BTB Gift Service Matches Buyers, Wish Lists

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Gifted Solutions, Phoenix, last week announced the general release of the Gift Services Engine, a business-to-business product designed to let Web sites sell gifts based on recipients' profiles and buyers' preferences.

Pitching the technology as an "e-commerce application ... to promote and transact gift purchases on any Web site," Gifted Solutions CEO Annette Webb Marino said 13 merchant sites have already signed on as customers. The product just came out of a two-month beta test period.

"Think of me as the Inktomi of gift services," said Marino, referring to the Internet infrastructure firm that runs search, directory and shopping engines for major portals on an outsourced basis.

Cybershoppers registering at a site that uses GSE can enter the gifts they want or check other people's wish lists - similar to an online gift registry. Beyond the capabilities of virtual registries, however, GSE can remind consumers about upcoming events such as birthdays; track purchases; make recommendations for specific recipients; carry out searches; and help buyers figure out what other people of the same gender, age or relationship are buying.

The technology has a shopping cart that can include several merchants, and the technology centralizes management of order entry, credit card processing, shipping and customer services - the so-called "heavy lifting" of putting together a gift service. Gifted Solutions takes a cut of each sale.

GSE is connected to a database of "thousands" of potential gifts, according to Gifted Solutions. The company is touting GSE as technology that is useful to Web sites year-round, rather than just during the holiday season. The company said the average U.S. household purchases between 10 and 12 gifts annually.

"It's more than just Q4," Marino said.

The sites currently using GSE are Spiegel, SalesLogix, GiftPoint, PC Flowers & Gifts, videotape maker Nightingale Conant Corp., affinity marketer Batnet1, addAshop and The American Association of Retired Persons, American Automobile Association and American Federation of Teachers also are Gifted Solutions customers. Two other firms don't want to be identified, a Gifted Solutions spokesman said.

The word "gift" is not a reference to a particular type of product, Marino said, but rather to the shopper's motivation for making the purchase. GSE is designed for handling a shopper who is buying for another person, she said.

"There's a completely different psychology for gift buying than people buying for themselves," she said.

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