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It’s official, the holiday shopping season has begun and it’s time to get serious about gift lists. This week, I took a closer look at some online services that could help you—or those shopping for you—find and buy the right gifts.
While there are many services around, I’ll just touch on a handful of them, including some that take advantage of social networking and group buying.
Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, is jumping into the wish-list action this holiday season with the Bing Shopping List. Starting Wednesday, this feature lets people add items to a saved wish list by simply check-marking an on-screen box in shopping search results. Shopping search results are displayed by clicking the Shopping tab in Bing search results or by selecting Shopping on Bing.com and going from there. Once an item’s box has been checked, a small, in-browser visual of all items added to the wish list is displayed in the lower left corner of the browser window. Lists are saved between sessions, so you can close your browser and open it another time and work with the same saved list.
In addition to collecting a list of wished-for items, the Bing Shopping List lets people share those lists with their Facebook friends, giving them a chance to see and buy items from someone else’s wish list. Or people can use Bing Shopping Lists to select just a couple items, share them with the Facebook community, and ask for friends’ opinions about which product is better. Users may get feedback from friends they wouldn’t otherwise know were experts in certain areas.
A Microsoft spokesman said the impetus for this came from trends the company saw taking place on the Web—specifically, people using Facebook to solicit opinions about what to buy and to tell others what they want.
A downside to the Bing Shopping Lists is that they don’t yet offer a way to share items with only certain people, which might mean sharing a private gift with all your Facebook friends. And you can’t yet create multiple lists. A way to share items with only certain people and options for create multiple lists are on the product road map for next year, according to a company spokesman.
Speaking of social networks, Sears is taking a unique approach to the group-buying concept with Wish Together, a program launched in mid-November. With Wish Together, Sears puts at least one new item on its Facebook page (facebook.com/sears) each day. If enough people click on the item’s “Like” button before a certain time, a steep discount on the item becomes unlocked, like a diamond necklace that originally cost $285 will cost $100 at its Wish Price if it gets the required 200 “likes.” People can see the number of necessary “Likes” and time remaining (down to the second) displayed on the item’s Wish Together Facebook page.Once a Wish Together deal is unlocked, it’s available to everyone—not just those who originally “liked” it. But those who “liked” the item get an email notification from Facebook as soon as the deal is unlocked so they can buy it while supplies last.
The tried and true Amazon Wish List, which has been around for 11 years, can be used to add wish-list items from any website, not just Amazon.com. This works using the site’s Universal Wish List. It can be set up by dragging an “Add to Wishlist” bookmark (http://3.ly/G82n) into your browser’s bookmark bar. Then you just click the bookmark whenever you’re on the specific Web page of an item you’d like to add to your Wish List. A small pop-up menu lets users designate a specific Amazon Wish List or add their own notes about an item. Universal Wish List browser extensions, or shortcuts built right into a Web browser, are available for Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox browser. Some online retailers like ModCloth.com, save you a step by offering “Add To Amazon Wish List” buttons right on their websites. Amazon Wish Lists can be shared to friends through Facebook or Twitter using a link on the list’s webpage.
There are many Facebook apps for creating wish lists and sharing them with Facebook friends. I tried a couple apps, including a basic one called Fulfill My Wishlist (http://3.ly/3u3d). It let me search a shopping portal (that uses Google Shopping in the background) for items to add to my wish list, or let me copy and paste a link for any item to appear in my list. A notes section for each item allows room for describing details like preferred size or style. This list can be emailed to friends or viewed through the Facebook app by friends who use it.
If you’re planning to go in on buying a pricey gift with several other people, a group-gift option like eBay’s might be the right tool for you. EBay introduced its Group Gifts feature (groupgifts.ebay.com) in November. It lets several people pool their money to buy one item without one person chasing down those who owe money.
One person chooses an eBay item and selects the Buy It Now option (auction prices aren’t applicable when you need to tell the group how much they’ll definitely owe). The initiator tells the group how much he or she will pay and then shares the item with others via email, Facebook or Twitter, in hopes of getting contributions. A PayPal account is required for at least one person in the group to ultimately pay for the item, but gift contributors can chip in using credit or debit cards, and they can add their own notes to a gift.
Thanks to technology, there are many ways to direct your friends and family toward exactly what you want for the holidays, taking much of the guesswork out of giving and receiving this year.
Edited by Walter S. Mossberg
Write to Katherine Boehret at firstname.lastname@example.org