Cold Stone Creamery Lets Facebook Users Send Real Ice Cream Gifts

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Premium ice cream retailer Cold Stone Creamery is the first brand to make use of a new platform that lets merchants permit Facebook users to “send” actual physical merchandise gifts to their in-network friends. // = 0) || navigator.userAgent.indexOf(“WebTV”)>= 0) {
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Using the eGift social platform from payment processor First Data, Cold Stone fans can go to the brand’s Facebook page or Web site, purchase one of several menu items on offer such as ice cream, shakes or smoothies, and send them to up to five friends on their Facebook lists.

While Facebook users have long been able to send their friends virtual drinks, bouquets and other items—and spent $10 million in Facebook to do so in 2009, according to research– the Cold Stone campaign is the first instance that extends that gift-giving behavior to real products, says Dom Morea, division manager of mobile commerce solutions for First Data.

“Given the amount of consumer time and attention that’s being spent on mobile and social media, we think [the eGift Social platform] is positioned at a unique intersection of the virtual and actual worlds. These are real-life gifts.”

“We’re making it easier for people to share a cold stone moment, even if time or distance prevents them from being together,” Cold Stone Creamery president Daniel Breem said in a release.“Now you don’t have to wait for special occasions to share ice cream; you can send cold Stone gifts instantly, any day, just because.”

Senders can either choose recipients from their Facebook list or simply enter the e-mail addresses for the friends to whom the gifts are directed. Once they’ve completed the secure payment process, those recipients will receive a Facebook message or e-mail notifying them of the gift and including a unique account number and redemption instructions. They can then take that number and get their ice cream gift—in the size specified by the sender, and in any flavor of their choice—by giving the account number to the counterperson at the point of sale.

The gifts can be redeemed at any of Cold Stone’s 1,300 outlets in the U.S. And when users send eGifts through their Facebook profile, that activity is published to their wall, allowing other friends with access to see the gift and opening up the possibility for viral spread.

Right now, the account numbers for the Cold Stone offer must be entered manually at the point of sale. But future refinements of the eGift solution will include adding the ability to scan bar codes and to send SMS notifications to gift recipients’ mobile phones.

The campaign is the first to roll out on the eGift Social platform from First Data, which owns the Star debit network and handles payment processing for a wide range of financial instruments from gift cards and checks to credit and debit cards.

Morea says his division has taken charge of the Facebook eGift social initiative at First Data because research indicates that social network users are increasingly accessing their profiles, checking their friends’ walls and sending their updates via mobile devices.

“We’re seeing a huge amount of usage as people come to the mobile lifestyle,” he says. “Facebook’s own stats tell us that probably 100 million of their registered users are now using the network’s mobile application. What’s more, they are on average twice as active as Facebook users who are only connected through a home PC.” He says First Data expects to shortly to announce a mobile client app for iPhones and other smartphones to extend the capability.

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