Gift giving is hard and a flurry of recently launched Australian startups are here to help. From the likes of The Gift Concierge Co, which helps identify and buy the right present for a customer to gift, to Prezzee, which allows users to buy, send, and store gift cards, to the good old Amazon wishlist feature, it may seem like each end of the market is covered, but of course, new players are finding other ways to take the market on.
For The Gift Collective, the solution to the problem is letting people essentially set up a crowdfunding page asking friends and family to contribute money to help them buy their dream gift.
Cofounded by Charles Roche and Matthias Born, the idea was initially focused on the bridal market. Roche, a farmer from Barraba, was getting married and, wondering what to do about gifts, asked himself why the registry was still the way the default way to go.
“Despite 80 percent of couples living together, brides are still having to choose lists of things from David Jones, Myer or Peter’s of Kensington, or otherwise they are going to Not Another Toaster,” Roche said.
Other couples have taken to platforms like Envelope Registry, created by a Melbourne startup to help couples easily ask guests to give them what they really want so they can do whatever they want: cash. But for those couples who want guests to contribute to one big item, asking that of guests can be awkward and coordinating it difficult, and that’s where The Gift Collective wants to help.
Roche explained, “Giving the perfect gift for any occasion requires collaboration among guests; people prefer big-ticket items or experiences, not small items they don’t want or need.”
However, the problem here is that crowdfunding doesn’t really feel like gift giving – and of course, contributing money to a gift online doesn’t have the same incentive as traditional crowdfunding in that backers won’t get a product after shelling out – so The Gift Collective looks to take the crowdfunding transaction and turn it into a personal, emotional experience of giving.
The platform works by having someone set up a registry, or ‘Occasion’, by listing the details, uploading an image of their perfect gift, wherever it’s from, and turn it into a ‘gift puzzle’. They then share the link to their registry page so friends can buy pieces of the puzzle, essentially crowdfunding the gift. Creating an Occasion is free, with a fee of three percent deducted when cashed out.
Someone contributing, meanwhile, simply clicks on the link to read about the event and the gift, and then selects as many pieces of the gift puzzle they would like to contribute. Then can then check out and write a personal card.
Roche said that users are encouraged to share the story of the item or items they are looking to buy and why they’re so passionate about it to invite guests to become a part of the story.
“A recent bride and groom chose a Bromley sculpture for their wedding; the bride wrote how the art captures perfectly the essence of who they are, but now after the wedding, how it also captures all the ‘good vibes’ from their wedding in a gift they’ll have forever, and how the artwork will always remind them of the people who were there to celebrate that special moment in their lives with them,” Roche said.
Making sure the givers feel they are a part of the story was key for Roche, who said he researched the art and science of giving to discover how to tap into the emotional drivers that get people eager to give.
“For me, the problem wasn’t simply crowdfunding for gifts because there are any number of competitors who already do that. The problem is that crowdfunding entirely misses what it means to give a gift…the sharing economy makes perfect ideological sense, but our challenge as a startup is to understand the emotional drivers and apply technology to that process to produce the behavioural outcomes we’re after.”
This is particularly important given that the startup isn’t just going for the bridal market but looking to help facilitate gift giving for every occasion, and while we’re willing to indulge a bride and groom, it might be a little different for someone’s birthday.
Roche defines the startup’s market as “anyone who values one or a few special, big ticket gift items as a more meaningful, more worthwhile reminder of having celebrated a particular milestone with their friends and family”. Over 150 gifts have been bought through the platform so far, for occasions ranging from engagements to weddings, baby showers, birthdays, charity events and fundraisers, and corporate gifts.
Despite going beyond the wedding market, the startup is certainly playing in a crowded space. Acknowledging this, Roche believes that going back in to focus on various niches within the wider space may lead to growth; as the business has gotten to know its customers better, Roche said the team has identified art as a particularly common gift.
To capitalise on this and enhance its offering, The Gift Collective has just partnered with online art gallery Bluethumb to help connect users to Australian art.
With a US launch on the horizon, over the coming year Roche said the startup will look to expand into new countries and secure funding to help facilitate that growth.
Image: Charles Roche.