E-Retail Startups Aim to Make Holiday Shopping Easier, Texas Style

E-Retail Startups Aim to Make Holiday Shopping Easier, Texas Style

It doesn’t seem like the “most wonderful time of the year” when you’re trapped in a slow vehicular death march in a mall parking garage, looking for that one available spot—as the radio station blares “The Little Drummer Boy” for the 4,349th time.

It’s enough to bring out the Scrooge in all of us. But fear not, dear reader. The elves at Xconomy Texas have some ideas on how to make at least the shopping part of the holidays easier.

(Of course, just because these companies are in Texas doesn’t mean Xconomy and Xperience readers can’t access their services from other parts of the country. And for specific ideas on cool gifts for the techies in your life, take a look at suggestions from my colleague Wade Roush.)

CheckedTwice (Houston)

The pitch: A gift registry designed for families.

How it works: Andrew Swick, CheckedTwice’s founder and CEO, says the concept is akin to wedding registries but for “other events that happen in the year,” such as the holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. Users create an account and invite people to join. Wish lists for each member are located on the left side of the screen. Once you’re into the list, you can click on a particular item and claim it, as you would for online wedding registries. CheckedTwice takes you directly to the retailer’s website—say, Amazon.com—where you complete the purchase.

The backstory: In 2002, Swick’s sister (and co-founder Rebecca Hyatt) e-mailed her wish list to the entire family. That Christmas, she got three copies of the same Robert Frost poetry anthology she had requested. Swick says Hyatt asked her family, “Couldn’t you all talk to each other?” So, by the next year, the pair had built a simple website around the basic idea of a family registry that they used for six years. By 2009, they threw it open to friends. “We got a little advertising in 2010, did nothing in 2011, and people came back,” Swick says. “By 2012, we were thinking, let’s try to turn this into a real product.”

CheckedTwice, which makes money from affiliate programs with major online retailers that pay it a cut of sales, has raised $200,000 from friends and family. In the last 10 weeks, Swick says the traffic has jumped by five and he expects the site will reach 50,000 users by the end of the holiday season.

The next step: Swick says he wants the Houston startup to “own occasions,” with registries that include birthdays, graduations, back-to-school and other gift-giving reasons. “We’re really aiming for year-round engagement with our customers,” he says.

Worth It (Houston)

The pitch: The Priceline for Online Shopping

How it works: A shopper sets up an account, and downloads Worth It’s bookmarklet into their browser’s toolbar. Then, they go shopping online, where they see a TV for $2,000 when they only want to pay $1,500. “Click our bookmarklet and a pop-up screen let’s you choose 20 percent or 30 percent off, or put in your own price,” says Jason Kaminsky, Worth It’s founder and CEO. “Click ‘Track it.’ We now go out and find this TV for $1,500.”

Worth It’s software scans the Web for your custom-priced TV. Unlike Priceline, however, users are not locked into the purchase, Kaminsky added.

The backstory: Kaminsky was a soon-to-be new … Next Page »

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The Author

Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763.

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