About a year ago, Wantful launched a gift-giving website offering product recommendations based on the information you provide about the person you’re shopping for. Today, the company is moving into what it calls the second phase of its vision, which is less about gifting and more about personalized e-commerce.
The company’s new products and services are being shown off tonight at an event in San Francisco, but Wantful gave me an early peek. CEO and founder John Poisson said the company isn’t abandoning its gift-giving roots, just expanding beyond them. After all, Wantful already helps people discover cool new products, and in that process, users discover goods that they want to buy for themselves, not just their friends and family.
However Poisson said he didn’t want to just open a storefront on the company’s website, and instead to deliver a more unique and high-quality experience. So the company is launching an iPad app, which it just submitted to the App Store and should hopefully go live next week.
The app is essentially a mix between a product catalog and a magazine. It profiles several products — not just providing a product description, but also high-quality photos and an article that lays out the story behind the products. For example, when I opened the app this afternoon I read a profile of the New York City candy store Papabubble, and when I finished reading, I could use the app to buy various types of Papabubble candy. There were also articles about a fancy watch and a set of knives — which again, I could purchase after I finished reading. Over time, the app is supposed to become more personalized, offering content based on what you’ve found interesting in the past.
Wantful is also publishing its first print magazine. Like the app, the magazine features stories about different retailers and products. It’s being sent to the company’s most active customers with personalized content — so they each receive a different mix of articles that based on their activity on the site. The approach, in Poisson’s words, is “what large publishers at Hearst and Condé Nast wish they could do.” And since Wantful is both retailer and publisher, it can make money from all the purchases that the magazine drives, because each item is available for purchase in the iPad app. It sounds like Poisson sees the magazines as more than a one-off episode, but he said it’s too soon to commit to a particular publishing schedule.
Lastly, Wantful is launching a new loyalty program, where customers who buy at least three items through the service get additional benefits, including free shipping and access to high-quality, “concierge” customer service.