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The Shopping Tool That Actually Helps You Budget

Trade in your Pinterest boards for this browser extension.

A screeshot of the website Parcel Photos: Parcel

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Do me a favor and take a look at your browser bar. How many tabs do you have open at the moment? Five? Ten? 20? Are your tabs so small you can’t even make out the title on each? If you were shopping for gifts this holiday season, the answer is probably yes, and it was probably frustrating as hell. That’s why you need to know about Parcel.

Parcel is a recently-launched online shopping tool that helps you keep track of everything online shopping-related: what you buy, what you want to buy, and how on (or over) budget you are. In other words, it’s your best bet for staying sane anytime you go down an e-commerce rabbit hole — something Parcel’s cofounder, Marissa Gibbons, knows about firsthand.

A screenshot of the Parcel app

“I found myself shopping on all these different websites and feeling totally overwhelmed all the time,” says Gibbons. “I was in my early 30s and had been a hardcore shopper for years, yet I still found myself ending up with all these unsatisfying purchases. Then I had my first child and it got kicked up a notch. I was double-ordering things, losing track of packages, forgetting one crucial thing on my checklist but then buying things I didn’t need.”

So, like any good tech entrepreneur — Gibbons already has a successful startup called Riley & Grey geared toward the wedding industry — she got to work. “I felt I needed this desperately for my own life, I didn’t even care about the broader business trajectory. I was just like — I can’t deal with this, someone build me this,” she says.

That someone was Gibbons’ Riley & Grey cofounder Matt Jones, a gifted tech developer who immediately got behind the idea. “Matt had just bought an apartment and he opened up his Excel spreadsheet for me that he had to create to keep track of all the stuff he had bought, and when exactly the delivery times were,” remembers Gibbons. The more they talked about it — with each other and with other big online shoppers — the more obvious it became that the problem was pervasive.

A screenshot of the Parcel website

“There’s so many different places in life where e-commerce had created this really fun experience, but there’s also a side of it that’s really painful,” says Gibbons, adding that she and Jones began calling their predicament the “thousand-tab syndrome.” Though plenty of platforms (Pinterest, for one) helped you keep track of images or products you liked, Gibbons felt none of them were speaking to her needs. “They weren’t utility-focused enough for me,” she says. “They’re more about getting inspired versus getting the products actually into my hands.”

Another pain point the two identified? Staying on budget. “There was really no way to manage any sort of budget proactively,” says Gibbons. “Retroactively, you have all sorts of tools to break down your spending by the end of the month, but it’s difficult to mentally tabulate all of your purchases for, say, a new apartment or a new spring wardrobe, before you’ve actually spent it.”

The Parcel homepage

To address both issues, Gibbons and Jones dreamed up Parcel. Here’s how it works: Like Pinterest, users download a browser extension — theirs is a blue quartz crystal that’ll appear on the top right of a browser — that allows them to easily save products to a “parcel.” Parcels are analogous to Pinterest boards, but with a few key differences. You can save products as “definitely,” “maybe,” “bought,” or “not bought.” You’ll also be asked to set a budget for your parcel — which might be themed, say, as your holiday wish list — and as you add products, it’ll automatically tabulate your spend.

Even better, your parcel will keep track of what brands are on there and if products are low stock or on sale. “We added those two features shortly after launching,” says Gibbons. “I email back and forth with users looking for feedback. Eight out of ten emails were people asking for low stock alerts and sale alerts.”

The platform, which launched this fall, has proved a hit. “It’s certainly resonating with people at a rate we didn’t expect,” says Gibbons. “The opportunity is much bigger than businesses we’ve built in the past.” Currently, Parcel’s revenue model is affiliate-based, meaning they take a small cut of everything purchased using the site. But for Gibbons, the real revenue opportunity might lie elsewhere.

“We’re present at a really interesting inflection point in people’s buying process,” she says. “If you look at some of the other data around fashion and purchases, it’s usually after purchase or it’s social media mentions. So it’s either past intent, where there’s not enough room to act unless you’re someone like Zara and you have complete control of your entire supply chain. Or they’re so early in intent, it’s more just buzz. We’re going to have information in between there.”

Whether or not Parcel will begin to sell that data to brands is still up in the air. Regardless, Gibbons says the original mission won’t change. “The focus is always going to be on helping people get the things they want faster and more easily.”

Now that’s something we can all get behind.