Digital Gift Giving

My sister’s birthday is coming up and I’m wondering what to get her. I went online to a number of her favorite stores and saw many had options to virtually send gifts. This idea has been around for a while as I remember years ago my aunt sent me a $5 gift card to Starbucks over Facebook. But now, the options are almost endless. In fact, there are now sites like that are fully dedicated to sending gift cards virtually and being able to personalize both the cards and attached messages.


I remember when I originally received my first e-gift and thought it seemed somewhat disingenuous as it seemed easy to send something as it was probably a last minute thought. They said it was my birthday on Facebook and rather than sending something in the mail which might take too long, they decided to just add it to their cart and send it over the internet. But now it seems not only simple and easier for me to use, but also more convenient and cost efficient for the sender as well. Rather than worrying about the cost of shipping and making sure it gets to the receiver in time, the sender just needs to send it immediately with a note attached or plan for it to send at a specific time. This also gives the receiver an opportunity to choose how to spend it because we all know what a hassle it is to return unwanted gifts and how awkward it is when you don’t like what the person got you. This way you avoid awkwardness and you don’t end up wasting your time.

This isn’t just limited to the US, similar to how we gift gifts for christmas and birthdays, the Chinese give gifts of their new year. This past year 75% of Chinese citizens are giving digital red envelopes of gift money which is up from 30% last year. This global ability to send and receive gifts adds a level of interconnectedness and allows for people to give and send much more easily when you are across the world.

If you have someones birthday or even mother’s day (that’s sneaking up on you don’t forget) here are a few options you can choose from.


Digital Gift Cards

These are very basic. You can either go to a website and select gift card options to either images.jpeghave the physical version sent to a specific address, or you can select e-gift cards which allows you to send them directly to the recipient’s inbox where they can use the gift cards straight from their phones.


You can also gift a online subscriptions or services. Pandora and Spotify both offer gift card options, as well as the ebook subscription service Scribd which has customizable gift subscriptions.

Gift Redeemable Online

Lastly, you can get actual gifts sent virtually. For instance, Barnes & Noble allows you to gift both books and apps for its tablet; just click on the “Buy As Gift” option next to the Buy Now button. Additionally, on Apple you can gift specific movies, tv shows or songs which are redeemable online.

WINNER of Digital Gifts: 

eGifts31.jpgeGifts from SHOP.COM allows your gift giving to be right on target. eGifts allows you to send a personalized set of gift choices to your recipient and have it delivered
immediately. This way you can get something you know they will love, but also something that is in your price range and they can see that you put time and effort into the choices.



Overall, when you are in either a time crunch or working with long distance, digital gifts are a perfect alternative. That said, nothing is as meaningful as a made gift (think scrapbooks or picture frames) or a gift that you especially picked out and are able to hand deliver. Also, cards/personalized notes either attached to these digital gifts or with any gift, is usually the most important part!



  1. fayehubregsen · ·

    There are so many possibilities when it comes to digital gift-giving. I recently used TaskRabbit to deliver Milk Bar Compost Cookies to my friend on her birthday when I was two thousand miles away. It backfired a bit since there were some hiccups in both communication and delivery in NYC, but she was completely floored by the gesture. Ultimately, I agree that sending a digital gift card or something of this nature can feel impersonal, but at least in the case of eGifts from, your loved one gets exactly what they want.

    1. alexisteixeiraa · ·

      I had never heard of TaskRabbit but I am definitely looking into sending myself Milk Bar Cookies haha!

  2. Great post. I find that I don’t send many digital gift cards, but have received several myself. While they may feel more impersonal, I still like the idea behind them, especially if it’s to a restaurant that I really like. I also find that people sometimes use digital gift cards when they lack ideas of what gift to send, but I think if they know you well enough and what you like, it’s actually really great to receive these. I was unaware of the online subscription gifts of Pandora and Spotify, I think those could be a great idea, and will definitely recommended them.

  3. I agree with what you said in the beginning, how digital gift cards used to seem unthoughtful. This stigma is certainly changing. E-gift cards are really easy also because you never have to wonder how much is left or struggle to find the receipt to see the balance. The ease of use is definitely a huge selling point. I never considered the international aspect of e-gift cards, also. It would have been great while abroad if my family members had used this instead of going through complicated international money transfers. Great post!

  4. laurencondon23 · ·

    Great post! This topic was something I was discussing with my roommates this weekend. While I agree that digital gifts may seem less personal, they are certainly better than not receiving a gift from that individual at all. One of my roommates mentioned that when her friends in other cities have birthdays and she can’t be there she’ll send them a payment on Venmo for a drink or ice cream on her. Loved this idea for friends I wouldn’t necessarily send a physical gift to but would get something for if I were around!

  5. laurenmsantilli · ·

    Loved reading this post. I agree with LC above too – sometimes if I can’t make it for a friends birthday, I’ll send them a venmo for a round of drinks, but the websites you listed in your post seem like a much better alternative! My family has complained to me that sending a text or only calling on their birthday isn’t personal enough – I should still be sending cards. But when we’re at school, I never think to get a card in time and I never have a stamp on hand. These websites seem like much better alternatives to send a quick gift with a personalized message, too. Thanks for sharing!

  6. viquezj · ·

    This is a great way to make a gift without letting down the person receiving it. Sometimes we spend large amounts of time looking for a perfect gift and actually end up buying something that is not remotely close to what the person needed or wanted. Since a couple of years ago, my parents opted for giving me gift cards instead of buying an actual gift. This has made life easier for them as they don’t have to spend much time at the mall, and in the end I will get something that I truly wanted. Giving a gift card is even better than simply handing money to somebody because at least you had to pick the store where the money will be spent so it overcomes the problem of giving a gift that is too impersonal. Even if you are giving a gift card, you need to know well the person in order to know what will be the store of preference.

  7. erinfitzpatrick123 · ·

    Love this concept! I totally agree that this is an easier, more efficient way of sending gifts. Especially for someone like me who always manages to lose gift cards, e- gift cards are the way to go. Also, friend and I started a tradition of sending each other tons of interactive e-cards as emails on our birthdays and it has become funny and special. I also had a friend who’s mom just sent her $100 over venmo as her birthday present, which isn’t the most thoughtful, but definitely effective. I think gift giving is changing, and seems like an awesome way to send a gift that you know the person will like!

  8. Great post–I didn’t even realize how many options were out there for digital gift giving. I think I probably would have had a reaction similar to your first one if I received a digital gift prior to reading this post, but it really does make a lot of sense. Digital gift giving could definitely be useful for college students, because we’re rarely in the same place as our family or friends, so receiving a digital gift that actually gets to the receiver on their birthday may be even seem more thoughtful than presenting a gift in person a few months later. Plus, eliminating shipping costs is a pretty big deal. The idea is definitely unique, and I could see it being effective because you know the receiver is picking something they like, but somehow this option seems even less personal than a gift card to me– maybe because it seems like the person really had no idea what to get you? Does anyone else feel that way?

  9. isabel_calo1 · ·

    Cool post- really inspired to give a few gifts like this. When I first heard of people sending Starbucks gift cards over online it was such a weird thought. Like you I thought it was very impersonal but then realized how practical it could be. I think this is the way we are going these days, from paying bills and expenses online and on venmo to giving gifts online as well. I think people has lost the touch to give something intimate to their friends, that this is the new gift card.

  10. mikeward7 · ·

    great post, Alexis! I feel like this is definitely going to get more popular in the coming years. However, I dont really see myself getting into this too much because you feel so much better about giving someone a gift when you go out of your way to get it and give it to them rather than sending them one electronically.

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