Read The Wonder of Tech in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer!
How do you take the most popular gift in America and make it better? How do you enhance the gift-giving experience for both the giver and recipient? A company tackled these questions a year ago and in September launched the answer: Giftly, a service that takes gift cards to the next level.
Recently I spoke with Tim Bentley, the CEO of Giftly, about how he is revolutionizing the gift card industry. According to Bentley, nearly $100 million worth of gift cards will be given this year and 95% of adults have either given or received gift cards. “Gift cards can be an effective connection between two people.”
Giftly has evolved gift cards to become more mobile and social. Bentley notes that just as music went from plastic CD’s to MP3 files, Giftly takes gift cards and transforms them from plastic cards into digital files you can bring with you wherever you go.
Bentley first got the idea for gift cards a year ago when he wanted to send his parents a gift card to their favorite restaurant in their Vermont hometown, but the restaurant didn’t offer gift cards. An idea was born and in September the company began offering Giftly gift cards.
With Giftly, you can give a personal gift and support local businesses at the same time. To give a Giftly gift card, visit giftly.com and enter the location and the type of business, such as restaurant, clothing store, etc. Giftly searches the Yelp! database for the highest rated businesses in the area to offer suggestions.
If you have a friend who is a fan of Indian food and lives in Princeton, NJ, you can go to giftly.com to enter that information and Giftly will suggest the top-ranked Indian restaurants in the Princeton area. When you select one, you see a map showing where the restaurant is located, the contact information and a sample review. The listing also includes a link to the Yelp! site where you can read more reviews.
Giftly suggests a gift amount or you can enter the exact amount you want to give. You can choose up to three locations for one gift card, such as dinner, a movie and a wine bar. You can customize the look of the gift card with a photo and a design.
After you have made your selections, you can choose to notify your friend via email, Facebook and/or regular mail. A fee is charged for Giftly cards: $2 on a $21-40 gift card, $4 on $41-80, $5 on $81-120, and 5% of anything over $120. Cards under $20 have no fee.
When your friend receives the Giftly gift card, he can go to the restaurant and redeem the gift by opening the email on his smartphone and clicking on the link or by going to giftly.com on his smartphone browser and logging in. Giftly uses smartphone GPS technology to determine his location and redeem the gift. The merchant is not involved, your friend pays by credit card and Giftly credits his card with the amount on his gift card.
To redeem a gift, the user must be registered with Giftly, which is done by entering his smartphone number and credit card information. Bentley said that Giftly uses SSL technology and bank level encryption to protect the user’s data. A smartphone isn’t essential — there are ways for a recipient to redeem the gift without one — but having a smartphone allows the recipient to take full advantage of Giftly’s features.
After the gift has been redeemed, Giftly continues to enhance the users’ experience by letting the giver know that the gift was used. Giftly also suggests that the recipient send a thank you note to the giver. If the recipient hasn’t used the card, the giver can send an email gently reminding the recipient that the gift card has not yet been used.
Giftly cards work at any location that accepts credit cards. Giftly can’t be used at stores that are exclusively online, such as Amazon, but Bentley is looking forward to expanding into that area in the future. Giftly gift cards can’t be lost and don’t expire.
Currently, people can buy a Giftly card for people in any country where Yelp works including at this time, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and the UK. However, the recipient of a Giftly card must have a US credit card in order to redeem their Giftly card. Presently, Giftly cards are ideal gifts for US ex-pats living abroad who maintain a US bank account, as well as US students studying abroad. Giftly has been on focusing on the development of the product within the US and plans to expand internationally in 2012.
Although the business is brand new, Giftly chose to donate to charity half of the profits it made the week before Thanksgiving.
A Giftly iPhone app is planned for early 2012.
Do you enjoy giving and receiving gift cards? Have you ever lost a gift card before you had a chance to redeem it? Have you ever had a gift card expire? Have you ever given a gift card and wondered whether it was ever use? Let us know in the Comments section below!