Thoughtful Houston entrepreneur vows to make gift-giving fool-proof
We all know what it's like to spend time picking out a thoughtful, appropriate gift, and whether the recipient is a dear friend or a new client, we want to get it right. But what if your present bombs?
"No one ever tells you if you get it wrong," says Katy Aucoin, founder of dearduck. "But the choices that we make for other people can influence relationships upwards of 80 percent."
Along with a passion for seeing how the decisions we make for other people through gifting impact our relationships, Aucoin's background in IT consulting and data analytics spurred her to dive into the (surprisingly plentiful) research surrounding gifting, and when she emerged in 2015, she had the idea for dearduck. Its playful name is a combination of two terms of endearment.
The company's first release went live as a consumer-facing app in April 2017, and brands quickly showed interest in using dearduck as a way to power personalized recommendations to their customer's networks. The group is currently focused on building the next iteration, which includes an expansion of the platform to accommodate B2B features, enhanced capabilities for capturing and delivering hyper-personalized recommendations, and a responsive web front end. The B2B pilot launch is just around the corner, and will be available in time for the holiday season.
This simple process for the consumer and the retailer is a win-win. However, the thought and detail that go into the back-end are extremely complex, and it takes a great understanding of the pieces of data needed and the consumer mindset when making decisions for others to create a solution.
"I had become frustrated with the fact that I was trying to make choices for other people on what seemed like a daily basis, and often failing," she says. "From which wine to bring to a dinner party to the right gift for a special occasion, even when I put a lot of thought into it, I was still just guessing. I wanted to understand how we can get all the tiny details right while making the gifting journey more efficient, and ultimately helping to strengthen all of our relationships in the process."
The dearduck experience starts with a preferences quiz, which the user can then invite his or her friends to take as well. With each person who indicates "beer or wine" or "no nuts, please," the network builds, and dearduck automatically maps participating retailers' inventory so that the right recommendations are made to the right people at the right time.
As Aucoin notes, most of the time people just default to their own preferences without even realizing it — we'll just bring the wine that we would choose, for example. Now users can know not only red or white, but Pinot Noir or Cabernet, or even if the person doesn't drink alcohol at all.
With dearduck, gone are the days of a generic "gift guide for her." Now it's a "gift guide for Lucy, your vegan, caramel-loving coworker," to whom hopefully no one will ever send a bacon-of-the-month club subscription again.
And to be based in Houston, where shopping is somewhat of an art form and tech is only expected to grow?
"You can find a lot of help here if you're just willing to ask, more help than you might imagine," Aucoin says. "And once you do, the level of support is very tight-knit and strong."