There are plenty of reasons NOT to, especially when you have numerous handy greeting card shops locally.
- If you are looking to buy just one card, the shipping costs are out of all proportion to the cost of the card.
- You will have to think in advance as your purchase will not be in your possession instantly.
- And what if the quality is poor – many people like to hold a greeting card in their hand before deciding to buy it.
But nevertheless, people do buy greeting cards online, more maybe in the US but other countries are catching up. Greeting card websites abound and some of them are well established and very successful.
So why would anyone who has plenty of local outlets for greeting cards choose to order them online?
The first thing that sprang to my mind was that they might be housebound. I knew a couple where the wife was practically housebound and her husband did the shopping. When it came to choosing a birthday card for their daughter, he struck lucky and came home with a card that his wife really liked. She looked up the name of the artist on the internet, found her website and it all continued from there ...
Another reason could simply be that you don’t like shopping and going into a card shop is something you would rather avoid. I think this probably applies to quite a lot of men – I know my son would fall into this category!
But it was one of my daughters who gave me the biggest clue. She normally buys her greeting cards when she’s shopping in town but she told me that if she were looking for something very specific, then she would turn to the internet to provide.
This seems to be borne out by my online card sales. A very high percentage are age-specific, person-specific – or both! The very detailed ‘categories’ offered through Greeting Card Universe baffled me at first because many of them seemed so obscure! Just look at them here! No ordinary greeting card shop in the High Street could carry all those categories and subcategories. But of course with print-on-demand, the online stores don’t need to!
Which leads to a further reason why customers would turn to the internet for their card-buying. Personalisation!
Personalisation – or Customisation! – seems to be the flavour of our times! Once it was the prerogative of the wealthy to have custom-made suits and dresses, while the rest of us made do with ‘off-the-peg’. Now, with the benefit of technological advances, the ‘luxury’ of a one-off greeting card, created to our own specification is available to us all!
So how does all this affect us as we design our greeting cards?
It seems to me that there are two ways we can go;
1. Establish your reputation offline, get your cards selling in shops across the country, or even further afield! And then hope to pick up some extra sales from your website. Here are three of my favourite UK designers who have done just that:
2. Make your designs ever more specific! Birthday cards that age-, name-, family relation-specific, Get Well cards for every conceivable illness or procedure, Thank You and Good Luck cards for a variety of occasions, greeting cards for less known religious festivals and so on...
3. Taking that one step further - finding a good ‘niche’ will undoubtedly increase your sales. Greeting cards (and other printed items like T-shirts) that seem to do very well are often based on pet photos, especially if the pet is a very specific breed!
Offline, in our local shops, my ‘blank inside’, ‘any occasion’ greeting cards, based on my pastel paintings do well. But online they tend to sit there, gathering virtual dust.
The nearest I’ve come to finding my online and offline ‘niche’ is to make cards suitable for men, as friends have told me how difficult it can be to find anything suitable that isn’t full of unwanted innuendo! And, narrowing it down further, the fact that my grandsons are beginning to reach the teenage years has catapulted me into tackling that difficult and not very well-served category, cards for teenage boys!
Now I’m wondering whether it would be worth concocting a Folk Art style card design for a Welsh Step-Uncle, who is crazy about Tibetan Terriers,with a 53rd Birthday on Valentine’s Day?