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Vendors Hope Social Gifting Gains Traction This Holiday Season

Social gifting - that is, a way for several friends to chip in on a gift online - is hoped to play a growing role in the holiday season this year as more vendors roll out products and apps. One example is a new app from Friendgift, which gives the people who chip in for the gift branded rewards for participating.

"It's a classic win-win situation," said Rob Carpenter, Friendgift CEO. "By alerting their friends to their chosen products through Facebook, Twitter or e-mail, these shoppers can collect multiple contributions from their friends, and the friends who contribute get instant rewards.” Plans are underway to allow merchants to incorporate FriendPay options within their ecommerce sites.

Social gifting is a variation on the latest generation of e-gift cards, which have added social and mobile features to make them relevant in today’s market.

A new CreditCards.com/Bankrate.com survey reports that this year many issuers are exploring digital gifting for the first time, citing as examples American Express, Best Buy, Gap and Pizza Hut.

Another sign of this channel’s growth: CashStar recently secured $12 million in funding. It will be used to help drive continued adoption of digital gifting and grow CashStar's retail brand network. The company recently added Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group to the list of brands that partner with CashStar.

Others include Starbucks, Gap, Best Buy, Williams-Sonoma, The Home Depot and Staples. Amazon, as well, is considering enhancing its offerings, if a recent patent it received from the Patent & Trade Office is any indication.

Spotted by Geekwire, the patent has shades of “big brother” in the model Amazon is proposing, however, which may not sit well with all consumers.  “The approach includes the option for the giver to not only recommend items via the gift card but also to restrict the types of things the card can be used to buy — and to get a report back on what the recipient purchases,” it said.

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