Amazon Patents a 'Smart' Gift Card

Technology enables product recommendations and purchase restrictions.

by staff writer
- Oct 28, 2011

Imagine giving a gift card that not only offers the recipient suggestions of what to buy, but limits their purchases to items you approve of—then reports back to you what they ultimately bought.

Seem a bit Orwellian? Maybe it's not so far-fetched, now that online retail giant Amazon has received a patent for a gift card with "customization" features that amount to parental controls.

So far, Amazon hasn't commercialized the technology, but if it does, gift cards of the future could come with built in "redemption recommendations, restrictions, or other content" that has been personalized for the recipient, according to the text of U.S. Patent 8,046,266, also known as "Customizing gift instrument experiences for recipients."

For example, a parent could give their child a gift card to redeem online, but restrict any digital media purchases to those with a specific content rating or that exclude explicit lyrics or language—or even specify that the card only be redeemed for books of a certain genre, and not for video games.

That's one aspect of the technology. Here are some of the other customization capabilities detailed in the patent:

  • Add a personal message to the recipient (e.g., "Happy Birthday from Mom").
  • Recommend products based on the recipient's purchasing history and/or demographic data.
  • Pre-select a delivery method for purchases made with the card.
  • Report back to the giver when the card was used, and what was purchased.

Read the full text of the Amazon patent on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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