Today Washington, DC-based Treater announced the launch of iPhone and Android apps for its social gifting service, which lets users send real-world gifts to their Facebook friends. The new apps complement the existing web app that lets users send “treats” to their friends, cash gifts for the amount of real-world items that could be anything from a cupcake to a spa certificate. The company launched in public beta in August with $2.5 million in funding, and now has over 300 items in its catalogue from almost 50 merchants including Urban Outfitters and Starbucks.
CEO Jeff Ross said Treater is a way for people to go beyond just saying happy birthday on Facebook, and actually sending them something, no matter how small. “We set out to try to create a way that people could connect a little more meaningfully than a comment, a like or a post,” he said.
To send a gift, users sign in via Facebook, select a friend they want to send a gift to (friends are organized by upcoming birthdays, or users can search all friends) and find a product they want to send in the catalogue. After purchasing the gift, the recipient is sent a voucher for the cash value of that gift via Facebook, email or text, and can then redeem it by showing it to a cashier in store on their smartphone (cashiers enter the voucher number like they would a credit card number), or by redeeming it online.
Treater takes an undisclosed percentage of each gift from the retailer, and charges users a fee for every gift, starting at $0.49 for gifts under $5 (Ross says the average gift purchase is under $20). If a recipient doesn’t like their gift they can redeem it for something else at the same merchant, and they can bank any unused Treater money for the next time they send or redeem a gift. The new mobile apps also feature camera and address book integration, and app notifications, for example notifying someone they have an unused gift. Ross said they’ll also be adding location-based notifications, for example letting someone know if they’re near a store where they can redeem a gift.
If the idea sounds familiar, it’s because other social gifting startups like Wrapp take a similar approach to sending real-world gifts to friends online. Wrapp lets users send gift cards for online and offline retailers, and recently added partners like Zappos and Office Depot. Facebook also recently announced their own social gifting solution, Facebook Gifts, based on their acquisition of social gifting company Karma in May 2012. Though right now it’s only in testing in select markets, the feature will eventually let all users send gift cards or physical gifts to their Facebook friends in the mail.
Ross said the difference is that Treater is focused on real-time, spontaneous gifts, and specific items as opposed to gift cards. “Our brand and our experience is really about generosity, we are really about thinking about somebody in the moment, doing something spontaneous,” Ross said, with a focus on real-time gift purchase, delivery and redemption, as opposed to Facebook Gifts which sends gifts in the mail. “We’ve been very much item-focused, which merchants and partners seem to really like, because many of them are about promoting specific items, and for the recipient, it’s a much better experience to get a meal rather than a $7 gift card.”
While right now Facebook Gifts isn’t available to all users, and for now isn’t available on mobile devices, its launch will likely put a big wrench in social gifting startups’ plans. While it may not have the same approach as Treater, the fact that it also encourages spontaneous gifting around birthdays, promotions and other events, and the fact that it will be as easy as clicking a button next to your friend’s name when you’re already in Facebook, means that despite how easy Treater makes the process, it will always involve the extra step of going to their website or opening up the app.
Ross said they’ll also be integrating more social networks beyond just Facebook, which could be a key way for it to differentiate against Facebook’s proprietary gifting engine, and Facebook apps like Wrapp. Until then, they’ll have to bank on the relationships they’ve made with retailers, and the idea that while people want to give physical gifts, sometimes sending them virtually is the most efficient way.