Family inside of a CAMP store location.
CAMP, a retailer known for its experiential in-store events for kids, is expanding its online offerings and targeting both adults and families this holiday season. — CAMP

Why it matters:

  • E-commerce is expected to grow up to 15% this holiday season amid a surge in spending overall.
  • Consumers are shopping more online, and startups are seeking creative new ways to reach them there, including via livestream events.
  • Innovative gifting strategies, such as virtual gift-exchange parties, can encourage product trial and drive customer acquisition.

What do experiential e-commerce and toilet paper have in common? They are expected to be growth drivers for toy disruptor CAMP, livestream platform buywith and bamboo toilet paper startup Cloud Paper this holiday season, fueled in part by pandemic-influenced changes in consumer behaviors — from the rise of digital consumption to the heightened interest in purchasing sustainable goods.

The startups’ holiday initiatives come as the National Retail Federation recently forecasted strong sales this holiday season, including double-digit percent growth in e-commerce volume. The NRF projects total sales increases (excluding auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants) of between 8.5% and 10.5% for November and December, compared with 2020. Included in that forecast are projections that online and other non-store sales will increase between 11% and 15%, to ring up an estimated $218.3 billion to $226.2 billion in sales.

Retailers and brands see what’s happening in China and they expect that to expand to the West, and they all realize that, ‘What’s a better opportunity to experiment than during this holiday season?’

Liel Anisenko, head of marketing, buywith

CAMP targets adults with experiential e-commerce

CAMP, a rapidly growing New York City-based retailer known for its experiential in-store events for kids, is expanding its online offerings and targeting both adults and families this holiday season.

Last year it launched an online feature called Gift Game that replicated traditional gift exchange parties virtually. Now this holiday season, the company has relaunched the offering and made it available sooner to capitalize on anticipated demand from businesses that have employees working remotely.

“Although people are reconnecting in person, there are still a lot of coworkers who are disconnected, and that is a big opportunity for us, and something we are really excited about,” Tiffany Markofsky, chief communications officer at CAMP, told CO—.

Gift Game, which included 25,000 games in the first 10 days last year, allows people to shop for gifts for others in their group, choosing from CAMP’s online product assortment for people of all ages. During the actual Gift Game party, participants virtually unwrap their presents and decide if they want to accept them or pass them on, and at the end CAMP ships the gifts to their recipients.

The company began promoting Gift Game for corporate parties in October and is planning to begin offering it for families in mid-November.

“It’s a fantastic model in terms of customer acquisition and growth,” said Markofsky. “It is something we are really excited about this year.”

[Read more: A New Toy Story: Inside the CAMP Game Plan]

 Boxes of Cloud Paper toilet paper on display in front of a Christmas tree.
Startup Cloud Paper is seeking to capitalize on two trends that emerged during the pandemic—an increased focus on sustainability and shortages of key necessities. — Cloud Paper

Buywith sees surge in demand for livestream commerce

When it comes to e-commerce trends, what happens in China doesn’t stay in China. Livestream shopping, for example, has been such a phenomenal success in that country — sales are projected at $300 billion this year, according to eMarketer estimates — that U.S. brands and retailers are jumping on board faster than ever.

Buywith, for one, is expecting a big increase in demand this holiday season for its livestream shopping platform, following the strong performance of livestream shopping in China.

“Retailers and brands see what’s happening in China and they expect that to expand to the West, and they all realize that, ‘What’s a better opportunity to experiment than during this holiday season?’” said Liel Anisenko, head of marketing at buywith.

Unlike traditional livestreaming platforms, which tend to be QVC-type presentations that focus on a specific product, buywith seeks to offer a differentiated online shopping experience where influencers actually navigate a brand or retailer’s website using the company’s screen-sharing technology. Shoppers can request to see other merchandise, or products in different colors, for example, during the presentation.

A “want” button pops up on a viewer’s screen on each page, which allows shoppers to deposit items directly into their online cart.

“This makes it highly [sales] converting and easy to shop,” said Anisenko.

The platform is also easy for brands and retailers to set up, she said, with sessions often ready to stream within a couple of days.

[Read more: Pandemic-Weary Consumers Explore Live Virtual Platforms Aimed to Replicate the Magic of In-Store Shopping]

Cloud Paper touts sustainability for the holidays

Cloud Paper is seeking to capitalize on two trends that emerged during the pandemic — an increased focus on sustainability and shortages of key necessities — with a subscription-based offering of bathroom tissue and paper towels made from bamboo.

Historically, most sustainable toilet paper and paper towel options have been low quality, which has discouraged trial of new products in this category, said Ryan Fritsch, co-founder of Cloud Paper, which offers paper products made from bamboo fiber, available through a direct-to-consumer subscription program.

“We've learned that consumers who are eager to buy sustainably can be hesitant to switch out from their favorite brands, especially in the toilet paper and paper towel category,” he said.

This led the company to launch a new trial box program for the holiday season that allows customers to sample or gift Cloud Paper products at no cost, other than the cost of shipping. The trial box includes four rolls of Cloud Paper in festive, sustainable holiday packaging for customers to try.

Cloud Paper hopes to prove through its holiday trial box that sustainable toilet paper and paper towels can be soft, absorbent, affordable and better for the environment, Fritsch said.

“With this campaign, we are encouraging our customers to drop the big paper products they would traditionally buy at a big-box store and give a gift to the environment for the holiday season,” he said.

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Published November 15, 2021