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Author Topic: Business-oriented ecard service or software?  (Read 734 times)

JavaJones

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Business-oriented ecard service or software?
« on: April 14, 2016, 05:44:23 PM »
Hi folks, I've got a sudden and surprising need for some kind of "ecard" (electronic card) system or service and I thought the DC community might have some ideas for how to address this need.

The basic requirement is for a system that:
  • Web-based, ideally (we don't want customers to have to download e.g. an app to their computer or phone to view
  • Allows easy creation of card-like visually-oriented messages (think traditional ecards)
  • Allows use of custom images provided by the user, preferably able to specify "cover", "inside", and maybe even "back"
  • Ideally the text is all customizable and has a hand-written look (e.g. a "script" type font)
  • Can handle automatic mailing to a list or group of people
  • Can personalize the text on each message with e.g. {first_name}, so that you get e.g. "Dear Bob Johnson" in the "card" contents
  • Provides some kind of way for the recipient to view the card in a nice way, something as simple as images of the front, inside, and back, or a more dynamic approach that lets them click to flip between views or something

So the general idea in this particular case is our "user" would create a base card in the real world, some kind of hand-drawn design, then scan that and use it for the cover and possibly interior or back. Then they upload this to the "system" and write a message in the online editor. They upload their contacts (or select from a list they previously uploaded), and the system can then send out ecards to those contacts with custom greeting per-contact.

The bottom line goal is to have a way to contact and thank customers in a customized way that includes their name and custom imagery/graphics/etc. And to be able to create and send this out easily and quickly. So for example of course one could do this all in Photoshop or InDesign but the process of customizing the card for each recipient and sending it out would be laborious.

This probably sounds suspiciously like typical mailing list system features, but from what I've seen the main issue there is very few mail clients support anything but basic fonts. Web font support (or Google Fonts) is quite limited, even in Gmail. So the ability to do e.g. "Hi Bob Johnson" in a nice-looking (i.e. script font) way is quite limited if not impossible. Most of these systems also don't provide card-like templates, nor do they have web-based viewing systems with any sophistication (i.e. with a way to view front, inside, and back of card in a nicely presented way). It would all work in a pinch, certainly, but it's pretty non-ideal and not really capable of the full feature list here.

I have searched around Google of course and have found no end of very, very bad ecard sites (it seems, perhaps unsurprisingly, to be a market full of garbage, make-a-quick-buck type sites with terrible content and horrible design/functionality). Most of them are heavily template-focused, with lots of terribly-designed holiday themed cards, Thank-You cards, etc, etc. Custom capabilities (e.g. upload image for front of card) are limited when available (which is only in a minority of cases anyway). And none of them seem to have good contact management. Many also have advertising, etc. The need here is for a business-oriented system, one we're happy to pay for to get good service, but ideally at a price that is competitive with other mailing-type services.

There was one "business-oriented" ecard site I found, http://ekarda.com/features-overview/ but it seems to be largely template-oriented and the ability to upload e.g. custom front images is unclear. They have a "custom" option but it's more like a service to design a card for your company, which is probably expensive. The card send-outs themselves are also not cheap, around $.80/each for 100 at a time. MailChimp, by contrast, is free up to 2000 or so recipients! That price would be acceptable if they supported all needed features, but they seem to be pretty focused on their own pre-existing designs which won't work for this need.

Then there's B2B Ecard http://www.b2becards.com/Ecards?page=2 Which seems again heavily focused around templates, in this case even narrower, around specific holidays. Even their "Custom" option seems holiday-oriented. And it's all quite expensive-seeming to boot!

There's also Smilebox, which is an app that requires install on a desktop machine, and I haven't tested it yet. http://www.smilebox.com/learn-more.html It may do some or all of what is needed here, but again it seems very template-oriented and we're more interested in providing our own graphics. I thought someone here might either know what Smilebox can do from personal experience, or have a better suggestion.

Are there any better options out there folks?

Thanks!

- Oshyan

JavaJones

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Re: Business-oriented ecard service or software?
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2016, 07:36:08 PM »
OpenMe is another service that just misses the mark: http://www.openme.co...d18f34fbb067057ee1b4

They are all template-based as well, but they have a "blank" photo template. Unfortunately it doesn't have a normal "signature" style, it puts the name at the bottom of the card interrupting the frame. Not a deal breaker, but a little non-ideal. More importantly it doesn't seem to have any personalization of the "to" part. And that *is* pretty much a deal breaker. It also has advertising/branding in the email sent to the recipient. And while there's a decent web view, it would be nice to be able to zoom in as well and get a higher quality view.

So again a *business-oriented* (i.e. brandable) option would really be helpful here. One that has the above features, of course.

*sigh*

- Oshyan

Curt

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Re: Business-oriented ecard service or software?
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2016, 09:57:22 AM »
nowadays they do it via their smart phone:


Real paper postcards, straight from your phone

Zoner

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Re: Business-oriented ecard service or software?
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2016, 04:37:40 PM »
Do you have a really specific use-case for this?

E-cards seems extremely 90'es, and security training generally goes "don't click links in emails, and don't open attachments unless you're specifically expecting it."

On top of that, as a customer, I'd feel kinda offended (or at the very best, indifferent) at receiving one of these. They're obviously designed to make people feel special, but they're also obviously templated and mass-mailed. I might value a hand-written physically-posted card, but something digital? Just another piece of spam fighting for my attention.
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JavaJones

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Re: Business-oriented ecard service or software?
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2016, 01:16:09 PM »
Sorry for the delay guys, and thanks for the initial replies!

We found several services that send physical cards, which are great but *comparatively* expensive. That was the initial plan, send real, physical cards, but the cost overhead is just too high to make it worthwhile.

So yes, this is a very specific use-case. In this situation it's a way of delivering a specifically requested piece of content to a customer. More specifically, these are "rewards" for Patreon, Kickstarter, or other crowd funding efforts. I know that may sound lame, still like something you wouldn't want to receive even as a donor, but imagine for example you have a traveling circus show that you're helping to fund, the idea is that you would get a semi-personalized custom card from the circus troupe from every location they visit (the card design and content are unique for each location).

The hope here is to provide a little sense of personality and connection that an average (or even good) mass email just doesn't do. It may not ultimately be a good idea, and that's useful feedback if it's true. But it's important to think of the actual scenario we're talking about here. It's the equivalent of getting, say, a sticker from a crowdfunding campaign for contributing. Do people actually want or do anything with the sticker? Probably not, for most. But an e-card with something personal from the latest performance location of the group might be nice(er). Plenty of crowdfunding campaigns do stickers, or other things, and yes these are physical items that have that value vs. digital, but if the digital can be more personal, more unique, and can be regularly updated (a new card from each location), that seems to have value over the physical, in my view.

Maybe I should have started by asking the even more general question of what kind of rewards might be of interest to people in that kind of crowdfunding scenario that would also be low-cost (after all what's the point of contributing to someone's patreon if most of your donation goes to your reward+Patreon fees+card processing fees?). If so I'll start a different thread for that. But for now I'm still curious to see if anyone has any ideas for how to meet this specific need.

Thanks!

- Oshyan