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Amazon leverages mobile, social to drive digital gift card sales

The new digital gift card offering, called Amazon Birthday Gift, lets users create a digital gift card on Facebook and then invite anyone in their social network to contribute. The gift card shows up in the recipient’s Facebook timeline on his or her birthday.

“I think it’s a brilliant idea,” said Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at Retail Systems and Research, Miami, FL. “It takes the happy birthday statement to whole new levels – all of a sudden everything can be a group gift.

“The beauty of mobile is you can do something when you think of it during down time instead of at pre-constructed times in pre-constructed places,” she said.

Ms. Rosenblum is not affiliated with Amazon and spoke based on her experience in mobile commerce.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment by the  deadline.

Social giving
As digital gift cards increasingly replace the plastic version, mobile is playing a bigger role in how consumers purchase, store and redeem them since consumers often have their smartphones within arm’s reach at all times.

For example, recipients of digital gift cards want to be able to store them on their mobile devices so they will have the cards when they are needed.

As the use of Facebook increasingly migrates to mobile, Amazon is looking to not only make it easy for mobile users to send a birthday gift while on the go, but to also make the process more social, with multiple friends able to contribute no matter where they are.

To create an Amazon Birthday Gift, users go to from their desktop, mobile or tablet device, enter a message, select the gift card amount and checkout on Amazon.

At this point, users are able to send invitations to anyone in their Facebook network to also contribute to the gift card and include their own message. Friends can contribute $1, $5, $10 or $25 to the birthday gift card.

On the day of the friend’s birthday, the gift card and any accompanying messages will post to his or her Facebook timeline.

Better customer experiences
To help promote the new offering, Amazon is offering users a $3 credit for a limited time.

To use the service, customers need to connect their account with the retailer to their Facebook account.

Doing so will also enable users to view improved product recommendations, share items with friends, import photos into Amazon Cloud Drive and share notes on Kindle books.

Merchants such as Amazon are looking for ways to create more social shopping experiences, but are often challenged from a technological standpoint.

“Social is not as much about pure commerce as it is about the customer experience at any point in the path to purchase,” Ms. Rosenblum said. “The problem is, the world is moving faster than retailers’ IT departments can move.

“The integration buses required to support the flexibility retailers need just haven’t been installed at enough sites, and point-to-point integration gets really tiresome and inefficient,” she said.

“We expect to see retailers to do some serious platform upgrading over the coming two years.  It’s the only way they can provide more options going forward.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York