August 29, 2001, 12:00 AM

A Very Wary Christmas

(Page 3 of 3)

Upresent’s online gift delivery as deployed by e-retail sites lets shoppers click on a “free online gift delivery” icon, usually listed with other service options such as gift wrapping. Senders who click on the icon follow prompts that let them select from several pre-loaded, animated, graphic e-mails to generate one that lets the recipient know immediately-or later, if the sender chooses-that a gift is on its way from the sender. Attached to the e-mail is an image of an unwrapped gift, or a photo of the gift selected. Clicking on the icon actually delivers the shopper temporarily to Upresent’s server to compete the process. When arrangements for online delivery are completed, the shopper is returned to the retailer’s site, but because Upresent matches its graphic interface with that of the participating retailer, shoppers don’t know they’ve ever left the retailer’s site. No credit card information or personal data is brought over from the retailer’s site onto Upresent’s server.

Online gift delivery is more than customer service, according to Upresent CEO and founder David MacMahan: it’s a customer acquisition tool as well. While MacMahan estimates online gift delivery can reduce shopping cart abandonment by 2% to 7% by quelling fears about timely delivery, the online gift delivery process also offers gift recipients the chance to opt in to receive news and marketing information from the e-retailer’s site. At Booksamillion.com, an online bookstore that piloted the technology during Christmas 2000, the uptake on opt-in was 14%. Lowes.com, Harry and David, BassProShops.com, and 1-800Flowers.com have committed to adding the service in time for the holidays or already offer it, MacMahan says. Retailers pay a transaction fee of 35 to 65 cents per delivery and a monthly maintenance charge of $250.

“You know how they say it’s the thought that counts?” says MacMahan. “We make sure the thought gets there online.”

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