Melbourne startup Cardly allows consumers to digitally handwrite and doodle on independent greeting cards

- July 21, 2016 3 MIN READ

For special occasions like birthdays and christmas, greeting cards and gifts go hand in hand. While most people are all about the presents, if you have a mother like mine than you’ll know that the greeting card can not be forgotten – it’s the all important message on the inside that ties the whole gift together. Sometimes those Hot Dollar cards just don’t cut it so we turn to the classic Hallmark sold at every news agency and gift shop.

The greeting card industry is worth in excess of US$7.5 billion and is mostly dominated by Hallmark and American Greetings. The two industry giants are like the Apple and Microsoft of greeting cards and they earn big; according to the Greeting Card Association 90 percent of all households buy up to 30 individual greeting cards per year.

Women account for nearly almost all greeting card sales and buy for design rather than price. However the industry is frustrating for artists who want to sell quality products because the market in nearly impossible to penetrate.

“It always frustrated me that really good artists couldn’t play in the traditional landscape, the retail channels that sell greeting cards, largely because it’s dominated by these big American players. They do something similar to real estate where they buy up the space, which makes it very hard for anyone else to play in there,” said Patrick Gaskin, cofounder of Cardly.

Having worked in news agencies, Gaskin was exposed to how the industry works and the small margin independent artists had to play in. As a way to give these artists a space to work in and sell, Gaskin created an online greeting card platform called Cardly. The Melbourne startup provides a space for independent artist to sell handmade cards and consumers to digitally personalise them.

“Cardly is trying to help out artists and give people a more convenient way to buy really nice, independent greeting cards,” Gaskin explained.

The site has tried to recreate the experience of buying a card in store by placing emphasis on the visual designs on the cards. Each card is labelled in a particularly category like ‘Birthday,’ ‘Love,’ and ‘Celebration,’ to name a few.

After selecting a card a consumer is sent to the Cardly editor platform where they can digitally transform the inside of the card to create personalised messages and doodles. The technology Cardly has created allows consumers to type their message and that message is than recreated into a range of handwritten styles. The editor section enables consumers to alter their pen size and colour that best suits their style. A drag and drop doodle section also gives the option of adding in balloons and quirky art objects to give an added personal touch.

Cardly outsources its printers in Sydney, London and New York. Cards are shipped from each location for $6.45 regardless of whether shipping is to Australia, UK, or the US.

“We can store cards digitally and we print them only when needed, so that gives us sort of infinitely scalable product, which is great,” said Gaskin.

“When people use our platform they’re creating something really unique, it becomes less about price, so we’re not trying to sell the cheapest card out there. Although $6.45 is very competitive, there’s still enough margin for us and for the artist in particular, so we try and be as generous as possible for them.”

For artists selling in the traditional retail space, 60 to 70 percent of profits go to the retailer, which is pretty hefty when cards sell for $5. With Cardly, Gaskin said artists on the platform are paid 20 percent of the retail price. However with the site artists are given a distribution and printing service, not only as a way to expand audience reach but also social channels. Cardly has built subdomains for each artistssto they can have essentially their own website to sell just their product.

“The beauty of the internet and the ubiquity of the internet is that you can access it from anywhere, whereas a lot of these guys are selling in independent and boutique card shops, or maybe even just in markets like the design markets that happen a few times a year or really specialised ones like the Rose Street Market down here in Melbourne,” said Gaskin.

Currently Cardly has 35 independent artists selling on its platform and plans to grow that number to reach 17,000 customers by the end of the year. To date Cardly has launched its desktop platform and plans to open a mobile application that works on any device by October, just in time for christmas shopping preparation.

Gaskin said, “The most exciting in the short term is to bring on collaboration, so that will allow customers to create a card and then ask someone else to actually help contribute to what goes inside the card.”

Image: Tom Clift and Patrick Gaskin. Source: Supplied.