Will AI transform gift giving?

Source: Token, iTunes
Jun 16, 2017

According to a survey commissioned by the University of Oxford and Yale University, artificial intelligence (AI) researchers see a 50 percent chance that AI will be able to perform all human tasks better than humans by 2060. So why can’t AI already help with gift suggestions?

Token.ai, a start-up addressing the opportunity that recently secured $2.5 million in seed funding, has developed an app that enables users to describe their needs, such as the gift occasion, who the gift is for, style preferences and budget. From there, Token’s “team of gift curators,” which is also trained in etiquette, cultural traditions and industry trends, leverage AI insights to make recommendations ranging from well-known to undiscovered brands.

“Gift-giving in the U.S. is a $131 billion market, yet until now, the experience has been overwhelmingly painful and time-intensive,” said Jonathan Jarvis, Token CEO, in a statement. “Leveraging our talented gift curators and specialized AI platform, we make it easy to give something that’s creatively thoughtful, unique and unforgettable.”

Gift giving empowered by artificial intelligence first gained media attention last spring when 1-800-Flowers launched GWYN (Gifts When You Need). The service, powered by IBM’s Watson, helps customers “sift through more than 7,000 products to find the perfect gift.”

In March 2017, an IBM survey showed 80 percent of customers using GWYN on 1-800-flowers.com had a positive experience and wanted to use it again.

At the time, Harry & David’s, a sister company of 1-800-Flowers.com selling fruit and gourmet food products, introduced GWYN on its website. When a shopper types “I’m looking to send a thank you gift” on harryanddavid.com, GWYN interprets the question and asks a series of additional qualifying questions about the occasion, sentiment and who the gift is for. Gift-givers’ needs and wants are learned and refined over time.

The tech tools arrive as research shows gift giving is most challenging for those closest to the giver. Karen Pine, the U.K.’s University of Hertfordshire’s professor of psychology, told Time magazine, “The more the relationship matters, the more we worry about getting it right.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: In what ways may AI help consumers overcome many of the current frustrations of coming up with gift ideas? Do you see AI being able to provide a level of granularity well beyond generic suggestions?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Consumers want gift giving to be easier. AI can provide a welcome assist."

Join the Discussion!

6 Comments on "Will AI transform gift giving?"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Art Suriano

There are many advantages to this technology. For years we would rely on the store clerk to help pick out floral arrangements, gift baskets, etc. because there are always too many choices. Going online can be tedious and it can be hard to find the item we are looking to purchase. But today, with the right technology and the ability to qualify the customer’s needs by asking the right questions, AI can help a purchaser find the perfect gift quickly by narrowing the choices down to a few. Technology provides many conveniences, and I can see using AI for gift-giving added to that list.

Max Goldberg

Consumers want gift giving to be easier. AI can provide a welcome assist. Consumer acceptance will hinge on how long it takes to enter the information needed for the computer to make the gift suggestion.

Ian Percy

I find this so sad, frankly. Now if you don’t really give a damn about the person for whom you are politically obligated to get a gift … have at it, just do a few clicks and you’re done.

But why are we so desperate to obliterate soul? Struggling to find just the right gift is part of the joy of giving. I still remember as a child struggling to get a Mother’s Day gift and proudly ending up with a huge bag of wooden clothes pins. Took me forever! If Olympic athletes didn’t have to do any 4 a.m practices would their victory mean anything? And what are we headed to, computer generated love letters? Eulogies? Toasts to your daughter at her wedding? Your gift means nothing if all it did was cost money.

Don’t sell your soul for some app!

Cristian Grossmann
Cristian Grossmann
CEO, Beekeeper
5 years 9 months ago

AI is the future, whether we like it or not, as the shift has already been happening. Gift giving should still have a human element to it and shouldn’t completely be replaced by technology. However, as Art Suriano pointed out, there are way too many options out there and this AI technology can help give us ideas and we can still choose what we think the recipient will like best. There’s great value in blending human emotion and AI. We can still put heart into the idea, just in a more efficient way.

Shep Hyken

The cool thing about AI and gift giving is the interaction the customer who’s giving the gift has with the “machine.” The way it works is simple. The computer asks questions, the customer answers, the computer understands the answers and asks more questions and the end result is the computer’s suggestion. And, it gets better when the computer can pull past data from the customer and who he/she is giving the gift to. As the computer learns about the customer, the computer will ask better questions and make better suggestions. This is where AI is headed. Don’t fight it. Get excited about it!

Ralph Jacobson

This is goodness for both the shopper and the retailer. There is nothing sinister nor heartbreaking about a technology that can help the shopper find a gift for someone with whom they may not have much contact. The shopper doesn’t always know how to shop for every occasion. This tech helps those folks.

The retailer wins because of the happy shoppers AND the fact the the 80% of SKUs that move slowly now have literally equal exposure as the top 20% do, so movement grows throughout the assortment, and the most senior leadership of the retailers using this technology are absolutely thrilled. Staples, North Face and other are using it, too.

"Consumers want gift giving to be easier. AI can provide a welcome assist."

Take Our Instant Poll

How effective is AI as a tool to help consumers with gift recommendations?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...