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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: Karmalot Social Gifting App

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve gotten all kinds of Facebook reminders to buy your friends gift cards whenever they have a birthday or for any other reason. Well, there’s another option out there: Karmalot.

Karmalot is a “social gifting” app based in San Francisco that allows you to send e-gift cards through Facebook to more than 110 (and growing) retailers. Karmalot asked me to review the app, compensated me for my feedback and post, and gave me starter funds to send gifts to four lucky friends, and sent me an e-gift card so I could fully test it out. 

While many of the retailers are currently national or big-box type stores, Karmalot’s goal is to get local retailers on board, so you can gift a museum experience, coffee at your favorite cafe, or even a manicure at a local spa.

How it Works
The website is clean and easy to navigate if making a purchase. It looks like this:

You choose your Facebook friend by clicking on their picture/name, choose the company you want the gift card from, and choose the amount.

When making a gift purchase,
you have the option by clicking the little Facebook icon in the lower corner (where you type your message) to have it posted on their wall. It’s not obvious, but if the icon is dark blue, it should appear on the wall, but if you click on it and it turns grey, it won’t appear on their wall and you need to let your friend know there’s a gift and how to access it.

Warning: In order to use the gift card, your friend must accept the Karmalot app on Facebook and let it post for them. You and the recipient also have to sign up on the Karmalot site. At this point in the Beta stage, you need to let your friend know the Beta access code for Karmalot. Not everyone is comfortable granting apps access to their accounts, so that can be a sticking point for some gift recipients.

Receiving a Gift
I thought the process of retrieving my e-gift card was easy. I went to the “My Gifts” section of the website and clicked on it. It was easy to download and print it out (though you can also just save it on your phone or use the code online). One of my recipients needed an explanation as to how to download it, though the others did so with no problem.

Upcoming Changes:
The website hasn’t fully launched yet, and they’re incorporating changes into future versions.
The next version of both the website and mobile apps will allow you to sort the gift companies by type (i.e. restaurant, museum, store, by geographic location).  

--Currently, the gift amount offers you preset choices, which is often (but not always) $5, $10 or $15. For some retailers, it’s $25, $50, $100. In the future, Karmalot will offer two lower priced fixed gift amounts, and then you can choose your own number within a designated range. This will be helpful with companies like The Ritz Carlton, where now you can only give e-gift cards for $5, $10 or $15.

--In the future they plan to offer information on the retailer when you click the icon. Currently it is not available, which can make it difficult to know more about the vendors. For example, one of the vendors is “Aquarium” but there’s no geographical information to know which aquarium it is. Location information will be very helpful when buying gifts for Facebook friends who live in other areas.

--As mentioned earlier, they are continuing to expand the gift card options available and want to include local vendors. Current options are restaurants (including Kinkaid’s, Unos, Rainforest Café, Chart House, Chili’s), travel (including Marriott, Travelocity Incentives, the Ritz Carlton); and others (like spa week, overstock.com, Groupon, Game Stop, Columbia Sportswear, Chefs Catalog, Barnes & Noble, 1-800-Flowers) and one of my favorites: Charity Choice.com, where you give the gift of a donation and the recipient chooses where it goes.

--While Karmalot is currently allowing gift-giving on the Facebook platform, they plan to roll it out to other social media platforms in the future, so you can gift on LinkedIn, etc.

Karmalot is available on the iPhone, Facebook app and via web.

Disclosure: Karmalot sponsored this review. All opinions are my own.

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