Steven Binnion, founder of WIRL (What I Really Like), believes that wasted gifts are a growing problem with many people preferring a donation to their favoured charity or a contribution ‘pool gifting’ towards an experience such as a holiday.
“It’s estimated that in the US they reckon that $13bn is wasted on unwanted gifts each year,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “I reckon we’re certainly looking at tens of billions of pounds around the world every year.”
WIRL allows users to create profiles featuring what retailers they like shopping with, what products they’re interested in, restaurants they enjoy eating in, holidays they hope to go on and what charities they’re interest in supporting.
This information is then only shared with the people they allow access to – allowing friends and family to get a better idea what to gift them.
All businesses will be listed on the platform, which launched in November, but Mr Binnion hopes to provide a marketing filip to small independent retailers.
The Leeds-based tech entrepreneur is monetising the platform by charging businesses a “small subscription” fee to have a “bespoke” listing on the site.
The basic listing provides a practical no-frill description of the brand and little else.
“If they want to make that look any better, if they want to include images in there, if they want to include incentives or anything like that then for a very modest amount we’ll do that for them,” Mr Binnion says.
He added that WIRL is trying to give small independent businesses a platform to increase sales.
Mr Binnion, who has background in IT services, said: “On social networks like Facebook and Google, that are auction based, they’re having to pay a relatively speaking small fortune and they’re competing against the advertising spend of much larger businesses.”
While SWIRL won’t exclude large businesses, “they have to be on there” to ensure profiles don’t end up being incomplete, but it will be introducing a pricing model that relates to the size of the business.
“A bigger business will pay a much higher subscription than a much smaller business and it’ll be appropriate to the size of the audience they have within our platform,” Mr Binnion said.
He added: “We’re working with quite a few of the independents in the Corn Exchange and if each of those has 100 people on our platform that like them, they might be paying a handful of pounds per month.
“If a much bigger business has hundreds of thousands of followers on the platform then the amount they pay will be appropriate to the number of followers they have.”
Mr Binnion wants to speak to more independent retailers to see how the platform can help them.
He has already secured a collaboration with independent high street champion Jackie Mulligan.
Businesses on her ShopAppy platform will also be listed on WIRL.
Mr Binnion hopes the platform will see more people buy gifts from independent retailers.
“What we see is that the default gift has become an Amazon voucher,” he said. “I didn’t know what to get you so I’ll let you choose and buy you an Amazon voucher.”
Money spent with local independent retailers is circulated back through the local economy, Mr Binnion says.
The entrepreneur added: “As we’ve only just launched what we’re hoping is that people with Christmas in their minds decide for 2019 that there’s a better way to go about gift buying and they decide to make use of WIRL.”
The platform that is hoping businesses will give it a WIRL
The technology entrepreneur has been working on WIRL for the past 18 months.
In its earlier guise it was called Remind2Find. The concept hasn’t changed much but it was more utilitarian.
Steven Binnion said: “We’ve spent time working with businesses and users so we’ve got something that is a little more engaging and appealing.”
Mr Binnion sees the platform evolving as the business gets a better understanding of the needs of users and organisations.
Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Mr Binnion says WIRL has been built to ensure people’s data is not misused.
Companies won’t be able to see information belonging to individuals but will be given access to anonymised data sets.