The corporate gifting space — where companies send merchandise, swag, and gifts to clients and their employees to help build relationships — is worth more than $125bn.
Although this space has existed for decades, the pandemic has caused it to grow exponentially.
Gifting became a particularly popular way for companies to share their culture and mission with new customers and hires who they had never met in person.
However, research by Loop Commerce suggests that instead of wasting money on unimaginative gifts, companies should give employees gifts personalized to them.
This doesn’t mean just putting an employees’ initials on a reusable water bottle, but actually gifting them something they actually want and showing you actually know the person, as well as their likes and dislikes.
Loop’s chief marketing officer Jennifer Muller said: “The reality is both companies and employees want the same things – quality, personalized gifting that is easy to use.”
However, choosing the right gift for all your employees at scale is incredibly difficult and time-consuming. Hence why most companies have often opted to send the same thing to everyone.
But – you guessed it — technology can help HR teams improve corporate gifting strategies as part of company’s wider employee experience goals.
Over the past few years, there has be an explosion of companies that seek to leverage technology to make corporate gifting better for relationship building.
Examples include 365 Canvas, Knack, and GiftpackAI. However, we caught up with Boston-based Alyce, which has just closed a $30m Series B.
Alyce came about in 2016 after CEO Greg Segall experienced many years of frustration with business gifting.
“I’m a gym nut, I’m psychotic about what I put in my body [and] I don’t eat junk food, yet every single [Christmas] holiday season, I get chocolate sent to me,” explains Segall. “The crazy thing is that the folks that usually send me those things know me super well.”
The premise behind Alyce is that this investment isn’t about the gifter, but about the recipient. “It is about what you want, not what I want. What I want is to deepen the relationship, [it doesn’t really matter to me what I send as the gift].”
In this respect Segall and the team at Alyce view the challenges with corporate gifting as an experience problem, rather than a logistics issue.
“I wholeheartedly believe that if you burden someone with something [they don’t want], it actually has a negative impact,” notes Segall.
Gifting as an experience between two people in a company – or the wider business world – is the first of Segall’s pillar of gifting. He wants to make gifting a deeper and more authentic, and therefore more productive, relationship building experience.
The second pillar of gifting is around sustainability. This is because it is a serious waste to send people stuff they don’t want. “Money is going to waste and there is so much stuff ending up in landfill”, notes Segall.
Thinking about the money side of this, Segall explains that when he first started Alyce, companies noted that while they were spending huge amounts on their corporate gifting – around four times their CRM spend – there was little governance around what was being spent and on what.
This was when Segall realized that “the entire [corporate gifting] model was broken – everything was backwards in terms of how they were looking at spend and who was spending what”, particularly since the money is being spent on gifts that employees and customers don’t actually want.
The final pillar is around giving back to those in need – Alyce enables companies and employees to give to charity as part of the gifting experience.
How does Alyce work?
Alyce’s platform relies on artificial intelligence (AI) to help companies personalize the gifting experience; Segall explains that technology enables the gifter to look thoughtful at scale.
The AI uses publicly available information about the receiver to find out about their interests – or their five to nine, rather than their nine to five, as Alyce refers to it – and then suggests gifts that the company could send to them.
Therefore, instead of sending something by default, the company sends a digital token of the chosen gift to their employee or customer.
The receiver can then either accept the gift being suggested, they can exchange it for anything else on Alyce’s marketplace, or donate the money to the charity of their choice.
Alyce then drop ship the product from the merchants in its marketplace – the company itself does not have any warehouses or inventory, it just acts as a conduit for other companies to sell their products as part of corporate gifting exercises.
While clients and customers are the core of Alyce’s platform to support the sales and marketing team, Alyce also caters for employee rewards and recognition. This is something “we are moving a lot heavier into this year”, especially because of the recent influx of funding.
Looking to the future, Segall wants Alyce to “continue to deliver more value and really drive experience” for the end consumer.
He concludes: “we’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of what’s possible using technology to transform this industry.”
Allie started her career as a business journalist writing about innovation in the pharma and medtech industries. She learned how crucial technology was to these medical breakthroughs and therefore became keen to further explore how it could also disrupt not just our health, and the way we live, but the way we work. Allie’s work has been featured in Pharma Tech Focus, Medical Technology Magazine, Verdict.co.uk, and Glass Magazine.