If you're on the fly to give a gift, a new app can make the effort easy.
Giftfly is a new e-gift card app that was created by Darien-based entrepreneur Cory Perkins.
"Merchants can sign up and start selling (gift cards) in seconds," said Natasha Miller, of New Canaan, Giftfly's director of marketing.
According to a news release from the company, merchants sign up and download the GiftFly mobile app, which is available in the iTunes App Store. Plastic cards and fees are replaced by a free app that lets employees scan codes, check the sales history of gift cards and even refund cards. Their GiftFly accounts also collect customers' emails, maximizing their social media and email marketing reach.
For consumers, once they log on to www.giftfly.com, they select "send a giftfly." From there, they follow the prompts. Gift cards can be purchased in denominations up to $250. Senders also can log in through their Facebook account. On the site is a search mechanism so gift-givers can find the right business. GiftFly gift cards are then instantly sent and received.
According to the company, the transactions are safe because of built-in fraud protection, and the cards cannot be lost or stolen because they're stored electronically.
Several businesses in Darien and New Canaan already have accounts with Giftfly, which works with Yelp! to list the others in the area matching the criteria the user has inputted.
Small- and medium-sized businesses can suffer from a static website, Miller said, but with the use of Giftfly, they are able to sell products even when their stores are not open.
"We wanted the whole gift-card experience to be much more entertaining and just plain easy for today's busy consumer and tech-forward culture," Perkins, who also is the CEO of the company located at 381 Post Road, Darien, said in a prepared statement. "Because the entire process is performed online, including the Yelp search, consumers can recommend any of over a million favorite, local boutiques, restaurants or shops, add personalized messaging, create custom card designs and access and deliver the card 24/7 to a mobile phone instantly.
"For the merchant, we've eliminated the costs of plastic cards and added a card that virtually anyone in the country can buy while in their pajamas at home."
Big-box stores manage their gift card sales well, Perkins said, but the question that needed to be resolved was how to create a cheaper and faster platform for smaller outfits.
Giftfly has been in "stealth launch mode" since 2012, Perkins said, with the public unveiling scheduled for Friday, Sept. 5. A large public relations campaign is in the works.
"E-gift cards are exploding," Perkins said.
Gift cards, in general, are a billion-dollar industry in the United States, according to the Corporate Executive Board, a business advisory company.
In 2013, it was estimated that $3 billion would be loaded onto e-gift cards, according to the CEB Gift Cards State of the Union 2013. That number is projected to grow as the years go on with $5 billion expected to be loaded onto e-gift card in 2014 and $10 billion by 2016.
CEB estimated that $127 billion will be loaded onto all gift cards in 2014.
Giftfly is meant to help small- and medium-sized businesses, and the increase in gift-card purchases will drive foot traffic, Perkins said.
"Gift cards are viral," Perkins said.