postcard webshop

in Failure, Lessons Learned, Problems Worth Solving, Uncategorized

PWS#7: The postcard set webshop – to have a card on hand for different occasions FAILED

Another idea that failed! What was the plan? Set up a webshop for postcard sets, selling babycard sets, or non-babycard sets with various designs to people who love sending personal cards a lot, and have trouble finding nice postcards.

However, the card business as we know it from the old days is pretty dead. How do I know? I tested my problem via a survey among 30 family members, friends and colleagues. Here are my main conclusions that made me decide it’s again time to PIVOT!

  1. I had naively assumed that these days people buy physical cards online more often than they do in reality. Only 7% bought a card via a webshop. This doesn’t seem very promising for my potential business. Furthermore, whereas I thought that sending a card via a platform like Greetz with printed content is less personal than a handwritten card, apparently at least 20% doesn’t consider it as big of a problem to switch to physical cards as an alternative.
  2. Considerably less people than assumed (only 13%!) find today’s postcards extremely shittily designed. Ugly design was one of the main reasons why I thought a postcard business would be a great idea.
  3. 75% of respondents received a card longer than a month ago, and one user mentioned that even though she sends a lot of cards, she doesn’t receive too many back. I experience the same thing, and realise I shouldn’t try influencing other people’s behaviour because that’s extremely hard. 

Hence, sending personal postcards will remain a hobby for now! If you’re curious on how I came up with this business idea in the first place, read more below.

The problem

For a year or two or so, I have many friends who become pregnant, have babies, then celebrate kids birthday parties and the like. Especially during these special occasions, I’d like to send a personal card to show my friends, family and other acquaintances I care about them. However, it’s hard to find cute postcards that are reasonably priced.

The solution

March 2020

I notice that I really love sending personal cards as it allows me to be creative and show my friends/family/colleagues that I’m thinking about them. Initially, I paint cards one by one. As time goes by, however, I spend an increasing amount of time painting these cards, and start wondering how I can make this more scalable.

Example painted card

September 2020

A few months later I come up with the perfect solution: by using HEMAs photo service, I could print a set of 10 cards at once. I decide to create a cute baby card that is pretty general, so that I can use it for different occasions (mainly 1st birthdays, and births). Some friends who receive the card say they find it super cute, and I am super happy hearing that!

First generic postcard printed in a set of 10

Once I run out of my initial stack, I discover that Albelli offers the same thing for less if using a discount code. Within weeks, I have 4 sets for different purposes (birthday/birth, good luck/get well/thank you, pregnant, and ‘just because’ (zomaar). I’m really happy with my stack of cards, as I know I’ll always have a nice card of the occasion arises.

The different designs on hand

The test

March 2021

After months of COVID-19 misery, and well into the lousy evening-clock evenings, I decide to pick up an inspirational book by Erik Kessels (Failed it!) as I’m bored out of my mind. At some point, Erik mentions that “if you don’t feel like an idiot at least once a day, it’s time to work less and play more”. Furthermore, one of the pages in this nice little book literally states “Don’t be boring”. These quotes get to me, because I used to not be boring, and I used to feel like an idiot way more often than these days. Erik’s inspirational book gives me a huge energy boost that immediately gets me into action mode.

I start brainstorming on the things I can do to also ‘feel like an idiot’.

The first thing that comes to mind are the kids books that I made as a birthday gift (see Problems Worth Solving #6). I’m thinking I can print 100 books and sell them via FB ads. I talk about it with a couple of friends and they advise me to not print anything, but rather check demand via a launch page (“coming soon”). That sounds logical.

After a couple of more talks with friends about my books, my idea completely changes: instead of selling the books, I will send postcard sets: 3 of my female friends confirm that they also send many (kids) postcards, but have trouble finding cute cards for a reasonable price. I believe that this is the validation I needed to set up a postcard webshop selling postcard sets.

The plan de campagne

April 2021

I order a domain name, request a quote from a printing and fulfilment company and start brainstorming on how to set up my website. However, when I ask a friend for her opinion on some new designs, I get mixed feelings on whether I shouldn’t ask more people before actually setting up my Facebook campaign. Hence, I launch a survey, conduct more interviews, and receive highly interesting responses:

Results based 30 responses

  1. Of the total number of respondents, about 30% sent a card during the last 2 weeks. This sounds pretty promising!
  2. However, only 7% purchases physical cards online via a webshop. Most cards are bought offline, either in a chain store like Albert Heijn (43%), or in speciality card store (14%). One fifth of participants purchases cards from platforms like Greetz that send cards directly to people’s homes.
  3. 13% reports that cards on the market have shitty design. Half of respondents doesn’t see any hassle in selecting or purchasing the card
  4. Regarding baby-related events, a birth is the most cited event to send a card (17x), then birthday (6x)
  5. Regarding non-baby related events, birthdays are most often cited (24x), then ‘thank you’, ‘condolences’, ‘take care’, and ‘just because’ (all around 8x cited)
  6. When it comes to the reasons why people send cards and how they feel when they receive a card, it pretty much comes down to the same thing: sending a card is more personal than a WhatsApp, and the majority feels happy to send cards (80% completely agrees to the statement ‘sending a card makes me happy’)
  7. Less than one fifth of participants reports to have bought a set of cards more than once, and nearly half of participants mention that they most likely will not consider buying a set of cards.
  8. When prompting for the last time that participants received a card themselves, 75% reports that it was longer than a month ago or that they can’t even remember.
  9. When asking for people’s feelings when they receive a card, pretty much everyone feels ‘happy’, ‘grateful’, ‘special’, ‘excited and loved’, ‘appreciated’, ‘surprised’.
  10. From the people who sent a card during the past 2 weeks, they bought their card either in a speciality store or online via a platform like Greetz that sent the card straight to receiver’s address. Furthermore, only 25% reports that cards are shitty, the others don’t have troubles. 
  11. During an interview with one of the participants who sends cards a lot, I discover that she doesn’t necessarily receive a lot of cards back.
Shockingly interesting finding: most people buy their cards either at Albert Heijn, in a speciality store, or via an online platform like Greetz

Key learnings

  • Doing a survey + some interviews is a great quick and cheap way to get more insight into user thoughts and behaviour. No need to set up a website, Insta account, FB campaign to gauge interest!
  • I’ve discovered a pattern in my business ideas: the target audience isn’t clear enough. Either I adapt my idea further, or I drop it for something else. Great insight!

These results undermine my reasons to start a postcard webshop. I could change my idea to fit behaviour (eg trying to sell designs to Greetz, Hallmark etc) but decide I’m dropping this idea for now to focus on something else.

Let’s pivot!