"We prefer our clients to give less but better; that's a lot of what we talk about," says Jonathan Legge co-founder and chief executive of &Open.
Corporate gifting can be a hit or miss with the receiver. Many of us have received gifts that go into to that “special drawer” only to be dumped into landfill a couple of years later or anytime we do a thorough spring clean. But we also receive that one gift that you use all the time – what would life have been without it?
Founders Jonathan Legge, Ciara Flood and Mark Legge come to the world of corporate gifting from their pervious e-commerce business, Makers & Brothers, where corporate gifting was making up 30 per cent of their turnover.
“We are the world’s first gifting platform dedicated to helping brands delight their costumers and build long-lasting relationships through simple acts of care. Ultimately we are re-imaging corporate gifting and loyalty, and restructuring it for the world we live in today,” says Jonathan Legge.
“Care for us is pretty much a fundamental. It was our starting point and a thread that runs through everything we do. I guess at the start of this company we were exploring the idea that relationships aren’t built on thoughtless freebies, and people need to know they matter. And so we’ve been rethinking corporate gifting with a view to turning brand values into real relationships.”
Not wanting to be just another gifting company taking orders from a catalogue the team at &Open wanted to build the technology that puts the customer first and the clients in control.
“We’ve been building the business around a pragmatic poetic approach. The pragmatic piece is the technology. Our clients want to get gifts in the hands of their customers, and they need the technology to do that quite easily, and they need a level of logistics in order to do that fairly seamlessly.
“The poetry of the piece was just prioritising the human experience throughout that whole thing, which means every touch point, every engagement with their costumers is resonating with their brand values and their community.”
&Open delivers every piece of the corporate gifting puzzle from providing the SaaS platform, for which there is a monthly fee for the platform and technology, to sourcing a small catalogue of gifts for each company that speak directly of the branding and method of each company, to the logistics for holding and delivery of the items.
"Those gifts are stored locally in our logistics network depending on the region we are gifting it to. If the company just wants to gift to North America we'll store them in North America. If they want to gift them across North America, Australia and New Zealand we will store them locally there. We have a warehouse network our platform is linked into which helps with the distribution. The technology is automated across 38 countries at the moment. Using our technology you can dispatch a gift in less than two minutes. Currently our platform is dispatching 3,000 gifts around the globe."
Corporate gifting is estimated to be worth $175 billion, and a Harvard Business Review talks about consumers who are emotional connected to the brand are anywhere from 25-100 per cent more valuable to that brand from a perspective of profitability.
&Open has already helped one of its clients go from a conversion rate of 3 per cent to 30 per cent, proving that the time they take on boarding new clients and getting to know the voice of the company, which is a three-month process, is worth the wait.
“We currently are working with a San Francisco-based car rental company – we designed a catalogue of seven gifts . Their brand voice, their call to action, is embrace the adventure, so we designed a catalogue of gifts that fit with that thinking but also fit into the world of cars as well. It can be as simple as elevating a pair of socks into socks you are going to wear on this drive you are going to do down the west coast highway to LA.
“A hand-written note, a gift landing on the doorstep, that really builds connections, and equally, from our perspective, the gift should be more about values rather than value.
“The right gift can reinforce a brand’s values and show a customer what they stand for. And that is why we go to the effort to source responsibly and making sure that we are keeping everything clean.
“I think that is definitely the zeitgeist of the moment, those three things. From loyalty being harder to achieve, and things being more overtly digital, there’s definitely a moment right now where things are shifting, that is very interesting for our business.”
Sourcing good quality gifts both locally and abroad is the heart of the company, whether it be socks knitted in Donegal, blankets produced in Kilkenny or even bee-wax candles made in Cork. It allows the client to feel thought and time went into a bespoke piece.
There is also a sustainability to the project too.
“We are working with a really great manufacturer in LA for T-shirts and other cotton items we get done. They work only with recycled cotton, and they are working with these amazing local manufacturers in the city, so I feel like we have a really great network of suppliers.”
&Open is currently a team of 22 across its Harold’s Cross HQ in Dublin and office in San Francisco. The intention is to have the team up to 34 by the end of next year, and perhaps doubling again the year after.
“We believe we can become the market leader in the relationship domain. We have been rethinking and looking to reinvent what corporate gifting is, but also how this speaks to loyalty and what is the next loyalty programme and how do you build that.
“We are pretty ambitious and driven. Ambitious with our egos and driven because we want to make this really special – we want to keep it interesting for the team as well and keep it growing. “