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Yiftee: A Gifting App That Boosts Local Businesses

Check out a simple app that encourages consumers to shop local.
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When I remember at the last minute that it's my mom's birthday a shameful thing happens. Because she lives 2,000 miles away I turn to Amazon, or some other huge retailer capable of emailing her a gift card right now. What I'd rather do--other than having the foresight to mail her a beautifully wrapped and thoughtful gift I bought in a physical store--is send her a gift card to use at her favorite café or independent book store.

Yiftee aims to help you do just that.

It's a social gifting platform that lets people send a single-use digital credit card a recipient can use at any local business that's able to manually key-in a MasterCard number.

You can choose to send a gift via Facebook, email, or text message and it's delivered instantly, as soon as you pay for it within Yiftee using any credit card. The only catch is the gift recipient has to have a smartphone or Internet-connected mobile device on which he or she can access and present the 16-digit number as tender.

The Menlo Park, California-based social gifting platform, which is available on the Web or as an iOS or Android app, launched in December and so far co-founder Lori Laub says it works at more than 2 million locations and "tens of thousands" of shops and restaurants have signed up to become "featured" merchants. Featured status is currently free, although that may change once Yiftee scales.

Just Another Gifting App?

Social gifting is concept that's gaining momentum. One competing app, called Wrapp, lets people send friends free and purchased gift cards through Facebook to use at large retailers like GAP and Old Navy.

But what sets Yiftee apart, Laub says, is how it encourages people to shop local.

She points to Starbucks' investment in e-gifting, which she says gives it a "huge advantage" and makes it dead simple for someone to send someone else a cup of coffee.

"We've basically given the local merchants--the toy store, the candy store, the proprietor [that has] just one, maybe two stores--that capability at no cost," she says, adding that merchants who have a website can add to it a "send a gift" button which sends people to that brand's page on Yiftee.

Yiftee makes money by charging the gift giver a small "convenience fee." For example, a $5 gift actually costs the sender $6.37 and up to 3 percent is tacked onto a $100 gift.

Will people pay a bit extra to sprinkle some thoughtfulness and personalization onto a last-minute or impromptu gift? I certainly would, but gaining--and keeping--traction in the fickle consumer market isn't a given.

When I asked Laub about the app's traction, she declined to give any hard numbers. But I'd wager that the company's latest customer acquisition strategy might help: Laub says that by the end of August Yiftee plans to add featured merchants near 1,000 college campuses so as to help parents stay connected to students with gifts of lunches and lattes.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2013

CHRISTINA DESMARAIS

Christina DesMarais is an Inc.com contributor who writes about the tech start-up community, covering innovative ideas, news, and trends. On Google+, add her to one of your circles. Have a tip? Email her at christinadesmarais (at) live (dot) com.




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