The 105-year-old Hallmark has offered ecards on the desktop for more than a decade and found that 25% of the visitors to its Hallmarkecards.com website were using iPhones to send cards. It made sense to create an app, Kessler said, to make it easier for users to send ecards and to plug into a phone user's native contact list, address book and photos.
"Having the app's presence on the phone's home screen is significant enough to build an app," he said. "Frankly, a lot of users on a phone are using a very app-based ecosystem, so sending ecards this way offers the best possible experience."
There are hundreds of apps for iOS in the App Store that appear under a search for "greeting card" apps that could potentially compete against Hallmark. But Hallmark is banking on its long history in the greeting card business and exclusive art featuring Snoopy and Star Wars images, among others, to stand out. "With our high level of animation and artwork, you won't see as good a user experience," Kessler claimed.
Other unusual, if not unique, features include the ability to choose ecard recipients directly from a contact list and to send an ecard through Facebook, Facebook Messenger and email. Users can also schedule an ecard to be sent at a later date, to avoid missed birthdays. Also, users can view an ecard they have received right in the app, and can track when an ecard was sent and when it was opened.
While the app itself is free, a subscription is required to be able to send an unlimited number of ecards. A one-year subscription is $18, while a one-month subscription costs $5 -- the same price as the Web-based desktop Hallmark eCard.
Kessler said there's no interest in offering advertisements to raise the company's revenues. Hallmark's current ecard business is profitable, although the company is private and doesn't disclose such information. "We have high engagement from all our consumers who subscribe and then re-subscribe and love what we provide," he said.
The app requires iOS 8.0 and is optimized for the iPhone 5. It also works on the iPad and the iPod touch. Kessler said it made sense to start with iOS since there are fewer differences in screen size than with the wide variety of Android devices.
Hallmark was founded in 1910 in Kansas City, Mo. The company posted revenues of $3.8 billion in 2014 and has a work force of about 30,000 full- and part-time workers in various divisions, according to its website. Hallmark entered the ecard market more than a decade ago, and in 2012, it acquired a company called SpiritClips in Santa Monica, Calif. SpiritClips runs eCards and the Feeln video streaming service.
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