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Is Holiday shopping getting you down? Are you still wondering what to get your boss? Or maybe that guy in the cubicle next to you who continually insists on clearing his throat no less than 75 times a day? We thought you might be, and we’re here to help with the O3 World Gift-O-Matic.

While the app itself is sure to make you smile, the concept and roll-out were really just an excuse for us to experiment and merge basic social media / online marketing strategy with some cutting edge technology. What follows is a brief breakdown of the concept, the build-out and the multi-channel approach to drive folks to use our crappy app.

First, the concept. It’s the Holidays, and people should smile more. And what’s more entertaining than dancing elves? As with all apps though, dancing elves are only half the battle. If we were going to do this, we needed something super simple that would help people get through the usual clutter and frustration of the Holidays. Since our idea of single-click liquor delivery fell through, we decided to go in another direction. People hate buying gifts. Sure, they may say “I love the feeling of giving during the Holidays.” They’re lying. And they know it. Sure, there are few people you want to give gifts to... but the other 50 or so... well, you know you would prefer to shell out a few high-fives and call it a day. Thus, the birth of the O3 World Gift-O-Matic.

We knew a couple things from the start. 1) we didn’t have a ton of time to dedicate to this and 2) the web app needed to be “mobile-first”. People want a quick and easy shopping experience. This is one of the primary reasons why mobile traffic and purchases over the last three years have increased significantly. Actually, mobile traffic came close to tripling year-over-year this past Black Friday, reaching 14.3%. Going with a mobile concept first was essential.

However, it was also important that we didn’t go “mobile-only”. In order to make the app as accessible as possible we developed a responsive concept that uses media queries to sniff out browser dimensions in order to give the user an optimal experience on desktops and tablets as well as their smartphone devices.

Then came the results. Who would provide our crappy gift ideas? Enter the Amazon API. Everyone should be aware by now that Amazon will in fact take over the world. Well, it’ll probably be a battle to death between Amazon, eBay and Google... but that’s a topic for another day. What we didn’t know was how robust (and hilarious) the product offering could be. By injecting a few keywords in the Amazon search engine, a wild display of terrible gift ideas seemed to find its way to our browser. Oh... and they have an affiliate program. Actually, in order to even tap the API, you have to be an affiliate partner. You help Amazon advertise their products, they pay you. Win. Win.

So our designers drew their pretty pictures and our developers stuffed it full of their secret-voodoo programming powers, and voila... a super-simple web app full of crappy gift ideas. But then came the testing... oh man, the testing. The only reason I even bring this up is to give everyone a clear understanding of just how tricky testing a mobile build can be these days. We literally have a box full of devices... BlackBerries, Androids and iPhones... oh, and tablets... we have several of those as well. And guess what, they all have their own cute little idiosyncrasies which make app performance from device to device more surprising than finding Santa passed out under your tree on Christmas morning. But we battled... and succeeded. Though, if you do find performance issues on your own device, please email us here and please specify what device you’re viewing the app with.

Okay... we wrapped the app, now we had to get the bow on and ship it. Planning for a social media push can be tricky in and of itself, much less in a season where every major (and minor) retailer is blasting out their own specials and little Timmy is trying to get you to follow his 9th Pinterest gift list. Our solution? A simple hashtag, some targeted outreach to key influencers, and a whole lot of crappy gifts. We did some minor ramp up to seed our followers with the hashtag and drum up some interest... and then we just turned the Gift-O-Matic loose on the world and let the viral nature of social networks take their course. Be on the lookout for a breakdown of all of the social data and some overall usage statistics soon, and in the mean time check out the app, build your own lists, and be sure to tweet us your #crappygifts!

Check out the Gift-O-Matic here!

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