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Searching for a Mother's Day Gift

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Wondering what to get Mom on her upcoming special day? A number of online tools can help you find a gift that's tailored to match her interests and personality.

These "recommendation engines" let you specify a few key variables, such as age, personality type and other information and then suggest gifts and the online merchants that will sell them to you.

Yahoo recently rolled out its Shopping Gift Finder that offers customized recommendations drawing from 60 million products from more than 200,000 merchants. The service is powered by Choicestream, a provider of personalization services.

How does it work? First, select the type of gift you're looking for. Yahoo's Gift Finder lets you pick occasions such as Mother's Day, birthdays and anniversaries, a new baby or popular holidays.

For Mother's Day, you simply indicate the age, gender and relationship of the person you're shopping for, then describe her lifestyle using categories such as "active retiree," "fitness fanatic," or "stylish, sophisticated" (that's my Mom) by clicking appropriate links. That's all there is to it.

You then see a list of shopping search results that match your criteria. Results are grouped into categories—you can drill down by clicking the "more like this" link for each category. Yahoo members can save information about products; you can also save the profile so you don't have to build it again when you return.

How good are the suggestions? That depends on how picky you are about the gifts that you give, and how confident you are in the choices suggested. Though the suggestions Gift Finder made for my Mom all seemed good, I'm relatively clueless when it comes to the finer points of women's clothing, perfume and other accessories that were recommended. I'll fall back on my old reliable technology in this case—asking Dad for suggestions.

Somewhat paradoxically, I found the Gift Finder to be the most useful for product categories that I'm really familiar with. When I searched for birthday gifts for my "adventurer traveller" brother, for example, recommendations included some really cool gear that I hadn't previously come across (and that I may actually give him after I've tested it out for a few months myself).

If you like the idea behind a gift recommendation service, be sure to check out Surprise.com and FindGift.com, which are both similar to Yahoo's Gift Finder. Many of the other popular online shopping search services also offer gift suggestions.

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