We've all received them — cheesy holiday greeting cards and party invites with messages like, "Ho ho hope you have a very merry Christmas."
Pre-written mass-produced cards are getting passed over in favor of a slew of new options, both digital and paper, created online via websites or mobile apps. The expanded offerings come as card companies gear up for the busiest time of the year.
Planning on throwing a holiday party? Evite last month launched Postmark, the company's first new offering since its 1998 launch. The digital-only invitations are being touted as premium products that are more visually attractive — think digital glitter effects and cutout angels — than typical text-on-rectangular-background Evites.
Customers can choose from a variety of envelope colors and coordinating patterned liners, write their own unique message and incorporate their own photos. Unlike Evite's free invitations, the products from the Postmark line cost money: For $12, users can send 75 personalized e-invitations with a coordinating designer stamp, for example.
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Hans Woolley, president of Evite, said the idea for Postmark came from users who said they wanted the ease and convenience of digital evites with the style of designer paper invitations.
"It's a new manifestation of the medium," he said. "We want to inspire you, break the mold a little bit, reinvent the category. It's like a juxtaposition of old and new."
If you still like the idea of a physical card, premium e-card company Paperless Post last month expanded its selection to include paper products. Paper by Paperless Post lets customers access the company's website to create holiday cards and other products that are then printed on stationery in thick and double-thick card stock.
Cards from the Paper by Paperless Post line start at $1.10 including envelope; production of custom cards takes three to seven business days, with deliveries to buyers via FedEx.
Siblings James and Alexa Hirschfeld, who co-founded Paperless Post three years ago, said they decided to roll out paper products ahead of the busy holiday season after realizing customers didn't want to be limited to online-only cards and invites. Despite having to pay more for products from the Paper line, customers don't seem to mind, they said.
Even technology giant Apple last year launched its homegrown Cards app, free in the App Store, which customers can use on their mobile devices to make letterpress cards personalized with text and photos. Physical versions of the cards can be sent directly to recipients within the United States for $2.99 and internationally for $4.99, saving the hassle of buying stamps and a trip to the post office.
The online card industry is a competitive space, and the next few weeks are "going to be the most intense time of the season," said Heather Maddan, chief storyteller at Shutterfly. The photo printing company has rolled out 600 new holiday card designs for the season, including 60 new religious card designs, and introduced a large 6-inch-by-8-inch photo card format. Photos can be uploaded from Instagram or other sources, and finished cards can be shipped to the buyer or directly to recipients.
Traditional card makers are also trying to stay ahead by offering apps to send custom holiday greetings. The Hallmark Go Cards app enables users to send greeting cards and photo cards with personal touches straight from their iPhone or iPod Touch. Hallmark will then mail the card anywhere in the United States for $3.49.