What A Card: Making The Transition From Print To Digital In The Greeting Card Industry

The digital world creates new opportunities and challenges for the greeting card industry. Jennie Rutterworth is the Creative Director of personalised greeting card website TheDogsDoodahs.com. Lexi Mills of The NextWomen talks to Jennie about her experiences of the move from print to digital in her business. 

Translating a business model to succeed in the online world is a challenge that many start-ups face, however, survival and business growth is dependent on this, and equally, the digital world presents great opportunities to get greater feedback and understanding of your customer. 

The greeting card industry has had to do this at a rapid pace. The UK has the largest greeting card industry in the world, topping £1.3 billion annually. In 2000, the first personalised, online greeting cards companies emerged. Then in 2010, TheDogsDoodahs.com launched, bringing their unique brand of fun and humour to the online greeting card industry.

We spoke to Jennie Rutterworth about the move from print to digital in the greeting card industry, the challenges it brings, and her ambitions for the future. 

TNW: Jennie, when did you start working at TheDogsDoodahs.com?

JR: I joined our parent company, Emotional Rescue [who produce cards for High Street and supermarket retail], 18 years ago. The first role was in product administration, which involved processing a new greeting card from the original source of the joke or strapline and putting it on the printed stock.

I couldn’t resist applying for the job – my friends and I would spend Saturdays in Athena browsing the cards and posters, howling at the jokes.

An advert in the local newspaper carried a picture of one of the characters I was familiar with (an Odd Squad cartoon), and they said they wanted "product superstars", so I jumped at the chance.

TNW: How was it, switching to a digital format?

JR: It's always been a learning curve. In my early days with greeting cards, we’d be scanning images on a flatbed and producing page layout on screen using Quark. This was back at a time when desktop publishing wasn’t on the syllabus in college. Everyone was self taught, and we helped each other out.

Now I have to work with smarter and more powerful software, such as Direct Smile personalisation technology and the Adobe suite. I also have to be able to input to the personalisation process and customer experience.

There are quirks within E-commerce that make my job a never-ending learning curve.

TNW: How are things different, now that you work on a website?

JR: Perhaps the biggest difference between the two worlds is that, in the online sector, we get daily or even hourly feedback on the product. In the old world, January’s designs would have scoring in February.

We get a lot of feedback from customers, so it’s a rapidly changing and highly reactive environment.

There is another significant difference between the online and offline product, but it's at the heart of the greeting card business. That is appropriateness. Where a print product might be very specific and represent a unique relationship between the person buying a card and the recipient, the online version has to appeal to a wide range of the population, so that the business model, where people fill in a name into a template card, can work. The card has to be applicable to just about everyone, so the card makes sense and is a good purchase.

Some things don’t change, though. The subject matter is often the same, be it getting older, drinking or getting laid. Greeting cards are a universally wonderful reference for British humour!

TNW: What challenges do you face online that you didn't face in print?

JR: The website comes with its own demands. We've only had one significant problem so far, though. When the clocks went back in October, our version of the Direct Smile went into chaos. We found out from the original coders in Germany that the time change hadn’t been reflected properly, and it caused a crash.

We’ve solved that for the future now, but of course it is in the busiest of seasons that issues arise, so we all stay plugged in, listening for hiccups.

It helps that our extended team is close to us. Our web development team are geographically nearby and highly tuned into our needs, as is our digital marketing company, who work closely with us on our PPC, social and banner advertising.

So far we’ve never failed to get a customer order out on time because of a technical failure, so it seems to be working.

TNW: Where do you hope to be in five years?

JR: My long-term hopes are more about the site than about me personally. Ideally I’d like the website to be a stronger contender in the market, and I would have a bigger role in the industry as a result. My job would evolve with that.

You can always make more work for yourself, but right now I just want to get a bigger slice of what we’re already doing.

Our foothold in the High Street is still strong, and will remain strong, but we know card buying is changing, both online and offline. We’re very excited about where the website will take us; it has amazing prospects. We just need to keep investing energy and money to ensure we do it right.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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