Posted on November 30, 2017 by staff

This algorithm is your perfect Christmas shopping assistant


If you think buying the perfect gift for your loved ones this Christmas is easy, think again.

Alex Farrell founded Giftwink with Rebecca McAra after being too busy to remember her niece’s birthday.

“Even if I did remember, I found myself not knowing what she wanted,” she told BusinessCloud.

The site uses a combination of algorithms and human curation to find appropriate presents.

Users enter several people, their ages, interests and relationship to the user and the platform serves up a handful of carefully selected options.

Farrell, who previously launched a tech careers platform, explained: “I felt could apply the same tech and data tools from my last business to solve a common problem. It’s not a new model, but it’s pretty new in gifting.

“It goes past our team then matches using the algorithm – selecting the right products for the right user.”

McAra says people need to realise how complex gift-giving is, especially when buying multiple presents in one go.

“Buying a gift for someone else is more complex than buying one for yourself because you have your own taste and when you’re choosing a gift you have the other person’s too,” she said.

“We take into account not just the tech that matches the gift itself but we heavily rely on relationship data. We ask the user who they’re buying for – if it’s their mum then how old is she, what she’s into?

“The algorithm uses personal data to make the selection rather than just picking something out because someone else viewed it, which is more common in eCommerce where you see something because other people have viewed it.”

Part of the challenge the team has faced is getting shoppers who are used to scrolling through hundreds of suggestions to realise that targeted options are essential when it comes to shopping.

“Sometimes the challenge is educating shoppers that less is more,” said Farrell.

“People have been used to enormous variety on retail sites and searching through reams of stuff that’s average.

“We ask some questions and serve a shortlist of perfectly targeted ideas.”

McAra and Farrell – who both appear on BusinessCloud’s upcoming ‘101 Female Founders of Tech’ list – encourage anyone who wants to set up a tech business to go for it.

“There’s never been an easier time to set up a tech business,” Farrell said.

“Tech is cheap so build a prototype and have a play so go for it – create the cheapest leanest model you can prototype-wise and test it.

“Listen to feedback and remember the data never lies. The data will show the way.”

McAra added: “I would advise new founders to test their idea outside friends and family.

“Find people will genuinely tell you if it’s a great or terrible idea because friends and family want to back you all the way.”