ANOTHER GIFT GUIDE. YEP. But why? I love the holidays. Yes, they have their issues (nevermind conspicuous consumption and gaudy maximalism) but I love the extra time spent with friends and family. It’s a time to enjoy each other - no matter how the year went - and reflect on how lucky we are to have people who love us and we can love. Do we call that hygge now? IDK.
Suffice to say, this has been a tough year, and the holidays will look different. But there is still a lot about this year I’m thankful for, like the incredible business operators that joined us on the show in 2020. I was inspired by their openness, their strategic thinking, and their heart. These are the people that will be blazing the commerce trails of 2021 and beyond.
I love giving gifts - and these gifts come from operators in brands who have so inspired our team this year. This list adds a deeper dimension to the show, to its guests, and hopefully to you and yours as you look forward to a very different holiday season.
Here’s my list:
Episode: #170 of Future Commerce
Guest: Jeremy Cai
Italic hits on the right notes for 2020: premium yet affordable, narrow catalog with frequent drops to keep you engaged, and membership — everything that branded “premium mediocre” DTC brands will struggle to compete with as they try to grow. In short, brands want to be what Italic already is, and their membership model ensures that Italic can remain profitable while offering prices that very few can actually compete against.
“People are more value-driven than ever before. So the value proposition of buying products at cost I think becomes a lot more alluring now... we wanted to distance ourselves from basically the rat race of direct to consumer venture backed companies.”
- Jeremy Cai
Ideal Gift: Italic’s Zest 7-Piece Ceramic Cookware Set - $125USD
Phillip loves loves loves his cookware from Italic. Try dumpster-diving at the Homegoods near you for a comparable All Clad set. It ain’t happening. Another option? Consider the gift of Italic membership. I can tell you—that’s a gift I would be excited about this year.
Episode: April 2020 Bonus
Guest: Ariel Kaye
With everyone stuck at home this year due to COVID-19, comfy-cozy ruled 2020. Parachute’s designer home decor, bedding, and bath aesthetic were a perfect fit for our confined lives this year. Ariel Kaye, Parachute’s Founder and CEO, didn’t stop at products and assortment. Ariel was an early implementer of remote one-to-one video consultations for customers. What I love most about Parachute’s version of this feature: it doesn’t begin and end with the consultation. The digital consultation is in service of the ongoing customer relationship.
“It is really personal. The consultation is not where it begins and ends. There's often many follow up emails that take place and a real relationship that develops between stylists and customers. We have a conversion rate that we're really proud of and it seems to be a tool that customers are getting on a lot of value out of. I've always felt that whatever we can do to make customers purchase with confidence is just so helpful. People want to make these decisions and feel so great about them, especially when they're spending money, especially in a time of uncertainty. This is a program that has allowed us to continue to really get to know our customers and to create community. And this is a program that will continue even after our stores reopen.”
- Ariel Kaye
Ideal Gift: Alpaca Boucle Throw - $249USD
The comfiest coziest of all at Parachute HAS to be their Alpaca Boucle Throw. This blanket appears beautiful and inviting… and it won’t disappoint. Wrap up and binge The Christmas Prince. If you’re feeling extra millennial, pay for it with Affirm and stack those installments up for as little as $24/mo. There’s another stimulus coming, right? Right?
Episode: #152 of Future Commerce
Guest: Anthony Potgieter
Cameras are another theme of the year. Wyze built their name creating super high quality security cameras for the best possible price. They’ve grown their assortment well beyond cameras now, and they’ve been incredibly smart about how they did it: by relying on their community. Wyze understands the best product development comes by open, unfiltered, ultra-honest communication with their customers and community. We love this approach and will be beating this drum for years to come. Pa rum pum pum pum!
“We have a passionate community. So on Wyze.com, we have a community with forums where we're consistently communicating with people. That is a differentiator. Like when do you get to talk to people directly from a company? We have AMAs, we have everybody from our team responding on forums or on Reddit. We have the direct relationship with customers, which I think differentiates us from other brands… We are very, very, very transparent when it comes to everything.”
- Anthony Potgieter
Ideal Gift: Wyze Starter Kit - Starting at $80
Relive the 90’s and make your own Smart House but without the crazy computer overtaking your life. But seriously Wyze is an ecosystem worth every single penny—and you’ll literally be counting your money in pennies because it’s super affordable. The customizable Starter Kit is a great place, to well, start. But everything on this roster is worth giving and these new noise canceling headphones are 100% on my personal list for this year (still pre-order but arrive before the holidays).
Episode: #4 of Step by Step Season 2
Guest: Grant Van Kirk
The outdoors are another category that saw explosive growth this year. I certainly spent a lot of time outside hiking, camping, and running. ROKA understands the opportunity, and the challenge, of setting your brand apart in a crowded industry. They believe in high-touch customer experiences as the way to bring joy to the athletic world. If you’re buying performance athletic products for the performance athlete in your life, they’ll super appreciate it. If you’re buying performance athletic gear for the couch potato in your life… your mileage may vary.
I think if you're going to be a direct to consumer eCommerce company, everything you do has to be high touch or no one's going to take the chance on an Internet company. They want to get that touch—in person—instead.
- Grant Van Kirk, Step by Step Season 2, Episode 3
Ideal Gift: Custom Sunglasses - From $110USD
A custom gift can be the ultimate thoughtful gift. It also proves that you know someone well enough to get it right. Of course, you do have to know them that well to get it right—so make sure you know what you’re doing! Getting it right with custom sunglasses from ROKA seems like a pretty good bet for the athletic people in your life.
Brand: Farmgirl Flowers
Episode: #155 of Future Commerce
Guest: Christina Stembel
Christina Stembel’s production facility/warehouse in San Francisco was completely shut down when we went into lockdown. Demand also plummeted. She responded with probably the boldest set of moves possible, shutting off all digital marketing, shifting production overseas, and then opening four new facilities. Demand returned very quickly—on email marketing alone —and when we recorded our interview with her she was not only back on track, but ahead of pace. Fulfilling this demand would have been impossible without these moves.
“That initial decline of 60% sales immediately that we had—I didn't know if that was going to be the new normal, that our sales were going to be that low. I turned off all marketing.... the only marketing we've been doing is email marketing. And it's been phenomenal. I just can't even describe how our customers are. I feel like they're friends.”
- Christina Stembel
Suggested Gift: Euc Made It! Eucalyptus Wreath
This beautiful wreath will make anyone feel like they’re living out their Magnolia farmhouse dreams. Included with the wreath is a beautiful velvet ribbon for hanging. Farmgirl even gives drying tips so your loved one can keep the wreath beautiful for years to come.
Episode: #154 of Future Commerce
Guest: Chris Meade
When Gen Z founder Chris Meade brought the innovative game CROSSNET to the market, he saw a lot of early traction, but nothing prepared him for the copious amount of demand that 2020 would bring. As a result, he had to diversify his supply chain and improve logistics. His drive to find a way to deliver is the kind of responsiveness that is required from brands now.
“We're a young company. With something like COVID, you only can prepare for so many months worth of inventory as somebody who is self-funded. We don't have a million dollars, like an investor who just says, "Hey, buy a million dollars worth of inventory." That doesn't happen. You buy for a quarter at a time, maybe six months at a time. We were selling one hundred units a day... for the last 90 days, give or take, we've been selling close to four or five hundred units a day. So that's put a huge, huge, huge stress on our supply chain… We're selling almost fifteen thousand units a month, which is like what we used to do in a year. So we're going to have diversification. We'll have factories in different cities.”
- Chris Meade
Ideal Gift: Yes, the title product - CROSSNET - on Black Friday Sale for $149USD
Fun for the whole family. Assuming it’s not below freezing when you unwrap this on Christmas Day (or that you live below the Mason-Dixon line) Kids of any age (even us adult kids), will have fun setting this foursquare-meets-volleyball in the yard (or beach) and playing for hours. And it’s totally height adjustable for kids or adults.
Bonus: Stocking Stuffers
Subscription low-glycemic DTC gummy bears sweetened with monk fruit for just $51/month. This beautiful brand’s founder Mayssa Cheta was featured in Episode 174.