At a party last night at FAO Schwarz in New York, Facebook made one thing clear: it's all in on Gifts, a new feature that lets you buy friends chocolates, gift cards, and other stuff right from their Timeline on mobile or desktop. What makes sending Gifts nicer than simply dropping someone an Amazon package is that your friend instantly gets a push notification on their phone when you send one. He or she also gets to choose the size, flavor, or color of the gift if you allow them to. Also, if you don't have somebody's address, the recipient has the option to type it in, which is convenient.
Facebook last night unveiled several new partners for Gifts — which is essentially a catalog of items hand-picked by retailers like Warby Parker, Starbucks, GUND, and as of last night, Dean & DeLuca, Rdio, Lindt Chocolates, Brookstone, Fab, Hulu Plus, and others. Gifts launched in beta late September to a select group of people (like most new Facebook features), and last night rolled out to "tens of millions more," Gifts boss Lee Linden said.
While partnering with over 100 retailers might've been a challenge, convincing users to spend money while on Facebook is a much bigger one. Facebook Gifts recall the odd digital gifts that the company once offered, and which many users still remember. The discontinued Facebook Gifts from years ago let users spend a couple dollars on digital cupcakes and other digital objects to post on friend's walls — but this time, the Gifts are real.
We conducted a poll on Facebook this week, and found that 1,226 people said they had never bought a Facebook Gift while just 68 said they had. The results seem pretty negative, while we acknowledge that Gifts had only rolled out to a "small subset" of people, yet Facebook has reason to be optimistic. If the poll is even close to accurate, gifts flying around between .05% of Facebook's billion-strong user base (about 50 million people) could add up to a whole lot of money for a new public company struggling to find new revenue streams.