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Custom curated booklets aim to personalize online gift-giving

by James Thorne
on 25 April 2012

Options for online gift-giving are by no means scarce. Going beyond the basics of easy browsing and affordable shipping, CEO John Poisson founded Wantful with the intention of making the process even more intuitive, creating a rare blend of curated storefront, gift card and material goods. At the most basic level, the service provides users a way to send a thoughtful selection of gifts to choose from in a lovely, customized catalog.

The process starts by visiting the Wantful website and sharing general background information about the intended recipient. Basic questions like gender and relationship are followed with more in-depth inquiries such as sense of style, preferred living quarters, cooking habits and whether they sing along to their music. From there, Wantful does the work: "We put together a list of recommendations and other ways to look through our products," says Poisson. "You choose 16 things that you think are perfectly suited to that person and put them together in this printed booklet." The sender puts down a certain amount of money when they check out to pay for the gift that ultimately gets chosen.


Wantful's selection is expansive but smartly edited, with thousands of solid options that are updated constantly. "It's the equivalent of an entire department store, except that our products are the kinds of products you don't find in a department store," explains Poisson. "Our real focus is our team of buyers that find things you don't find anywhere else."


While the recipient gets to choose the gift they want, much of the treat lies in getting a dedicated book filled with specially picked goods. As Poisson explains, "This isn't a transaction. There's meant to be something emotional attached—even if it's a casual gift." The self-proclaimed professional buyer shared some of his favorite makers as well, listing the husband and wife perfumer D.S. & Durga alongside White Sycamore and Cavalier Essentials.

The service syncs with Facebook to remind users of upcoming birthdays, and a calendar of upcoming events can also be made. Wantful then sends reminders as the dates approach. Poisson recommends having a mix of safe and quirky gifts, throwing in unexpected items like a $500 box of chocolate as a teaser item. When the recipient gets their booklet, they simply select their gift and await its arrival—easy as pie—or a jar of artisanal kimchi.

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