October 8, 2013, 4:08 PM

A mobile-first retailer targets busy, urban professionals

The Bond Gifts iPhone app provides shipping addresses.

Lead Photo

Screenshots of the Bond Gifts mobile app.

A new retailer makes its debut today selling only through an iPhone app. Bond Gifts is targeting busy urban professionals ages 25-45 who make $75,000 a year or more—not coincidentally, a strong demographic for iPhones.

Bond features 70 items ranging in price from $5 to $2,000. It also uses a machine that holds a fountain pen and can "hand write" notes on embossed stationary in various styles, sealing envelopes with wax. Internet Retailer readers with iPhones can send a note for free using the code FREENOTE at checkout.

Bond envisions an executive signing a deal with a new client and in the cab on the way back to the office using the Bond app to pick a gift, compose a handwritten note, and send the gift immediately to the new client.

Bond contends a physical gift or even a physical handwritten note makes a far greater impression on people than a digital gift card or an e-mail note.

The highlight of the app is its ability to obtain a shipping address for a gift recipient when the gift giver does not know the recipient's address. The Bond app integrates with the user's iPhone Contacts. During the streamlined checkout process, the user selects the recipient from their Contacts. If the recipient's entry has the address, the app populates the shipping form with that information. If the entry only has a mobile phone number and/or an e-mail address, which Bond says based on its consumer research is quite often the case, then the user can select the number or e-mail and have the app automatically send a text message or e-mail with a short message composed by the app user asking for the recipient's address.

Bond says the message is sent from the user's text or e-mail account so it's personal and trusted. Bond says a message might read, "Hey, Scott, I want to send you a surprise, but I need your address, so please enter your address at the link below." A link embedded in the text or e-mail sends the recipient to a mobile web-based Bond-hosted form where he enters his preferred shipping address. Bond automatically sends that address to the appropriate user's order so the order can be fulfilled. If the recipient doesn't respond in 24 hours, the app sends him a reminder. If the recipient does not respond in 48 hours, the app sends the gift giver a notification. If an address is not entered in 72 hours, the order is automatically cancelled.

"Our consumer research shows one of the biggest friction points in gift-giving is not having a person’s physical address," says Sonny Caberwal, CEO and founder of Bond Gifts. "You can go to Amazon.com and have 10 million products to choose a gift from, but that is not a solution to getting a gift delivered without an address. We solve the problem with the address."

Caberwal adds that he believes having a vast number of products to choose a gift from actually hampers the gift-giving process, and that a "highly curated" set of 70 items will help busy urbanites quickly find a gift and complete an order.

Bond will store gift recipients' preferred shipping addresses correlated with their mobile numbers and/or e-mail addresses in an encrypted database. That way, in the future, if anyone using the app enters a mobile number or e-mail address of someone already in the database, the app will prompt that user asking if he wants to use the address on file or check with the recipient.

Bond founder Caberwal has a history in web commerce. He co-founded Indian e-retailers Exclusively.In and Sher Singh. He says Bond Gifts will debut an e-commerce web site in late November. Bond is taking the mobile-first design approach, letting the design of the app dictate the design of the desktop commerce site. He says he wants the e-commerce gift-giving process to be as quick and easy as the iPhone app. But he says the focus of the business is squarely on mobile commerce. Bond will release an Android app in Q1 2014.

Forrester Research Inc. says the percentage of online sales that are gifts varies widely by product category.

"We know that 10-20% of sales online are for other people—your spouse or your children, mostly. So about a 25% subset of those sales would be explicitly gifts," says Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester.

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