BOSTON At many companies, it doesn’t matter who’s been naughty or nice. Everyone on their list gets the same gift, whether they like it or not.
Alyce, an artificial intelligence-powered corporate gifting platform launched in August 2016, aims to change that by being the ultimate Secret Santa—giving folks something they actually want, not something they want to return. According to a survey by the Boston-based company, 88.7 percent of respondents “would exchange a corporate gift for something more suited to their interests.”
C.E.O. of Alyce Greg Segall can relate. As a self-proclaimed health nut, he was always receiving chocolate and candy as gifts during his years working at top e-commerce companies. While appreciated, the gifts weren’t exactly Segall’s taste. So to help make corporate gifting more effective, personalized, and impactful he founded Alyce.
The data-driven platform, which generates personalized gift recommendations, boasts over 300 customers in the United States and Canada, including big-name companies in the oil and gas, tech, and finance industries.
Here’s how it works: The sender provides Alyce with the names and email addresses of the gift recipients, along with a budget; the sender can also offer specific themes or suggestions for the gifts, for instance noting if the recipient really likes skiing. The service then mines publicly available information from the web and social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest to uncover the recipient's personal interests.
The sender will then receive the top three gift options within the specified budget range for each recipient based on the digitally sleuthed clues. Segall stressed that the platform only searches publicly available information and does not pay for personal data.
Alyce will also break down why certain gifts were chosen, for example citing a Pinterest board or something on the recipient's Twitter account. Segall explained that this feature was added because some clients had a “mistrust” of the process, asking “how do you know this?”
The platform’s marketplace includes more than 30,000 products that range in price from $5 to $5,000, including subscription boxes from companies like Birchbox, on-demand services such as Uber and Lyft, experiences from Cloud 9 Living, gift cards, and even autographed footballs.
After the sender chooses a gift, Alyce sends out an email link or a pin code in a handwritten branded card or box to the recipient. With the link and pin code, the recipient is able to access the sender’s branded gifting website. There, they can choose to accept the gift (and select color and size if applicable), trade it in for something else, or donate the cash value of the gift to a charity. Segall said that the recipient never sees the value of the gift. If they decide to trade it in, they will be presented with other items to choose from within that same price range.
While most companies tend to focus on gifting primarily during the holidays, Segall said that “you can use gifting in so many other ways: to incentivize, for customer appreciation and recognition, and for employees as well,” adding that it’s also an effective way to draw in prospects. His own company tested out this method at a recent conference by handing out gift codes, ranging in value from $5 to $100. (Only a select few attendees snagged $100, a la Willy Wonka’s golden ticket.)
Segall said that the company reached 40 percent of conference attendees, as opposed to the typical 10 percent, which equates to thousands of prospective clients and potential business for a relatively small investment. If a gift isn’t claimed, the giver is awarded credit towards future gifting.
Right now, ‘tis the season for gifts, but Segall said that the platform sees daily activity throughout the year, from one-off gifts to batches in the thousands for birthdays, work anniversaries, contract renewals, and more. “It’s a year-round endeavor.”