Just in time for the holidays, online retailing giant Amazon has teamed up with Facebook to bring social gifting to the masses. Its new Friends and Family Gifting feature alerts you to loved ones' birthdays and anniversaries, and lets you browse their Amazon wish lists for presents.
Though Amazon is positioning itself as a one-stop shop for all gifting needs, it is by no means the only option. There's a growing army of startups that are rethinking the process of giving and receiving gifts. (Read more: NYC, Yelp Partner to Promote Sandy-Hit Small Businesses)
Here's a look at three of the most interesting gifting-related startups we could find. One has pioneered a way to make online shopping more personal, while another lets you browse using unique categories. And the third is all about getting cool gifts for yourself.
1. Wantist. A curated digital collection of gifts with a built-in search function, San Francisco-based Wantist is taking the guesswork out of buying presents for the people in your life. It can be especially useful for those who might be uninspired about shopping but want to give a creative gift.
What's innovative: Need "something clever" for "someone sophisticated"? Or maybe "something romantic" for "someone outdoorsy"? No problem. At least that's the idea: Wantist's drop-down menus of descriptive characteristics can help you find what you're looking for -- even for those difficult-to-shop-for people on your list.
The four-person team, anchored by husband-and-wife co-founders Jacob and Brittany Reiff, shares gift-giving advice, design tips and more on their blog.
2. Wantful. This San Francisco-based service seeks to reinvent the experience not only of giving a gift but of receiving one. Like Wantist, the Wantful website offers an assortment of gift items to choose from. The buying part is where things diverge.
What's innovative: Shoppers select 12 items from the collection -- which is heavy on housewares, jewelry and other accessories -- that they think a recipient will enjoy. Wantful then custom-prints a photobook showcasing those 12 items and ships it to the recipient, who can choose one to receive as a gift.
For the socially conscious, it's also possible to make a donation to one of 11 nonprofits, including Foundation Rwanda and the International Rescue Committee, instead of purchasing a product.
(Read more: Cash-Strapped Small Businesses Turn to Pawn Shops)
3. Quarterly Co. A subscription service that allows you to receive gifts from people and companies you find interesting, Hollywood, Calif.-based Quarterly is about broadening your horizons while treating yourself to something special.
What's innovative: Each gift is a surprise. You choose to which contributors you'd like to subscribe, and every three months you'll receive a special package from them at your door. Contributors in the Quarterly stable include Timothy Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek, writer Joshua Foer, Kottke.org's Jason Kottke and the women behind venture-backed online food community Food52.
Each subscription to Quarterly -- which was named one of Entrepreneur's 100 brilliant companies for 2012 -- costs between $25 and $50.