Check out Women 2.0 CEO Shaherose Charania’s Pickie gift guide.

By Sonia Sahney Nagar (Co-Founder & CEO, Pickie)

Picking out the perfect gift (or even an acceptable gift) is hard. Americans spend about $65 billion on holiday presents every year, and some economists believe much of the billions are wasted because people don’t like what they get.

Bloomberg recently cited economist Joel Waldfogel as finding that the typical value of a gift, to the recipient, is about 20% lower than its cost. In his book, Scroogenomics, he calls the holiday season “an orgy of value destruction.”

The Venn diagram below illustrates the gift-giver’s folly:


In short, when giving a gift we face 2 major challenges:

  1. Egocentric bias: Bloomberg writer Cass Sunstein describes this phenomenon as having an exaggerated sense of how much other people are like you. We think that the blue circle of our own tastes overlaps to a greater extent with the red circle of others’ tastes.
  2. Limited information: It takes time and energy to do the research and understand someone’s likes and interests. Unfortunately, the holidays are a very busy time, and people procrastinate buying gifts, so often we don’t have the time or the energy to do the research.

The end result is picking gifts that fall squarely in the circle to the left, which gets us an “e” for effort, but doesn’t surprise and delight quite like we hope.

Addressing Challenge #2:

There is a lot of information about a person’s interests and aspirations that can be gleaned from the things that are shared on social networks. However, it’s difficult to parse these networks to find nuggets of inspiration from the noise in social feeds.

My team works with social data day in and day out, and we were intellectually intrigued by what we could do with our data. So, we hacked together a gift-giving research tool that makes it easy to do a little bit of background research, and get thoughtful, personalized gift ideas.

Win At Christmas!

We call our solution ‘HackXmas’. The tool combines user intelligence with Facebook and Pinterest data to identify interests, and then scans a product database to match those interests to products. If you’re an efficiency-loving shopper, hopefully the quick analysis provides useful information, saves you some time and gives you some good ideas.

You can check the tool out here.

Here’s an independent review from PandoDaily (synopsis: not a bad hack), and we’d love your thoughts. If you have feedback, see any weirdness, or love it, let us know at @pickie or shoot me your thoughts at sonia [at]

Photo credit: Wooden Magic Wand from Fashion Loves People.

Women 2.0 readers: How are you hacking the gift giving process to give better gifts this year? Let us know in the comments.

About the guest blogger: Sonia Sahney Nagar is co-founder and CEO of Pickie, a personal shopping app that uses your favorite brands and social feeds to pick products just for you. She has previously worked at Amazon, Booz & Co. and Goldman Sachs. Sonia holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Follow her on Twitter at @ssahney.