts from big-box stores and those who offer gifts from small businesses, as well as those who want to send presents for occasions and those who just want to send a thoughtful cup of coffee or cupcake:

I think it’ll segment after Christmas. There will be a bunch of folks that try and go after really traditional holidays, like Valentine’s Day, and they’ll try to get enmeshed in all of the places where people traditionally gift today, which are mostly around life events — weddings, graduations, new jobs, and housewarming gifts — and then I think there are one or two other companies in our space that are going after places where you wouldn’t traditionally send a gift. They’re trying to create a new opportunity for gifting, in our case, by going after the long tail … Those folks are going to be less and like traditional ecommerce companies as we all explore the best way to change behavior there.

It’s that second segment — those who want to send gifts when it’s not someone’s birthday — that could grow rapidly. Already, there are several applications ready to serve this population.

GiftHit and Boomerang try to focus on experiences in certain cities. For instance, GiftHit specializes in presents that come from small businesses in Bloomington, Ind.; Madison, Wis.; New York; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Tuscon, Ariz. Boomerang offers gifts from merchants in Indianapolis; Chicago; Austin, Texas; and New York, but also has gift cards for national retailers.

GiftHit Co-Founder Arielle Goldman told AllFacebook that the company plans to branch out to the San Francisco area, as well.

These other social gifting services, which don’t revolve around birthdays, try to capture local excitement instead of casting a wide net.

Goldman said she loves hearing suggestions from different cities about where people love to go. Whether it’s introducing a friend visiting from out of town to a local hotspot via a GiftHit present or sending a present to a friend in a supported city, the emphasis is on the action and the reason for the gift, not the gift itself.

Goldman talked with AllFacebook about how apps such as GiftHit can bring meaning back to the art of gift-giving by getting smaller businesses into the mix:

There are so many awesome places that should be able to get on Facebook but don’t necessarily have the money or don’t necessarily have the expertise. So we thought that it would be great to have a smaller type of platform that could be available to these mom-and-pops that wouldn’t be like a Groupon-esque Goliath.

Want to try out social gifting for the holidays (or any other occasion that comes up soon)? Here are some of your options:

Boomerang: Boomerang takes a two-pronged approach to social gifting. The company has gifts available through major brands such as Gucci, Ghirardelli, and American Eagle. However, even with the nationally recognized options, Boomerang focuses more on experiences than straight-up presents. For instance, a person can give a Facebook friend a home brewery starter kit or an ugly sweater gift bundle. Boomerang also excels at local experiences, such as yoga classes and comedy shows in Chicago, Indianapolis, New York, and Austin, letting users send small gifts free of charge with the option to spend money on more valuable presents.

Facebook Gifts: Facebook’s native gifting app has a wide array of presents, deliverable to any users. The program had a slow rollout, but it is now available to any user. People can simply pick a friend (Facebook also prompts the use of Gifts on birthdays) and pick a gift from several major retailers such as Starbucks and Lego, as well as smaller businesses.

GiftHit: GiftHit connects friends through experiences that are exclusive to cities. It was designed with small businesses and local restaurants in mind, as users can send a Facebook friend credit for experiences such as a night out at a popular bar, a delicious cupcake, or even a cooking class.

Gifties: Not a traditional social gifting service, Gifties is more akin to the SuperPoke game that was popular in Facebook’s infancy. Users can send friends gifts, such as coffee, cookies, or even a hotel stay, with a chance that they might turn real. The higher the value of the prize, the lower the odds that a gift will become tangible.

Gyft: Tired of gift cards you’ll probably never use taking up space in your wallet? Try Gyft. Instead of regifting a Walmart gift card that says, “Happy Birthday from Aunt Rose,” on it, a user can scan the barcode and send the gift card electronically (and guilt-free) to a Facebook friend.

Plumfare: Plumfare, which is available to iPhone users, is a friend to small businesses looking to become popular among Facebook users. It specializes in smaller retailers and local businesses, offering people the chance to give gifts with meaning throughout the year, not just on a birthday or Christmas.

Treater: Treater started as a Web app, but it is now accessible to iOS and Android users. Treater tries to make the gift-giving act special, and opens it up to more than just holidays. For instance, if a friend is having a bad day or just got a new job, a person could send a gift code for a beer at a local bar to commiserate or celebrate. Treater focuses more on small gifts rather than large ones, given just because you care.

Wrapp: Wrapp, which has seen great success through Facebook, allows users to send free small gifts (such as $5 gift cards to Gap), or pay to send larger ones. Wrapp likes to think beyond holidays and life events, and invites people to send Facebook presents for everyday reasons or just to get together for a cup of coffee.

Readers: How often do you use social gifting?

Coffee image courtesy of Shutterstock. Others courtesy of Plumfare and GiftHit.

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