It’s the time of year when the mind turns to gift-giving, and now there’s an alternative to the mundane gift card. Amazon.com Inc. last week received a patent for a new type of digital card that allows the recipient to buy anything that falls within so-called gift rules set by the giver.
The new system may help address one of the biggest objections consumers have to gift cards, particularly digital cards. Consumers fear the cards may seem impersonal or thoughtless, and virtual cards may seem even more so, since they can be ordered up nearly instantaneously and e-mailed at the last minute.
By contrast, the system now patented by online merchandising giant Amazon “imagines a new type of gift card alternative that’s a bit more personal than just a debit card with a brand attached,” says a blog post by CBInsights, a New York City-based investment-research firm that follows technology.
According to patent number 9,811,833, which was filed more than six years ago, givers can define parameters for a gifted item rather than restrict the recipient to a specific product. Parameters can include a price range, product type or brand, and even characteristics within a product. Books, for example, can be restricted to appropriate age ranges or type of media, or even by author.
To make it work, the giver enters an order that includes at least one of these gift rules. This order is attached to a set of credentials that can be used by the recipient to order the product. Programming would reject any order that doesn’t meet the giver’s rules, with a prompt to the recipient to enter another choice
The giver can also permit orders that exceed a specified price range, with the giver paying no more than the upper limit of that range, aping the flexibility of an ordinary gift card.
It’s probably too soon for the 2017 holiday gift-giving season, but look for a new kind of “gift card” from Amazon before long.