&Open is a startup with an unusual name, and one that fills an unusual niche in the business world. It has built a gift giving platform, so that businesses can reward loyalty with a small token of appreciation. The gift depends on the business and the circumstances, but it could be something like a book or a tea towel and a recipe.
Co-founder and CEO Jonathan Legge says the Dublin-based startup fits most easily in the corporate gift-giving category, but he sees the company handling much more than that. “We are more about gifting for loyalty and customer retention. We grew out of a B2C operation in which we got visibility on this market, and then quickly evolved &Open to fulfill this market,” Legge explained.
In fact, the company developed out of a business Legge had prior to launching &Open, producing high-end gifts. As part of that business, he was finding that he would get requests from CMOs of big companies like Google, Airbnb and Jameson’s to develop gifts for their events. From that, Legge saw the potential for a full-fledged business based on that idea and he launched &Open.
He sees a world in which transactions increasingly take place in the digital realm, yet consumers still crave physical interactions with businesses beyond an email or a text thanking them. That’s where &Open can help.
“We’re filling the space of helping businesses connect with their customers and showing they care, and not by kind of devaluing their own product and putting on sales. It’s more working with the customer support team, the loyalty team or the marketing team to watch the life cycle of the customer and make sure they’re being gifted at key moments in the life cycle and within their journey with a brand,” he said.
He says this definitely is not swag like you would get a conference, but something more personal that shows the brand cares about the customer. Nor is it a set of generic gifts that every &Open customer can select from. Instead it’s a catalogue it creates with each one to reflect that brand’s values.
“We will design a catalog of gifts for our clients, and then they will be grouped into subsets of situations based on price. For Airbnb, the gift set could depend on whether it’s for a host or guest, and there’s different gifts within those situations. So for a host, it will be more stuff for the home such as a recipe book, a tea towel with a recipe or a guest book,” Legge said.
The company has been around since 2017 and is already in 52 countries. To make this all work, it has developed a three-part system. In addition to building a custom catalog for each brand, it has a logistics component to distribute the gift and make sure it has been delivered, and finally a technology platform that brings these different systems together.
The way it works for most customers is that the customer service team or the social media team will see situations where they think a gift is warranted, and they will log into the &Open system and choose a gift based on whatever the circumstances are — such as an apology for bad service or a reward for loyalty.
Today, the company has 25 employees, most of whom are Dublin. The company is self-funded so far and has not sought outside investment.