Banking grandee Rupert Hambro and a clutch of Goldman Sachs investment bankers are among private investors who have put £1.5m in a new “intelligent” gifting website.
ThePresent.co says its unique selling point is that it uses algorithms to sift users’ personal data, including their social media profile, to make a shortlist of recommendations.
It has only a limited range of gift ideas from selected retailers such as the jeweller Theo Fennell and leather-goods firm Trevor Pickett, which will then deliver the “beautifully wrapped” present to the recipient.
The site is aimed at “time-poor” professional people and promises to take “the angst from present shopping”.
However, The Present.co said it was not pitched at wealthy customers, with the bulk of gift ideas under £100, although the most expensive is £80,000.
“We are looking to revolutionise ecommerce,” declared chief operating officer Charlotte-Anne Swerling, explaining that ThePresent.co taps into a user’s social media profile and can then “use the data to match it with gifts in our library”.
Ms Swerling said companies were only just beginning to explore what she called the social web. “Can technology know you better than your partner knows you? Can an algorithm pick a gift for me better than my husband? What if you want to buy a gift for your boss or your investor? Maybe you don’t know they play golf. If you had that small piece of information, that could make a difference and inform your choice.”
She said the investors in ThePresent.co were looking to tap into the fast-growing “e-gifting” market. Total UK internet retail sales in December are forecast to break the £10bn barrier for the first time this year, according to the consultancy Capgemini and industry group IMRG.
“We know that the shift to online is accelerating. Around 22 per cent of gifting in Britain was online last year. We might expect one third online this year,” Ms Swerling said.
She stressed that ThePresent.Co was “terrified” about not invading users’ privacy and they must give permission for the site to tap into their online data. Alternatively, a user can enter a short online survey with a series of questions about the person for whom they are buying a gift in order to identify a shortlist of suitable presents.
Ms Swerling said The Present.co’s offered “products that you’d really have to search for – they’re not obvious”.
She dismissed the suggestion that it was similar to online giant Amazon. “I don’t think people think of Amazon as synonymous with gifts. Amazon is really a gigantic shopping mall that is not focused on gifts.”