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Web-Wide Gift Certificates Offered

Philadelphia-based Internet marketing company C/Base is launching a site to offer what it calls Webcertificates, gift certificates that "can be redeemed at virtually every one of the estimated one million online retailers."

Webcertificates can be purchased at www.webcertificate.com and e-mailed to any recipient.

The site will be launched on the Friday after Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.

Webcertificate works much like a paper gift certificate, except that it's virtual. The recipient is e-mailed a personal account number for a set dollar amount that can be used for payment anywhere online, the company said.

The Webcertificate design can be customized by the buyer with a choice of templates suiting the particular occasion (Christmas, holidays, birthdays, weddings, etc.). After selecting the design and the denomination of the gift, the buyer enters the name and e-mail address of the recipient, adding a personalized e-mail gift message. The buyer has the opportunity to preview the completed Webcertificate, before paying by credit card. An e-mail receipt is automatically sent to the buyer confirming the name of the recipient and the gift amount sent.

The recipient gets an e-mail message that contains instructions for activating Webcertificate and a hyperlink that launches the recipient to a personal gift page at the Webcertificate site. Upon arriving at the Webcertificate gift page, the recipient enters a personal claim code and is presented with the Webcertificate, which includes the design, the dollar amount and the sender's personalized message. At that time, the recipient is automatically assigned a Webcertificate account number and expiration date, similar to a credit card.

The Webcertificate recipient can use the account number in place of a credit card at any online merchant on the Web, the company said. A shoppers guide of suggested online merchants is available at the Webcertificate site.

"We see Webcertificates as providing ultimate flexibility for the user," said Matt Gillin, president and CEO of C/Base. "It's the only online certificate that buys virtually anything and can be used virtually everywhere on the Web. . . for the 'Web-a-phobic' on your list, it's a way to let them sample the excitement of Internet shopping without any second thoughts about using their credit cards to make purchases."

Webcertificate uses a proprietary system developed by C/Base, whose consulting clients include Microsoft, Netscape, Hotmail, CitySearch and Switchboard.