Architecture? : LUSENET : Vouchsafe : One Thread

So, just for shits and grins, here's one possible approach to architecture and development path:

Phase One: 1) Customer visits and browses/searches by vendor. Customer selects a vendor and purchases a gift certificate for N value; credit card is billed for N plus shipping/handling of physical certificate. Customer provides name, mailing address and personal message for recipient. 2) Vouchsafe produces and mails certificate via registered mail to recipient.

Phase Two: 1) Customer can now select between physical (phase one) and on-line certificate. If on-line, customer provides valid email address of recipient. (We'll need a failsafe procedure for invalid/never checked mail addresses.) 2) Vouchsafe emails recipient with an encoded URL, linking to shopping area for chosen vendor. Either shopping cart is prepopulated with N dollars, or recipient enters a magic code which provides N dollars in shopping credit.

Phase Three: 1) Customer can either select physical or electronic certificate, *or* can defer the decision to the recipient. If the customer chooses to defer, the customer still provides a valid email address of recipient. (We'll again need a failsafe procedure for invalid/never checked mail addresses.) This time, the recipient receives an encoded URL linking to the Vouchsafe site, where the recipient is asked to choose between a physical and electronic certificate. 2) If physical, we revert to the phase one model and ask for shipping information. We might also deduct the shipping/handling charge from the total gift amount. (Otherwise, we'd need to obtain conditional approval from the customer/purchaser to retroactively charge the additional s/h amount, which seems implausible.) 3) If electronic, we link directly to the merchant site from the Vouchsafe-internal page, with the same user-experience offered in the Phase Two model.

Phase Four: 1) We offer "private labeled" versions of the shopping experience directly to merchants. For example, we could build a, where consumers would only be able to purchase gift certificates for Nike stores and Nike online. Everything would be branded/cobranded for Nike.

-- Anonymous, July 14, 1999


I like the phase-in approach, but I am in favor of starting with online gift certificates and then moving to hard paper GCs shortly thereafter. Most of the GC sites out there today deliver a physical GC. does that exclusively. emails someone a gift certificate that can redeemed for a physical GC from a Giftpoint retailer. mails a Master Card debit card. Though I think there is some value to this, I also see that the business is without significant scaling opportunities. The more vendors you sign up, the more GCs you might sell, but the more infrastructure you need. I think VCs will not like that. Instead, I'd rather build a website that has some really cool gift related applications, earns MyPoints, is affiliated with and other registries, calendars, etc. and focuses on online gift giving (30% of ecommerce last year). That is scaleable and will appeal to VCs. When asked if we will offer physical GCs, we will have to answer "Yes because we have to." But I'd rather not make that our first pitch if possible.


-- Anonymous, July 14, 1999

response to response to Architecture?

I'm with Chris on this one. We've talked an awful lot about this and gotten a lot of feedback from VC types, and they get scared when we talk about hard copies of anything. We will have to offer them to satisfy the "good enough" experience initially, but they will be more interested in a hot Web site for funding purposes.

My feeling is that we need to build that hot Web site and, after we've gained some momentum, see where the business takes us. We will have a choice of becoming more like Visa (act as the clearinghouse for a network of terminal suppliers, merchants, and issuers) or more like First Data (processor). My personal feeling is that we are more likely to eventually become like First Data and take a large amount of their market share, but VCs do *NOT* want to hear that.

Anyway, more to your specifics: I don't see any problem with starting our first rev with "purchaser chooses online or hard copy." If operational problems with fulfillment are an easy issue, I would rather do both in 1.0 than put either off as an upgrade.

-- Anonymous, July 15, 1999

I agree with Peter. Rollout online and physical certificates at the same time. Fulfillment of the hard certificates isn't trivial, but is certainly doable without breaking too much of a sweat.

-- Anonymous, July 15, 1999

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