After finding success in Sweden and across Europe for its effort to revitalize the gift card industry, Wrapp is finally launching in the U.S. today. And to prove it’s serious, the company has more than 25 retailers signed up to use the service, including Gap, H&M, and Sephora.
Wrapp’s mobile and web service allows you to buy gift cards for friends through Facebook, which can be redeemed via the Wrapp mobile app in stores. The company offers a few unique twists on the gift card paradigm: Once a gift card is purchased, your Facebook friends can easily add more funds to it, and Wrapp also offers free gift cards as part of targeted retailer campaigns. Wrapp gift cards can only be redeemed via smartphones, but that also means you’ll never really lose them either.
Not surprisingly, the U.S. has been Wrapp’s No. 1 target since it launched, CEO Hjalmar Winbladh told VentureBeat in an interview a few weeks ago. He pointed to a few unique aspects of U.S. consumer culture that makes Wrapp a perfect fit: We have the most mature Facebook market, significant smartphone penetration, and a general acceptance (and in many cases, preference) for gift cards as presents. In some European and Asian countries, gift cards can seem a bit too impersonal.
The company currently has 165,000 active users who have given out 1.6 million gift cards. Wrapp users send cards to their friends once a week on average, Winbladh said. The company also reports that participating merchants saw average sales of four to six times the value of the free gift cards sent out.
I’ve been following Wrapp for months now, but now that it has landed in the U.S., the company is also revealing itself as a sort of anti-Groupon. Unlike the daily deals service, Wrapp allows retailers to target specific consumer demographics with free gift card deals, and it also has a more personal touch than Groupons since Wrapp cards come from your friends. Groupons tend to attract dealhounds who may never visit a store again, something that irks retailers, and in some cases has also killed businesses.
Wrapp helps retailers “avoid the bottomfeeders,” Winbladh said. The service is appealing to merchants in other ways as well: they only have to pay up when a Wrapp card is redeemed, they can target exactly the sort of customer they want, and they get the added bonus of friend endorsements.
The company offered up one case study of how its service helps: European retailer Clas Ohlson used Wrapp to push traffic for a new store. The company sent out promotions for free Wrapp cards worth $15 to loyalty card members, 11 percent of which started using Wrapp, and one sixth of those customers redeemed the cards in-store within three days.
For consumers, the deal is pretty sweet as well. With Wrapp, you’ll never forget about a gift card again, and since the service hooks into your Facebook account, it can alert you of friend birthdays and easily lets you send a gift.
Stockholm, Sweden-based Wrapp has raised $10.5 million so far to bring its service to the U.S., and also saw a big legitimacy boost with the support of LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who joined the company’s board in the latest round.