Just in time for the holidays, Amazon has launched its Friends & Family Gifting tool, which curates gift ideas based on the Facebook "Likes" of your friends. To use it, you must link your Facebook account at Amazon, and then add people to a gifting list. If your friends also have an Amazon account, the retailer will additionally make suggestions based on their wish lists.
Given how much information people actually share with Facebook, we thought the social network's integration would be a particularly promising way to hone in on your giftee's innermost material wants. But does it really work as well as it claims to? We added several dealnews employees to the list, showed them their results, and asked them to assess whether the suggested gifts are, in fact, things they'd want to see in their pile of presents this holiday season. Below are the results, both good and bad, and sometimes pretty amusing.
Daniel Hendley, Senior Content Editor
Amazon's gift suggestions for Daniel included a mix of well-suited music and movie suggestions, in addition to a few zombie apocalypse books.
What Daniel Thinks: "I'm not one to use CDs anymore, but for the music, the suggestions are pretty good. I do listen to all of those artists, but perhaps a better twist would be to get them as Amazon MP3s or via iTunes. I've actually seen Food, Inc. and The 11th Hour, so whatever Facebook "Likes" it based those on were good, although, again, I've seen those and don't need them as a gift. I hadn't heard of the other movies though, so maybe they'd prove to be good gifts."
Jeff Somogyi, Media Editor
For reasons we could not immediately understand, Jeff's results were strewn with Betty White themed literature. Overall, he didn't have as many Facebook-related suggestions as our other staffers, and there were only two gift ideas drawn from his wish list — a pair of the latest iPhone earbuds and an organizer.
What Jeff Thinks: "See, kids, there is a permanent record... it's just not the one they tell you about in school. "Like" one book by an aging comedienne on Facebook, and it'll follow you around for the rest of your life. So, my advice to future generations: Make better choices than I did."
Emily Dovi, Copy Editor
Amusingly, Emily's top results based on Facebook "Likes" included several style manuals and dictionaries. Since she's our Copy Editor, this is true to her skill set and personality, but probably information she already consistently has access to. Beyond that, Amazon recommended the pictured items, as well as some indie music standards and classic films.
What Emily Thinks: "Why yes, I am a good-smelling copy editor with a penchant for 4- and 5-star romance films and early 90s indie rock. At least my 10 Facebook interests and the remaining items in my Amazon holiday wish list do offer my Secret Santa some ideas for DVDs I don't already own."
Leslie Benson, Assistant Editor
The gift suggestions for Leslie weren't particularly good, as items on her wish list were either extremely old or not something she added in the first place. One of these items was an iPod, and the suggestions Amazon made based on that were a slew of accessories — for a completely different model.
What Leslie Thinks: "Seriously? My 'wish list' recommendations were based off of things that I added in 2006 plus items added to my cart, but never purchased. Considering I test a lot of deals for dealnews, you can only imagine the number of items I've added to my cart over the years — many of which are not necessarily part of my personal interests. As far as the suggestions for music and movies based on my Facebook "Likes" go, I clearly need to reevaluate my choices. Neither group really fits me, although I do like a few songs by some of the artists and I already own two of the movies. Finally, as anyone that knows me will agree, if Amazon really had a way to suggest accurate gift ideas for me, it would have included something to do with the University of Alabama or one of my other favorite sports teams. (I was actually surprised it didn't, as I do "Like" tons of related pages on Facebook.) Roll Tide!"
Dan Leadbetter, Staff Writer
Like Leslie, Amazon pulled wish list suggestions for Dan based on items he added to his cart at some point, rather than things he actually asked for. In this case however, that resulted in gift suggestions, seen above, that genuinely fit Dan's lifestyle (with startling accuracy, if you're familiar with our regular podcaster). In addition to the pictured items, Amazon once again suggested a lot of zombie-based reading material.
What Dan Thinks: "I think the recommendations are pretty right on target, although it kind of gives the impression that I'm a metrosexual zombie killer. But in all seriousness, I go through a lot of the HeadBlade stuff (since I shave my head), and I do love The Walking Dead and pretty much all things zombie-related. I'd have to give this Amazon gift recommendation two severed thumbs up!"
What Have We Learned? Watch Out for Wish Lists
So should you use Amazon's gifting tool when buying a present for someone this holiday season, or for future events? Perhaps, if you're careful. The book, movie, and music suggestions were on point, but, for that very reason, the items could all potentially be something the giftee already owns. You'd thus do well to cross-reference a friend's Facebook page before deciding upon anything.
As far as the wish list–based suggestions go, it's important to note that your friends or family may never have actively created said wish list, as Amazon moved items some staffers almost bought and deals they had tested for work from the shopping cart to a wish list. But since people come to Amazon for a variety of purposes (obviously including buying items for other people), this practice might not yield good suggestions. For example, just because I've added a Toy Story Jessie Hat to my cart at some point, doesn't mean I need a talking Woody doll.
We also noted that some of the wish list items were in fact very old — from as early as 2006 even. The corresponding suggestions might thus be taking a cue from an item that the person doesn't even want or need anymore. Lastly, some of the wish list suggestions were oddly niche or too specific to be actually useful (e.g., tool cleaning patches), but we do suppose they could serve as a good jumping off point for more inspired gift ideas.
Readers, have you used Amazon Friends & Family Gifting, or any other such tool for your holiday purchases? Sound off in the comments below.