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Buy a joint gift via eBay?

New Group Gifts app allows donors to organize a joint gift via Facebook or e-mail, no cash collection required.

By Teresa Mears Nov 2, 2010 11:35AM

EBay has come up with a whole new definition of group buying.

The online auction site has just launched Group Gifts, a way for a group of people to buy a gift together. If you and your co-workers want to chip in for a wedding gift for the boss, someone can choose a gift, notify the others via e-mail or Facebook, and everyone can contribute using PayPal, a credit card or a debit card. If you don't raise enough money for your initial gift choice, the funds can be transferred to a less expensive gift. But no one actually needs to collect cash.


If you use Facebook Connect, eBay will even suggest gifts, based on the recipient's profile. If you choose this option, you have to give the service permission to access your profile and your friends' profiles. If their privacy settings don't allow that, the gift suggestions will be less personalized.


The gifts have to come from the "Buy It Now" category, so everyone knows the cost from the beginning, and the organizer must have a PayPal account. The Facebook invitation can be sent privately, so the recipient can't see it.


EBay North America vice president Christopher Payne, quoted in USA Today, classified the move as "huge" and a major step forward in using social networks to sell products. "EBay Group Gifts lets you do in three minutes what is otherwise a time-consuming and painful process that can take weeks to complete," he said.

Mashable has a detailed explanation of how the new service works. Andy Palmer, manager of buyer experience for Group Gifts, explained it this way:

… EBay saw that people were using social websites to buy virtual gifts for their friends at a very high frequency. We thought that it made sense to take that to the next level and help people come together to buy actual gifts. Perhaps more importantly, eBay recognized that the process of group gifting as it exists in the world today can be difficult and frustrating at times, which is a shame because giving as a group is a wonderful way to give people bigger, better gifts without spending too much during these tougher economic times.
… By integrating eBay, PayPal and Facebook into this application, we give users an experience that employs the largest online marketplace, the safest online payment mechanism, and two of the largest social communities in the world. In doing so, eBay has created an experience that makes giving as a group easy, intuitive and fun -- as it should be.

Mashable noted that Amazon also has a mechanism that links with Facebook to generate gift suggestions (or suggestions for yourself), but has no process by which to buy group gifts.


Mashable's Erica Swallow was able to choose an inexpensive gift, recruit friends and buy the gift within 20 minutes.


At least one expert interviewed by USA Today was skeptical that a large number of people will embrace the Group Gifts service.


"To make this work, you need to really promote it, and you need to change consumer habits around how they may be doing group-gifting," Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal online retail analyst for Forrester Research, told the newspaper. "I'm not convinced the market is so huge that it will change anyone's habits."


What do you think? Would you use this service to organize a joint gift for someone from eBay?


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