What Cardsalk is all about
Bringing card buyers and artists together
Our mission is to provide personal, high-quality, sustainable greeting cards. Unlike traditional card brands, we are already doing this both with online sales and our self-service “Redbox for Greeting Cards” kiosk.
Game Changer: Cardstalk “Redbox for Greeting Cards” Kiosk
First launched in November 2021, our kiosk has already proved itself in the field. Over the MVP deployment period (Nov 2021-Mar 2022), Cardstalk has printed dozens of great quality cards, keeping up even during the busy Winter holidays and Valentine's season. Customer feedback has been positive, with especially positive remarks about our card quality and the fun selection of designs by local artists.
By bringing our innovative card printing system into brick-and-mortar, we not only make card shopping better - but open up new opportunities for independent artists to promote their work in their own communities. The kiosk allows us to do all of that, while providing best-in-class card products that compete with Hallmark and American Greetings.
Cards for real people, supporting real indie artists
Thoughtful gift-givers have a knack for finding cards that are as unique as the person they are giving it to. But what’s unique about big-brand cards that are designed by committee, bulk-printed by the thousands, and then bulk-shipped in single-use plastics? At Cardstalk we keep it direct. Independent and local artists design each card, gift-givers choose the design and customize it, and Cardstalk prints it on-demand - either in 60 seconds at our “Redbox for Greeting Cards” kiosk, or at Cardstalk HQ for delivery by mail.
Our system enables designers to bring their work to customers in brick-in-mortar quickly, giving them end-to-end support for:
1. Card Publishing: Independent artists upload their designs on https://cardstalk.ink, and Cardstalk approves them for sale on our card marketplace.
2. Order Fulfillment: Card shoppers can browse cards online, or at the kiosk. When shopping at the kiosk, shoppers can pay on-the-spot, and have their card printed in 60 seconds.
3. Payments: Artists are paid a portion of revenue for each card sold, at least $1 per card. Unlike other print-on-demand services, artists typically receive payment within 3 days and there is no minimum payout.
Cardstalk vs Traditional card aisles
It’s not just customers and artists who love Cardstalk, innovative retailers are some of our vocal champions. That’s because we let them do something that the big card companies can’t: reclaim valuable floorspace without sacrificing their ability to provide great cards for customers.
Floorspace, Floorspace, Floorspace!
Next time you’re out shopping at a retailer with a card aisle, try to count the linear feet devoted to greeting cards. Many stores have an entire aisle devoted, and very few have less than 16”. Some brands, like Hallmark, even force retailers to devote a minimum of linear feet: Such as 24” for Pharmacies (Source: 2018 Independent Pharmacy Cooperative) and 286” for Hallmark Crown Stores (Source: 2011, Hallmark).
With Cardstalk, a retailer can sell as many cards as they please - all with less than 4 feet of linear floorspace required. Reclaiming that floorspace gives retailers the flexibility to stay competitive in tight markets, and control their own floorspace and how to use it.
Select and Customize Anywhere, Pickup at Store
One of our most frequent comments from customers is that they love the idea of browsing cards without being chained to a card aisle to do it! Our online card marketplace lets customers choose the card they want before driving to the store, and upcoming customization features will allow them to personalize any card as well.
Bringing Local Art to Retailers
Demand for products from local artisans is strong, and Cardstalk gives retailers an effortless way to tap into the enthusiasm and loyalty of shoppers who want to support makers in their local communities. While the Cardstalk marketplace is open to anyone in the US, our kiosks prominently feature designs by artists who are located in communities nearest the kiosk.
We interviewed shoppers who purchased from the kiosk, and the most common response to the question “Why did you use the kiosk?” included positivity towards the Local art and Local artist messaging. It’s not just us either! In 2020, Etsy added a feature to their site to tell shoppers when an artist was local, and in their 10-K filing they revealed that this messaging increased conversion rates and reduced carbon footprint!
Cardstalk vs Traditional card aisles
While picking up in store is still the most common way to buy a card, online services like Etsy have started opening doors for artists to reach broader audiences through online sales. Cardstalk understands that many customers enjoy the convenience of online ordering, so we opened up our card marketplace and card browsing experience to the entire country, with our order online feature. Compared to Etsy, customers love that all of our cards are the same top-quality 100% recycled cards from the kiosk, and artists are relieved that we handle the printing and shipping for them.
What our Artists are saying
Our Journey to Traction
Greeting Card Market & Opportunity
Greeting Cards have been in steady demand in the US for decades, and at over $7 billion in annual sales in the US, demand remains strong even in the internet age. Statistics from the Greeting Card Association show that demand is not dying off, and that millennials and high-income households are actually among the most likely to buy and give cards.
While shoppers want cards, many are unhappy with the selection and quality of cards made available to them. Nearly every card-buyer we interviewed had stories about traveling to multiple stores to find the right card, or being disappointed when online card orders arrived days, or even weeks late. For this reason, we believe our kiosk model is the key differentiator that will let us tap into this market and drive sales.
How do we make money?
“Printing Cards is Like Printing Money”
- Peggy Parolin, former Director of Licensed Creative Content Development, Hallmark
Based on user feedback around card quality and uniqueness of designs, Cardstalk has settled on a price of $7 per card (tax inclusive). This is competitive with Hallmark’s pricing for full-sized (5”x7”) loose cards in the aisle, and less than many premium card brands (LovePop, ~$13).
The primary costs of cards are actually not in the materials, but in paying out retailers and artists.
While Cardstalk is in the MVP period (while we have fewer than 5 kiosks deployed), we have temporarily increased the artist payout to $3, as part of an agreement with our artist partners to entice them to onboard and promote our product early. Once we have a greater number of kiosks deployed, artists have expressed willingness to reduce the payout to a standard $1 per card, as total sales volume should increase and improve their overall payout amount.
Pricing for Custom Cards
Our feature roadmap includes functionality to allow users to upload their own photos or digital art for the purpose of personal card printing. The current plan is to keep pricing the same ($7) for this feature. As artist payouts will not be required for these sales, average per-card profit will increase when this feature is implemented. Total per-card profit increased will depend on how frequently customers choose customized card images over artist images.
Our current agreement with Earth Fare is to payout $1.50 per card sold. As we negotiate deals to deploy Cardstalk kiosks into other retail partners, we may test variations on the retailer compensation portion to ensure we are competitive to current income retailers receive from card aisles(as calculated on a per-linear foot basis). One model we are open to piloting is to pay retailers a flat amount per-month to rent the floorspace, and reducing or eliminating the per-card retailer pay-out.
Materials for Cardstalk kiosks, as presently designed, cost ~$5500 each, which can possibly be reduced to $5000 when components are purchased bulk. Our cards are currently listed for $7.00, where $1.50 goes to the retailer and artists receive a base payout of $1.00. During the introductory launch period, while we only have one kiosk, the artist base payout has been temporarily increased to $3.00, to incentivize Artist onboarding. This temporary cost increase will be maintained until we scale out to more print kiosks, as projected in phase 1 (see “Growth Plans” below),. Once we’ve reached that point, we plan to let Artists customize the pricing of their cards in order to make their desired profit, with Cardstalk taking a percentage of that (amount TDB).
Target Per-Kiosk Return on Investment (ROI)
After taxes and fees, we expect a total profit of ~$3.00 per card. If cards sell at the estimated 10 cards per-day average, we expect a single kiosk to achieve an ROI in less than 9 months. This ROI calculation includes per-kiosk operating expenses, technician salaries and other projected maintenance costs. Expected lifespan for a kiosk is 5 years, based on warranty and support available for the core printing technology.
Additional Revenue Stream Opportunities
Once Cardstalk kiosks are deployed into brick-and-mortar, we are planning to investigate other revenue streams that do not require additional hardware to implement. This includes investigating the practicality around printing additional content within the cards (ie, printing gift cards inside, selling NFTs with the cards), but our main focus is on potential services based on card search and sales data.
We have a two-pronged plan for growth, and will allocate resources to each prong according to demand we see.
1. Keep improving kiosk unit economics until Cardstalk can consistently outperform card aisles in high-foot-traffic locations (Grocery Stores). Once unit economics are consistently strong, the kiosks simply need a dense deployment network to ensure profit at high scale. To improve unit economics, we will:
a. Drive up overall volume of card sales by: improving card selection, adding card customization features to drive demand, improving kiosk usability and messaging for new users, marketing targeted to repeat users, marketing leveraging local artists social media, marketing leveraging partner retailer resources
b. Improve per-card profit for retailers - experiment with different price points and determine the amount that pays retailers enough to justify replacing card aisle.
2. Online Orders Shipped by mail
a. Direct-to-consumer Sales (started in Feb 2022): Market our cards directly to buyers who would otherwise be using sites like etsy, but who like our card selection, card quality, and consistent ordering and shipping experience. Experiment with online marketing to drive sales from channels like Facebook and Instagram.
b. Drop-shipping on behalf of artists. Rather than direct sales, let artists use channels they already promote (such as Etsy) to receive sales, and then charge the artists a fee to ship the cards directly to customers on their behalf. Once artists are on-boarded for dropshipping, the digital resources they provide for that will be available internally, and onboarding their work for kiosk sales and direct-to-consumer sales will be seamless.
In all cases above, we expect that our forthcoming Card Customization Feature will be an additional popular option for customers - whether in-store, or online. From a technical standpoint, we expect that the requirements around drop-shipping image uploads and custom image uploads will be extremely similar, meaning we’ll be able to re-use code to deliver features faster.