Brothers Ross and Jesse Harding were best friends growing up in Omaha, but they ended up growing apart when life took them to other places. When Jesse moved to California and Ross went to the University of Virginia, they were connected in the sense that they posted on one another’s Facebook walls or liked each other’s photos. But they didn’t talk on the phone much and they only saw each other once or twice a year around the holidays.
They weren’t taking the time or putting in the effort required to maintain a strong relationship, so it withered away over the years. “When we both moved back to Omaha, we realized we didn't feel like we knew each other anymore and [we] had to go about rebuilding our relationship,” Jesse told PYMNTS. The two brothers ended up co-founding Scribe, an eCommerce website that sells paper greeting cards.
The company lets consumers connect offline — through greeting cards that help them celebrate events with handwritten messages. The offering comes at a time when millennials are interacting through digital channels and find that actually receiving a physical greeting card is so much more meaningful. This demographic is also aging into the stage of life where more momentous occasions occur, like getting married, having a child or buying a house.
The eCommerce Platform
To start using Scribe’s service, a consumer can enter occasions into the site such as birthdays. As those events roll around, the company sends email reminders that tell a user that, say, her mom’s birthday is approaching. The platform would then suggest that a user choose a card for her through the site. (The company has an auto-select feature where the company will choose a card if they don’t skip an occasion and don’t select a card.) A consumer can also choose to have a stamp sent with the card. Either way, the greeting card arrives at her door so she can write a personal message by hand and put the card in the mail or have it ready for a party.
The firm’s greeting cards feature designs such as flowers for Mother’s Day and, for birthday cards, the company offers a spaceship, a cactus and a dragon, among other imagery. Some cards also have witty messages written on the front. One of the company’s birthday cards, which has a golf theme reads “fore you,” while the space-themed card reads, “I think you’re pretty stellar.” When it comes to card designs, the company teamed with artists to make one-of-a-kind greeting cards. The brothers wanted to tap designers and illustrators who maybe wouldn’t typically do a greeting card for its custom artwork. “We really want the cards to stand out” and be different than what consumers see on shelves at the local Target or CVS, Jesse said.
The eCommerce company wanted to put its efforts toward birthdays to start, and Jesse notes that birthdays make up half of all greeting cards sold. “That’s where we wanted to really focus first,” Jesse said. Beyond birthdays, the company offered Mother’s Day in its private beta, and users can currently choose cards for that occasion as well. In the future, the company plans to offer greeting cards for most major holidays. It will have Christmas, Hanukkah and general winter holiday occasions as well as Mother's Day, Father's Day and a more general anniversary selection over the next calendar year.
Ross, who serves as CEO of Scribe, noted that a wide variety of people purchase cards, but the specific demographic the company primarily aims to serve is millennial women. (Women buy 80 percent of greeting cards, he notes.) Millennials also have, in a way, different buying habits in general. The industry average greeting card price is $2 to $4, he says, while the average price millennials spend is $6. The brothers believe that is due to the fact that 80 percent of millennials are keeping greeting cards as a sort of keepsake.
But the company’s goal is not to just connect consumers with greeting cards. It aims “to be the one-stop-shop to connect with the people you care about,” Jesse said. It is most interested in complementary services that “encourage our customers to practice mindfulness,” he said. That could go beyond physical tools to prompts, guidance and educational materials to make consumers more mindful of their relationships overall as it brings offline connection to consumers living in an online world.