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‘Gifting-as-a-Service’ Companies Want to Rid the World of Unused Corporate Swag

Goodbye, oversized branded T-shirts? Businesses like Alyce and Snappy raise cash as the reinventors of corporate gifting.

4/22/2021 9:30:00 AM

Branded T-shirts that don’t fit and tote bags that never see the light of day may become a thing of the past. Corporate swag deliveries are becoming more personal.

Goodbye, oversized branded T-shirts? Businesses like Alyce and Snappy raise cash as the reinventors of corporate gifting.

April 21, 2021 6:00 am ETStartups are offering corporate clients a personalized alternative to homogenous corporate swag, hoping that if recipients choose their own gifts, they will like them more.The nascent “gifting-as-a-service” sector is gathering pace as companies are unable to dish out merchandise at in-person events, and consumers turn away from the cycle of amassing, then ditching, freebies they don’t need.

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Handing out branded T-shirts, notebooks and tote bags has been synonymous with industry conferences and corporate giving. It also is big business: North American companies spent $25.8 billion on promotional products in 2019, before the pandemic forced events online and put a squeeze on marketing budgets, according to the Advertising Specialty Institute.

At the same time, more attention to sustainable business practices is pushing companies away from buying large volumes of one-size-fits-all promotional gifts, which were often thrown away or forgotten by recipients who didn’t need, want or expect them, said Dale Parmenter, group chief executive officer of DRPG, a communications agency known for staging conferences and exhibitions.

Newsletter Sign-upThe Experience ReportGet weekly insights into the ways companies optimize data, technology and design to drive success with their customers and employees.PREVIEWSUBSCRIBE“When you’re getting your head around the sustainability agenda, you’re starting to think, ‘Are people appreciative that we bought them another T-shirt with a convention name stamped across it, that probably doesn’t fit them?’” Mr. Parmenter said. “I’m not entirely sure they are.”

Some clients instead are turning to firms that pitch “gift experience management” or “gifting as a service,” companies that can distribute anything from waterproof speakers to wine decanters while managing the logistics of large-scale gifting. Companies such as Alyce Inc. and Snappy App Inc. let companies select gifts from an online catalog to send to business contacts, but recipients can also swap the suggested item for something else before it gets mailed.

The closure of offices and cancellation of business meetings and events this year proved to be lucrative for these businesses, as companies outsourced the headache of individually mailing corporate gifts to the home addresses of clients and employees. And as events resume, they are confident their offerings will remain relevant in an era of more conscious consumption and travel.

“It gives you the power of choice, you’re able to get something that you actually want,” said Greg Segall, the chief executive and founder of Boston-based Alyce, which also lets recipients choose to donate their gifts’ monetary value to charity.Alyce has designed cards for clients to hand out with instructions for recipients to pick a gift online and have it delivered to their home or office.

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Photo:AlyceAlyce this month raised $30 million in Series B financing, bringing its total funding to $48 million, according to the company.“We see tremendous growth in this gifting-as-a-service sector,” said Suzanne Norris, a managing partner at Victress Capital, which participated in Alyce’s latest funding round.

Snappy, which lets recipients “unwrap” their gift with a digital scratch-card-style interface and swap it if they wish, has raised $35 million after completing a Series B funding round last July, said Hani Goldstein, the company’s founder and CEO.Kitchen Stadium Inc., which distributes personalized gift boxes of snacks and knickknacks under the brand name SnackMagic, plans in June to introduce a version called SwagMagic. The new “pick-your-own swag” concept will let recipients choose which branded items they’d prefer to receive and, in some cases, pick the color and size as well.

So far, the new gifting companies largely have delivered to recipients’ homes, but they are looking to incorporate their offers into live events as in-person gatherings resume, without actually lugging boxes of branded bags, shirts and other swag to conference venues.

Read more: The Wall Street Journal »

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