The gift-givingest time of year is upon us — which is something of a good-news-bad-news proposition for us all. On the good news side of the coin, there are few people who don’t like getting gifts — and in fact all but the most dedicated Scrooges kind of like giving gifts, too. There is, after all, something to be said for the experience of grabbing just the right gift and seeing the look on the lucky recipient’s face.
That bad news is, well, gift giving can be hard.
Some of the hard part has been largely mitigated by a mobile-enabled highly digital world. If a shopper doesn’t want to wait out the trials and tribulations of the grocery store for Thanksgiving, there are myriad delivery services or curb pick-up options proliferating by the minute. If the mall seems a fate worse than death on Black Friday, there is always the option of tuning out to the calmer world of eCommerce and browsing in postprandial bliss.
But no matter how many digital enablers proliferate, there remains the essential roadblock: actually choosing the present. For those who actively make wish lists and drop hints, gift giving is a relatively straightforward activity. But then there are the friends and loved ones who respond to questions about what they want for their holiday present with the ever-unhelpful “nothing” or “surprise me.”
And for those cases there is Gidi — pronounced “giddy”— which hopes to use the power of chatbots to make gift giving somewhat less of an arduous task.
“The cool thing about Gidi is that it allows users to find recommendations for literally any occasion,” CEO Max Klaben told us in the firm’s post-launch interview.
The Gidi-bot chats with users on Facebook to ask them questions about the target for the present. As one might expect, the more specific the shopper can be about the person for whom they are shopping, the better a recommendation the bots can point the consumer to. Those recommendations are drawn from a hand-curated list — and the more it shops for a user, the more it learns about how to shop. The bot is also responsive to users’ commands as the process continues. If the goods are too expensive, the customer can say “show me cheaper gifts,” and Gidi will get going on on that.
The trick, he notes, is Gidi’s narrowed and honed focus on gift giving. Bots have had some trouble in the early phases because people have asked more than the tech is ready to give.
“I think the challenge with chatbots is people try to do more than is possible right now with the technology,” Klaben said.
This led Gidi to drill down into gifts — because it is an area where consumers have a demonstrated issue with buying. And the AI-based version of the service is itself a pivot — Gidi started out much more in the Trunk Club model of offering a personal shopping service.
“A year ago we started as a service that matched consumes with a human gift expert,” said Klaben. “But when Facebook released the chatbot infrastructure in May, we pivoted because we realized that a bot could actually give consumers as good or a better experience than a human. As our list of curated gifts grew, it actually became a better system to ask a computer to manage and track it than individual humans.”
Giving a bot a job that a bot can actually do better — and managing and constantly resorting a highly curated and ever-growing collection of gifting idea for consumers falls into that subset of tasks — is part of the equation. The other challenge, Klaben noted, is to then create an experience that doesn’t seek to remind the consumer that they are dealing with a chatbot instead of a person at all times. The experience should seem as natural as possible — and if a dialogue isn’t really possible, then the chatbot probably isn’t the right tool.
But after looking at Gidi’s early beta-testing results, when it comes to gift buying, a chatbot may in fact be the exact tool the customer is looking for, Klaben said. Customers who use their service once — for one gift — so far tend to come back.
As for who is using the service, so far men have been the biggest user group, particularly millennial-aged ones. That is not quite an accident, as younger males were the initial target audience and they’ve found that they like having their gifts bought with the help of a robot.
As for the actual buy itself, that is not done directly through Gidi. Gidi instead makes the recommendation, and when the customer wants to purchase it, they click the link to the merchant’s page to get the deal done.
So will the new app change the way the world shops this season? Probably not — Gidi has only been in wide release for a couple of days.
But what if Gidi has found a way to make chatbots start to live up to the hype? It may be buying a lot of people’s Christmas gifts next year.