In the ever-evolving landscape of gifting, SWAQ has emerged as a revolutionary platform, reshaping the traditional experience by seamlessly blending physical gifts with digital messages. Co-founded by Alex and Charles, lifelong friends turned business partners, SWAQ was born out of a desire to enhance the emotional connection between gift-givers and recipients. This interview delves into the inspiration, evolution, and future plans of SWAQ.
Q: Can you share the inspiration behind creating SWAQ and how the idea of blending physical gifts with digital messages came about?
It was really a culmination of a few disconnects we were troubled by around gifting. That special moment of opening a gift and being celebrated is so short-lived and in the age of eCommerce, we are often not together for these occasions. The physical gifts themselves often fade away, especially in the case of flowers and food, so we asked how we can bring people closer and preserve that feeling. The obvious solution was to look toward digital messaging with all of the Hollywood-esque things you can do right on your mobile device not only to be able to keep those messages but also to uplift that experience. SWAQ makes ‘the thought that counts’ last in a meaningful way.
Q: As high school buddies turned business partners, how did your personal connection contribute to the inception and growth of SWAQ?
It is just chemistry and shared experiences. As soon as we reconnected at a homecoming football game some years ago we started bouncing all kinds of ideas back and forth. As long-time friends, we knew we had a winner on our hands.
Q: SWAQ started as a custom label company for alcohol. How did the transition to focusing on gift messaging and QR codes occur, and what drove this shift in your business model?
The competitive landscape in personalization as well as the massive headache associated with regulation and, of course, inventory management were constant hurdles. The idea for adding QR codes with videos was always there, but then we realized that if we could issue unique QR codes separate from the gift then we could speak to our mission and remove all the headaches.
Q: SWAQ is described as providing “meaningful, expressive connections.” Can you elaborate on how the platform enhances the emotional value of gift-giving?
The gift-giving gesture says I care about you, but does it say how much and what for?
With creative video messaging, you can really express yourself and have a meaningful impact—not just for occasion-based gifts but for sales gestures and employee appreciation on the corporate side of gifting.
Q: Can you explain the technology behind SWAQ QR codes and how it seamlessly integrates with the gifting experience without requiring software integration for merchants?
We love this question as we are so proud of the technology. Every SWAQ QR code is unique. In our pre-printed, no-code solution, we generate these individual codes as placeholders to be married with a sender upon sale. Crucially, we are able to distinguish between the first scan and subsequent scans. The first scan allows a user to immediately upload a video if they are shopping in a store themselves. If they are ordering online or by phone, the merchant has the ability to send the upload link to the customer using the same scan or they can use our web portal to send the link from a workstation. Our partners at Insomnia Cookies B2B gifting use our portal to group unique QR codes so that their corporate clients can send one message to many recipients. Finally, for Shopify merchants, we have a plugin that automatically pairs the next available pre-printed QR code to an order.
Q: You mention that SWAQ captures digital impressions and data. How do you leverage this information, and what kind of tools do you provide to your merchant partners for converting gift recipients into customers?
For merchants, SWAQ not only offers customer delight, competitive advantage, and incremental revenue but also configurable real estate that helps convert gift recipients into customers. When a recipient scans their QR code they see a landing page with the video, the merchant’s logo, and a custom CTA and button configured in our merchant portal. This impression leverages the best advertising possible, the actual product in the potential customer’s hands with an incentive to purchase right there. Finally, since these occasions motivate users to share on social media, we embed the merchant’s logo and a custom promo or tagline in the final frame of the video to massively extend brand reach. At every interaction, we can track the user’s behavior to recognize what’s working. We provide a spreadsheet with all the details of a gift campaign right on our merchant portal.
Q: SWAQ seems to have found success in corporate gifting with clients in pharmaceutical, software, real estate, and technology spaces. How has the platform been received in the corporate world, and what unique value does it bring to businesses in this sector?
Corporate customers, both small and large, are highly motivated users as we supercharge their kind gesture into a sales tool with built-in Facetime. Pharmaceutical reps make daily rounds and find it tough to have a moment with their clients. SWAQ gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their value and a super simple way to take an order right on the same page. And since every QR code is unique, we can notify the corporate client which of their clients is opening a gift and when making follow-up more effective.
Q: Could you share a success story or a notable example where SWAQ has made a significant impact on a gift-giving experience, either in retail or corporate settings?
Our very first corporate customer through Insomnia Cookies was wowed by the clicks generated and the high percentage of engagement. To be inbounded by requests for a demo through the custom button was really a game changer for her. On the retail side, we were so touched to learn of a bed-bound grandfather being able to see the youngest member wish him a happy birthday.
Q: With a contract with Insomnia Cookies B2B Division and partnerships with high-profile event planners, how do these collaborations reflect the versatility and effectiveness of SWAQ in different business contexts?
By virtue of the fact that any form of transaction these days occurs online, the custom button is a superpowered conversion tool for any relationship. For a hosted event, whether it be a family celebration or a business conference, take-home gifts with SWAQ are actionable. For weddings, guests can view a message from the happy couple and upload the photos they took from the event. For corporate gatherings, SWAQ eliminates the friction of setting up calls with prospects.
Q: Alex mentioned that SWAQ takes existing tech and communication methods and applies them to outdated messaging. How does SWAQ disrupt traditional paper-based gift messaging, and what advantages does it offer over conventional approaches?
When was the last time you went to the store just to buy a card? It’s a separate purchase that is time intensive, cliché and expensive. Canned humor gets stale and it’s not written in the voice of the gift-giver. You buy a SWAQ message with your gifts and use your own likeness and creativity. Which is more meaningful?
Q: Charles, you emphasized the creativity, fun, and familiarity of social media messaging. How does SWAQ bring these elements to gift messaging, and how has it evolved to meet the expectations of modern communication?
It was clear we didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. We looked at the easiest and most rewarding elements in social media messaging and tailored them for the gift-giving user based on the whole gamut of occasions and the flexibility for non-occasion-based messages. One can create a touching, impactful, and fun SWAQ in a minute because of the familiar feel of our UX.
Q: For merchants using custom eCommerce stores, SWAQ has developed API endpoints. How does this flexibility cater to businesses with unique requirements, and what kind of response have you received from merchants using these features?
Our integrated API solution applies to higher-volume tech-forward merchants. As we develop for a variety of partners, each with unique use cases and fulfillment operations, we have established a robust set of endpoints and are always ready for the next partner’s requests as they come in. Essentially, with an API solution, our partners can keep their existing processes exactly the way they are with the added appearance of a unique SWAQ QR code on their branded card stock. The feedback on our willingness to adapt to their requirements and the overall seamlessness of the integration has been very positive.
Q: How does SWAQ approach funding to attract investors and support its growth in the market?
We have the great fortune of having a very well-connected investor base within our network of friends. I can’t mention names, but as soon as a few of our more high-profile investors came on board the organic response quickly extended beyond our circle. We closed our first round this summer and have recently opened a new round for which the response has exceeded our expectations. We are always looking for new investor partners (i.e. smart money) that can facilitate introductions with new brands.
Q: Lastly, what’s next for SWAQ? Are there any upcoming features, partnerships, or expansions that you can share with us?
On deck are some amazing user features like built-in collaboration and music. With collaboration, users can invite others to participate in the video which SWAQ automatically stitches together as a montage. As well we have some amazing data tools and new plugins for a variety of eCommerce platforms in the works for our merchants. As for new partnerships, we can’t disclose the names yet, but you’ve heard of them!