Gift cards used to be a novel concept. When they first came out, you would get a card and gleefully scratch off the code to reveal the secret number that would allow you to redeem them. Then someone cracked the code on allowing grocery stores and everyone else to validate them on the spot and put them at the point-of-sale shelf. The “industry” took off and now you can hardly enter a store of any kind whatsoever without finding the little plastic buggers staring you in the face. And studies show that the people that sell them make a mint off those of us that put them in our desk drawers and forget to redeem them. It’s free like money.
Not being the most environmentally-conscious person (I do OK but I could always do a bit more for the planet, I suppose), it never occurred to me how many of the damn gift cards are manufactured and then thrown away. Until, that is, I heard about GiftCode.
Not that the concept of ditching gift cards is particularly new. A quick Google search revealed that the notion has been around since at least last year, probably a bit longer. But GiftCode has a neat little twist that may be the special sauce that allows it to take off: instant gratification.
It works like this: You choose a recipient, a store, and an gift value. You login using your Facebook account (you do have a Facebook account, right?). Then you send it to the recipient, who is thrilled you thought of her. But here’s the cool part — she can find out on her mobile phone where she can redeem the card and get the present immediately. It’s that instant gratification that is what’s great about the app. The recipient doesn’t have to wait until she gets home to fire up her computer and log in to (and inevitably register at) a company’s website.
This concept is not going to work for everyone. For instance, I would rather order something from Amazon and wait a few days to get it than go out to a store and get it immediately. That’s because I actually like (and I realize this isn’t terribly environmentally conscious of me) having things delivered to my doorstep. But for others, who revel in the opportunity to shop for shopping’s sake, this could be a real breakthrough in gift card giving.
Gift code is a Colombian company and it appears to be Colombia-centric at the moment. But if they are able to get some traction, I could see the concept taking off. At this point, it looks like they have about 200 people signed up and have apparently forged some sort of partnership with clothing maker Quiksilver. They are encouraging users to “favorite” certain brands, which to me appears to be a clever, Lean-Startup-style technique to validate their markets so that they can approach the manufacturers to join their network.
And one study suggests that the gift cards industry transaction volume in 2011 exceeded US $100 BILLION — that leaves a lot of room for GiftCode to expand. And a lot of gift cards that don’t have to be thrown away, which would be a very good thing, too.
Hat tip: EarlyAdopters.mx