Send real gift cards via Facebook
Amazon launches new FB service, boosting retail move toward social networking and mobile commerce.
You check Facebook and realize that, once again, you've forgotten your niece's birthday. She's away at college in another town, so mailing brownies is out of the question if you want them to arrive in time. And you refuse to indulge in those lame Facebook games that involve spending real money for virtual gifts.
Amazon gift cards have long been available via e-mail. Making them available on Facebook is another way to integrate shopping with a service that reminds participants of friends' birthdays and lets people share their shopping experiences online.
The technology is simple enough: You pick your gift card design and amount, fill in the name of the recipient (Amazon finds him on your FB list), write a message and check out with your regular Amazon account. You can schedule your gift cards up to a year in advance.
As an incentive, Amazon is offering the first 10,000 customers who give an MP3 music card to five Facebook friends a $5 MP3 credit of their own.
Retailers are just beginning to use Facebook for actual selling. Bass Pro Shops this summer began selling gift cards via its Facebook page, which are delivered via e-mail or text message. You can personalize them with photos or a recorded message. A new service called BarTab, launched in major cities, allows you to send your friends $1 real drinks at local bars.
Apple offered its iTunes gift cards via Facebook last December but apparently ended the program several months later after problems were reported.
A service named FriendGiftr, launched earlier this year, offers gift cards from 150-plus merchants via Facebook or other social networking sites. If your friend doesn’t like the card you choose, she can quietly exchange it for another. But I couldn't get the service to work, from either the website or the Facebook page.
Starbucks has a Facebook app through which you can reload friends' Starbucks cards if they have the app. Since none of my friends have that app, if I want to buy a friend a cup of coffee I'll have to do it in real life.
Scams involving gift cards have proliferated on Facebook, so companies have to be careful in launching any kind of app that involves real money. In weighing an offer, the usual advice to consumers applies: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
This holiday season may be the first in which gift cards sent via social networking or mobile devices play a major role. Two companies, including the one working with Bass Pro Shops, are signing up additional retailers and hope to stake out a place in this year's holiday shopping, Mark Freeman of The San Diego Union-Tribune reports. American Apparel has signed a deal with the second company.
Mark Beccue, senior analyst with ABI Research in New York, told Freeman:
There are some challenges to mobile commerce in general having to do with hardware. But gift cards are low-hanging fruit. It solves a problem for people. You have all these cards, and you're not utilizing them very well. It's just a lot easier (to have them delivered and stored on mobile phones).
What do you think? Are you ready to send your friends real gift cards on Facebook? Would you like gift cards better if they came via mobile phone? Or are these technologies you want to steer clear of?
More from MSN Money:
http://apps.facebook.com/egiftsocial/ ) that supports giving gifts or gift cards for Cold Stone, KMart, Sears, and dots.
FirstData launched the service in July: http://www.firstdata.com/en_us/about-first-data/media/press-releases/07_07_10 .
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