A UK retailer gamifies gift giving with Tinder-like app

British retailer Argos is channeling Tinder in its new holiday campaign. Swipe right for savings.

Its Gift Finder Web app hopes to solve the ancient conundrum of what to get your nearest and dearest in the festive run-up. The responsively designed site allows indecisive shoppers can simply input the sex and age of their intended recipient and swipe away.

Swiping left ditches the bad gifts. Swipe right to save the good stuff in the shopping cart for when you’re ready to whittle the list down. Its algorithm gets smarter the more it gets used, helping improve recommendations from more than 6,000 items in its catalogue. Naturally, the app links through to an online check out once you’ve sized up your budget.

There is a social element, too: Users can test how well they know their friends while they’re at it. “Friend or Fraud” invites users to choose their favorite 20 gives using the same swiping mechanism, powered by the Facebook API. They can then ask their Facebook friends to guess how well they know their taste in gifts.

Giftfinder has seen 300,000 visits so far, three quarts of which came from mobile devices. Visitors stuck around for three minutes on average, swiping through over 60 gifts per session.

Mark Steel, head of digital trading, marketing & operations at Argos said: “With almost a quarter of our total sales now coming from mobile devices, we know shoppers are increasingly purchasing products on-the-go. We’ve developed a rewarding mobile experience that is visually rich, thumb-friendly and intuitive to make Argos stand out from the crowd in the mobile battleground this year.”

Its agency, Convert, an agency recently set up by Nerv, claims the app uses algorithms to learn about users’ preferences and make smarter recommendations. Some 35,000 people used it so far and it’s meant to grow more effective as it gets smarter. The ratio of left swipes (dislikes) and right swipes (likes) was at 90 percent and 10 percent respectively, but the hope is those percentages will approach each other over time.

With U.K. shoppers planning a prudent Christmas this year, according to a study by Shoppercentric, retailers are competing for slices of an ever-shrinking pie. Many are discounting even earlier this year too, co-opting Black Friday from the U.S. to encourage consumers to part with their cash. With Gift Finder, Argos not just banking on discounts, but convenience too.

But beyond the utility offered by the app, there’s a data play. The app improves the kind of data Argos collects about its customers. “For a long time Argos only has very limited data about its customers and their preferences — typically just email addresses and a limited amount of additional other data points,” James Dye, co-founder of Convert. “Social sign-in gives us a new data set through which they can get a better view of their customers’ preferences.”