‘Tis the Season! That’s right, the holiday season is upon us. No, it’s not December, but Spring, the season for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations, weddings and anniversaries. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the gift-giving occasions coming up, but a new tech tool is designed to make gift giving convenient and fun.
Karma is a new service launched in February that allows you to send people gifts from your smartphone. Karma gifts are real world, physical gifts that arrive on doorsteps, even if you don’t know someone’s physical address. Karma provides hundreds of high-quality, unique and fun gifts to choose from within the app.
I recently spoke with Lee Linden, the CEO of Karma, about the new service and what he has learned during the first two months of its existence. “Karma is a form of communication. People use it to share a sentiment, to say, ‘Congratulations,’ ‘I love you,’ ‘I miss you,’ ‘Happy birthday,’ ‘I’m so sorry,’ and ‘Feel better.’”
The business is off to a strong start with thousands of Karma gifts having been delivered during the past two months. “The average Karma user has given three gifts in the first two months we’ve been in business. We’re nothing if our users don’t enjoy our service. By using it more than once, our users are showing us that they’re happy, ” Linden explained.
The idea of the app is to solve your gift-giving problems. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know a friend’s size, tastes, address, or favorite color. It doesn’t even matter if you wait until the last-minute to send a gift. Karma has you covered.
Karma is a beautifully crafted app with high-quality images and an intuitive design. The app is clean and simple and quickly makes you forget that you’re viewing these gifts on the small screen of a smartphone.
Karma suggests gifts according to the occasion, such as a holiday, birthday, thank you gift, wedding, hostess gift, tough days, etc. (note that Karma wisely suggests that chocolate is an appropriate gift for almost any occasion). You can also browse gifts by category, including Foodie, Geek, Host, Quirky, Romantic, Eco-Friendly, Trendsetter, Baby, and others. Karma lets you select the price range on a sliding scale so you can narrow your search to items within your budget.
“Karma shows you a list of curated products targeted to the occasion and the demographic of who you’re sending the gift to,” explained Linden. But you can search through all the products if you think your friend would like a gift outside of his demographic.
If you connect your Facebook account, Karma will suggest gift ideas based upon your friends’ demographics or their Facebook posts. The app will note when your friends are getting “congratulations” or “condolences” posts on their Facebook Timeline and suggest gifts based on the posts.
One of the most compelling features of Karma is that you don’t need to know a person’s address to send a gift to them. If a bride is changing her name and moving to a new home, no worries. You can use her email address, cell phone number or Facebook account to send a Karma gift. This feature also comes in handy for sending gifts to graduates, people who recently moved and online friends if you don’t know their addresses. Your friend can decide whether she wants her gift sent to her home or office.
Linden says that the majority of Karma gifts are sent via text message. The time it take for a recipient to open a gift varies based upon the method of delivery. “Facebook on average takes about a day. Email takes about four to five hours. Text takes about 60 seconds. So if you’re thinking of someone and want to send them a gift using Karma via text message, they will generally see it within a minute,” Linden explained.
You can also schedule when you want your gifts to be sent, so you can take care of a couple of month’s worth of gifts in one sitting. The app allows you to schedule in advance a gift to be delivered at a later date.
Let Them Choose
You don’t have to know a person’s size, favorite color or other preferences to send them a Karma gift. Karma has a “Let Them Choose” feature that allows you to personalize the gift but still lets the recipient to make a selection according to their preferences. For example, you can give a gift of wine and let your friend decide whether he wants Chardonnay, Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc. Or, if you find out that a friend just got her first iPhone, you can send her a case and let her pick out the style. Linden said that over a third of users let the recipients choose their specific gifts.
If you totally miss the mark and your friend doesn’t like the gift, she can exchange it for any other Karma gift or donate it to charity. The giver is not notified of the exchange, only that her friend accepted the gift. Linden said that about 25% of the recipients exchange their gifts for another Karma gift.
Karma also lets you donate to a charity as a gift and allows the recipient to trade his gift to a charity, with 100% of the gift going to the charity. Currently the charity for Karma is Charity Water, but Linden anticipates adding other charities to the app. according to Linden, about 8% of the recipients donate their gifts to charity.
Some people can easily pick out the perfect gifts, but if you want gift ideas, Karma has some interesting ones. Some of the unique gifts include a DNA genome test kit (good for those trying to research their ancestry), a personal driver from Uber (for those who want to feel like a celebrity for the evening), a Netflix subscription (for the film buff), an Andy Warhol print (a good candidate for Let Them Choose), an OCD cutting board (for cooks who like to be precise when they chop), Gund bears (not for kids only), and a selection of wine and chocolates.
Another impressive feature of the app is that you don’t have to pay for a gift until the recipient opens the gift, accepts it and enters her address. For your first gift, you don’t even have to give your credit card information to Karma until after your friend has accepted the gift. The service saves your credit card information so you don’t have to enter it each time you want to give a gift. According to Linden, the number of gifts being given through Karma doubled after they initiated the delayed payment feature. Over 90% of users pay immediately after they are notified that their friend has accepted their gift.
As of now, Karma is US only, requiring both a US credit card and a US shipping address. Linden hopes to expand beyond the US borders in the future.
If you’re looking for an easy, creative and fun way to give gifts, whether last-minute or ahead of time, check out Karma to take the headaches out of gift-giving.
Karma was purchased by Facebook soon after this review was published and is no longer available as an app.
Do you like the idea of giving gifts using an app? Have you ever struggled to send a gift because you didn’t know the person’s address? Do you like the “Let Them Choose” feature? Let us know in the Comments section below!