The Scoop: When life gets busy, people often don’t have time to do the laundry, much less sit down to handwrite a heartfelt note and send it to someone they love. That’s why Cardly designed a way for people to send that type of personal correspondence with the help of technology. Cardly users write a message, and it’s custom printed onto cards designed by hundreds of talented, independent artists — with fonts that look like handwriting. Users may even choose doodles and pictures to express themselves. Cardly also mails the card, helping users make the people in their lives feel special.
When people want to reach out to a friend or loved one to express their feelings or wish them a happy birthday, they often end up roaming a greeting card aisle. They spend time browsing for the right color, design, and message to convey their thoughts about both the person and their special relationship. Then they return home and try to find some time in their busy schedule to sit down and write a personal message. After that comes buying a stamp and remembering to put the card in the mail in a timely manner.
While most people love receiving a piece of personalized mail, those steps can add up for the sender. That’s why, in today’s world, handwritten notes and personalized cards seem to be taking a backseat to digital correspondence.
Although Americans purchase 7 billion greeting cards each year, with annual retail sales of around $7.56 billion, the global greeting card market is expected to shrink nearly in half by 2024. Many analysts believe the decline in greeting card sales is due, in part, to the disinterest of millennials and a preference for cheaper virtual alternatives.
Cardly was designed to bridge the widening gap between thoughtful, handwritten cards and the fast-paced world by infusing technology and independent artists into the process. The platform allows people to send personalized messages to loved ones — with a realistic handwritten look — in beautiful cards designed by artists from around the globe. Cardly even takes care of mailing the cards.
“One thing we love about greeting cards is that beautiful artwork sometimes helps us express what we can’t say in words,” said Patrick Gaskin, the Co-Founder of Cardly. “We offer that beautiful artwork, designed by amazing artists, and provide you a blank canvas inside to express your thoughts and feelings. It’s pretty disruptive, and we’re really excited about our growth.”
The Company Was Created to Strengthen Relationships in a Busy World
Patrick said he thought of the concept for Cardly when he was a young boy growing up in Australia. His parents owned a newsagency, a corner store that sold newspapers, candies, and greeting cards. Through the shop, he became so interested in the greeting card industry that he traveled to the U.S. to tour the American Greetings headquarters.
“A few years ago, I read that people don’t have as much time for greeting cards as they used to. People aren’t sending as many physical cards — but it’s not because they don’t want to,” he said. “It’s just finding time to do it. If you go to the drug store, you are limited to what they have to offer, and sometimes it just doesn’t speak to people’s aesthetics.”
That’s when he had an idea for how to modernize the industry. Patrick created a way to send physical greeting cards — with an assist from technology — in a way that was more sophisticated than the old-fashioned, often poorly designed photo cards.
“I wanted to do something with the underlying trend that people want to see beautiful designs on cards. We’re living in the world of Instagram now, and people really care about how things look and how they appear,” Patrick said. “So, we wanted to give them as close to what people used to do. Users are presented with a card, and they go about adding words and doodles and love hearts and pictures of dogs, and really whatever they wanted to do.”
He joined forces with Co-Founder Tom Clift, and they created the platform, which allows users to select from hundreds of artist creations, write a personal message, and then send the card either directly to their loved one in the U.S., Australia, or the U.K, or even back to them so they can personally hand it to the recipient.
“We think traditional mail still has a place, and our cards look handwritten and personalized, but we wanted people to do that from anywhere,” he said. “It has all of those same benefits of digital, such as the connection power of Facebook, but something that’s in a physical form and can become a keepsake. We want to facilitate personal connections and help people foster those relationships.”
It’s Easy to Show Others That You Care
Since the service started a few years ago, the customer base has been widespread. Much like the physical greeting card industry, most of Cardly’s customers are women — but not by an overwhelming amount. Men seem to love the site, too — especially around Valentine’s Day.
“People are using our service for birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Valentine’s is massive. It’s when people are thinking of loved ones, and it’s after hours so they can’t go to the store,” Patrick said. “They find us online and say, ‘That’s exactly what I needed.'”
He added that more than 60% of its sales are now from repeat customers who love the service. Another part of its popularity is that it gives people the tools to express their feelings — and put them into words.
“Many users — particularly men — have ‘blank page syndrome,’ which is when they find writing in a blank card a daunting task. So, we make suggestions that they can drag and drop on to the card to get them going,” Patrick said. “Or they can write their entire message themselves, and our technology will take what they type and make it look handwritten — then, they can add doodles.”
Once submitted, the card is then printed that day, put in a recycled paper envelope and sent through first-class mail.
Along with a variety of cards for special occasions — including birthdays, love, and seasonal holidays — Cardly offers a section for business to help companies connect with their customers with branded communications.
Along With Sending Love, Cardly Customers Support a Vibrant Community of Independent Artists
While Patrick believes the foundation for the company is fostering relationships, he’s also proud of the system he helped create that pays independent artists a fair wage for creative, interesting work.
He had the idea early on when he was frequently approached by artists who wanted to sell their physical greeting cards in his stores. However, he was running 50 stores at the time, and the artists could rarely service that many stores. Another consideration was that, in Australia, the greeting card industry and retailers have contracts controlling the merchandising space in a store, making it hard for independent artists to break through and use greeting cards as a way to support their craft.
“I wanted to reset that. We don’t work with multinational companies; we only work with independent artists who make their living as artists,” Patrick said. “We offer the best commissions to artists of any website I’m aware of. We pay them 20% of the card price instantly, and they don’t have to worry about marketing, printing, or sending. They can focus on doing what they love, which is being an artist.”
The artists are carefully selected as Patrick and his small team only invite artists who impress them. More than 1,500 different designs are available through Cardly, and Patrick’s ultimate goal is to provide the artists on the site with a level of security and financial independence.
“My dream for Cardly is that some of our artists will make so much money from the platform that they didn’t have to worry about money —they can just be artists,” Patrick said.