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Create eCards That Make An Impact With Smilebox

Create eCards That Make An Impact With Smilebox

Ditsa Keren
Smilebox is an online platform that lets you create beautifully animated greeting cards, invitations, and slideshows with just a few clicks of a button. In this interview, Smilebox General Manager Dan Mano explains what Smilebox is all about, and reveals some exciting new features for SMB’s.

Please describe your background as well as the story behind the company: What sparked the idea, and how has it evolved so far?

I am in love with online products. For the past 15 years, I’ve been doing business in different positions for internet companies. Most of my roles were around product development and marketing. I started my career at 888, an online gaming platform where I created a product called 888games. I founded and sold a beauty boxes subscription startup and later served as Chief Revenue Officer at MyHeritage when we built the DNA product, which was the biggest effort of the company. I joined Smilebox last year, and what I’ve seen is a huge opportunity. 

Smilebox was founded in 2005 in Seattle and was acquired in 2012 by Perion Network, a publicly-traded company on NASDAQ and the Israeli stock exchange.  

For 15 years, Smilebox has been clearly focused on one thing: eCards. We have some niche products around it, such as invitations, but invitations are practically an eCards with event functionalities. We also have the slideshows, a unique product that lets you take a bunch of photos and quickly create a slideshow with animation and music in the background. 

Our unique selling proposition is that all of our eCards are animated. We have our in-house studio with animators and designers and this is what we really do well. 

The three core values that lead us in everything we do are: 
  • Simplicity. All our products are very simple to use because we want our users to have a very quick and easy experience. 
  • Variety. We have thousands and thousands of designs. If you visit our website, you can browse through them and see for yourself.
  • Dynamics. Practically this is the animation part because we want our eCards to be unique.
There might be platforms out there that give the user more tools and options, that feels a bit like a professional design tool. We are trying to do something different. With our tools, the cards that you design will always look beautiful, you can’t ruin them. 

For example, in Smilebox, you don’t have absolute freedom where the text is placed, because we have brilliant designers that, in a way, are better designers than you, and that’s our state of mind. Simply pick the photos and compose the text, and we will do the rest. Our user experience is effortless and straightforward, especially on mobile, where we subtracted some features to make it even simpler. We allow people to create outstanding cards even when they are on the move.

About 95% of our market is the US market. We’re also active in the UK, Canada and Australia but we’re putting most of our focus on the American market, we don’t have cards in other languages for now. 

Here’s a quick introduction to Smilebox:

What are some business use cases for Smilebox?

In terms of business, we have B2C and B2B2C use cases.

Let’s start with what made us who we are, a business-to-consumer product that allows users to create eCards. They can select a design from our wide variety quickly and easily. Our slogan is “Any card you can think of”; any subject, any holiday, and we have a card for it. We have different colors and styles and you can always add a photo and personalize them. So this is the basics – our bread and butter.

The second layer is the invitations. When you make an invitation on Smilebox, you can add features like RSVP, date and time, a map, etc. 

We also have something very unique that we launched following COVID called Smilebox LIVE. When you create an invitation, you actually create a virtual event. The invitation has a countdown. When the time comes, the webpage of the Invitation becomes a live virtual meeting. It’s been very popular, people love it. Very simple. There’s nothing that you need to do. You practically just design the card, add the date and time, and it would work. 

In our slideshows, you upload the photos, you pick a design for the cover and photo frames, and you pick a piece of music either from our library or by uploading your own music in just a few clicks. All our designs are hosted on a unique web page which we call the Play Page. The recipients will get a nicely designed email with an envelope, and when they click the envelope, they’ll be redirected to the play page. 

I’d like to emphasize that our product is entirely web-based, so there’s no need to download anything. We work with top technologies; our back-end is written on .NET core and all of our front-end is JavaScript with React library, which gives a very smooth experience. 

We recently launched a B2B2C product that serves eCommerce websites. This is something exceptional and unique. When one purchases gifts on eCommerce stores, there is usually poor options around adding a greeting card. Even on Amazon, you can add a gift wrap for a few bucks, and 140 characters greeting that you fill into a box, but the characters would be printed on a flimsy receipt. 

So let’s say a customer buys a gift for their friend, but the friend doesn’t know about it, so the customer is now dependent on the shipping company. Even if the gift arrives on time, often it would be forgotten in the mailroom, and the recipient wouldn’t even know about it. 

We know that around 5-10% of online purchases are gifts, and we can improve that experience, especially now around COVID-19. 

So, we developed a new plugin that plugs into eCommerce stores very easily. After completing a purchase, it redirects the user to an interface where they can pick one of the designs, which are tailor-made for the brand, and create a card.

The user will write a few words, add a photo if they want, and schedule the exact time that they want the message to be sent. It can be in the morning of their birthday or when the package arrives. He or she would get an email containing the greeting, informing them that their gift is on its way, with a tracking code. Surprisingly, this was never done before, so we sealed the eCommerce gifting loop. 

Here’s some more information about Smilebox’s new service for eCommerce stores:

How does your pricing model work?

Smilebox is a subscription-based service. We have many types of subscriptions, depending on the product that the user needs. Our subscriptions start from $36 a year, which isn’t much at all. We see that users keep coming back and using it again so if, for instance, they come in for the first time to make a birthday card, they will come back on Valentines or some other holiday, or see all the beautiful slideshow designs, so they decide to try that as well. Even though our trial version has limited features, there are still many things that you can do. Overall, we have over 200,000 paying subscribers and around 10,000 new free users per day. 

Which trends or technologies do you find to be particularly interesting these days around your line of work?

Last year we developed a native iOS app, but we took it off the store because we understood from our users that they prefer to use web applications rather than native apps. We decided to invest all our efforts into a responsive web app that would fit both mobile and desktop. This is definitely a trend. 

Another trend is that users’ attention is very short. We have about 20 seconds to grab their attention. I’m not talking about the marketing aspects but from a product perspective. Users need 20 seconds to be convinced that this tool is something that’s going to help them. 40% of our subscribers are paying in the first 30 seconds they visit our website. So in 30 seconds, they started experiencing the product. They saw that they liked it, and they paid for it.

How do you envision the future of your industry?

I think it’s time for some advancement in the world of online greeting cards, and we hope to lead this change. We’re investing a lot of effort into interactivity. Most cards today are a one-way street: You send the card to a person who experiences what he sees on the screen. They may be able to put a like or add comments, but it’s not interactive. The capabilities of the internet today are so much more robust these days, so we are leveraging them to create beautiful, playful and surprising interactions that also have some gamification aspects. We’re very excited about this, and we’re hoping to launch it in the upcoming holiday season.

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Great writing as usual Ditsa. I wish you had the time to publish stuff like this more often :) BTW - This guy Dan is handsome, what a great pic!
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