Beyond The Buzzword: eGifting Meets P2P Payments

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How can eGifting be more enjoyable — the experience more exciting — than receiving a traditional digital gift card?

“Historically, sending cash to somebody or a digital gift card is a pretty dry experience,” Suresh Bhat, co-founder and COO of Vouchr, told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster in an interview. “But [what] we do is we add that layer of fun on top of that.”

People usually think of digital gift cards — or prepaid credit cards — when it comes to eGifting. For Vouchr, that still holds true. But they’ve expanded the category by turning peer-to-peer (P2P) payments into a true gift experience.

To make that happen, Vouchr is allowing gift givers to customize gifts with photos, videos and even games. “We think those are the types of things that make it into a gift,” Bhat said.

Gifting cash is not very personal, after all. And the experience of receiving it hasn’t evolved all that much in the digital world.

But new technology has the potential to make gifting more interesting. “There is so much more you can do on mobile to make that more exciting,” Bhat said.

And cash itself is transitioning from greenbacks to a more electronic version of payment through peer-to-peer networks.

“Things are moving digital, and, if we leverage those existing platforms, you can help transform that experience and create real gifting experience[s] that can actually be fun and exciting — better than something you could do in person,” Bhat said.

Still, people may only think of P2P channels as platforms to pick up their share of the dinner tab or next month’s rent. But Robert Balahura, co-founder and CEO of Vouchr envisions a new use case for P2P.

An eGift tab in a mobile app, for example, can get consumers to think about P2P in a new light — as a way to send a gift to someone else.

“Now, since we can allow that to happen … it’s a new motivation to initiate a P2P, which is sending something a little special to somebody else and then using the tools that we provide to accomplish that,” Balahura said. “It’s a brand new use case from our point of view.”

Merchants still prefer traditional gift cards because they allow merchants to direct customers’ spend. But that doesn’t mean P2P payments can’t provide that same opportunity.

“They’re moving where you can actually spend that money at real-world locations with merchants,” Bhat said. “It’s just the beginning in terms of the evolution of P2P and digital.”

There’s lots of innovation happening and a number of ways to get merchants involved through the natural evolution of P2P.

On the horizon, Vouchr envisions consumers being able to customize a gift for a restaurant. They’ve even gone so far as to allow consumers to find a menu item that someone would enjoy and give enough money through P2P so they could purchase that item.

The company has also experimented with prepaid Visa cards that merchants can lock to their locations. “So, in essence, it can become a gift card,” Balahura said, adding that merchants could add a promotional offer to attract customers.

Beyond personalization, Vouchr changes how funds are transferred in a P2P environment. In such a case, a cash transfer goes immediately from one person to another. But Vouchr delays the release of the funds until the receiver opens the gift.

The idea is to create a delightful experience in that space and allow the gift to be revealed in the moment, like a digital envelope.

Beyond gifting in the U.S., there’s an opportunity for gifts to be sent internationally. In fact, according to Vouchr, 20 to 40 percent of international remittances are actually used for gifting.

“[There’s] an opportunity … to make that into an experience that will keep users coming back,” Bhat said.

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