Wantful, a startup that I described as “bringing the joy of anticipation back to gift-giving” last April, is today announcing that it has formed a partnership with, and accepted a strategic investment from, Nordstrom.
Wantful is unique in that you don’t directly purchase anything from its website. Instead you order a booklet containing a number of products in your price range, which is then shipped to the gift’s recipient, who is able to select a product and order it for themselves. Rather than giving a gift card to a single retailer or purchasing a horrible present, then, Wantful hopes to make it easier to give meaningful gifts that won’t make their way to the recipient’s junk drawer. This experience was previously limited to the Wantful website and iPad application, and now it’s making the jump to Nordstrom.
“We have basically taken everything we have built for our consumer brand on Wantful and made it available to Nordstrom customers,” says Wantful CEO John Poisson, who adds that Nordstrom has been “incredibly forward-thinking in their use of technology and the way they approach building great experiences for their customers.” Wantful will make its way to a section of Nordstrom’s website as “The Nordstrom Gift Collection by Wantful,” where the century-old retailer will offer its customers access to the entire Wantful catalog.
The move mirrors Nordstrom’s partnership-slash-investment with Bonobos, which saw the previously online-only company introduce its pants and shirts to a portion of Nordstrom’s stores. This allowed Bonobos to attract new customers and, as we reported in March, played a role in the $30 million Bonobos raised to continue its growth. Nordstrom helped the company scale and attract some offline attention — in turn, the retailer learned how to communicate with its customers via email and continued the investment in the technological side of its business that began with its $270 million acquisition of HauteLook.
According to a report from the New York Times, Nordstrom’s initial attempt to enter the online realm was, as so many other retailers’ were, lackluster. After launching a website that confused customers by offering different products and prices from Nordstrom’s physical stores the company relaunched its online offering and has begun acquiring, partnering with, and investing in startups to continue evolving alongside technology. Call it the venture capital-funded fountain of youth through which a 112-year old business is able to remain relevant despite changes in the way people shop.
Bonobos taught Nordstrom how to better understand and communicate with its customers. Wantful might be able to show the retailer how to make its online gift-giving business more than just a gift card or poorly-picked item — and, due to the investment-slash-partnership, Wantful will be brought before a whole slew of customers who otherwise might not have known that the company even existed.
“From Nordstrom’s perspective, they’re interested in bringing this gift experience to their customers, and part of that experience comes from the items that they don’t carry,” Poisson says. “From our perspective it’s really about bringing what we do to a very large audience in a way that complements what we do on our own website.” Wantful will continue to focus on its consumer-centric product will introducing new verticals, such as Wantful Corporate, and expanding its mobile offering. This partnership might simply allow Wantful to do all of those things a little bit quicker.