Speedgreetings Prepares to Expand Its Print Services Online

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Speedgreetings is expected to introduce an e-commerce Web site next week after building its offline business as a third-party direct mail services vendor since 1999.


The site, www.speedgreetings.com, will offer full-color promotional greeting cards that typically run 6.5 inches by 5 inches and are printed on 65-grade paper stock.


The site will be targeted at small and medium-sized firms looking to do direct mail campaigns of less than 1,000 pieces. Companies will be able to go to the site and design card templates. The site will offer a toll-free number for marketers that want to further customize the creative aspect of the cards or to design other types of mail pieces.


Online pricing varies with the order volume. One card will cost $1.99 for envelope, postage and printing, while 1,000 cards will cost about 99 cents per piece. Order entries exceeding 1,000 will be directed to the call center supporting Speedgreetings' corporate sales division.


The target customer differs from Speedgreetings' offline business, which goes after Fortune 500 companies. Company CEO Chris Baynes said corporate clients mail an average of 500,000 to 1 million pieces each quarter and spend $25,000 to $50,000 monthly.


Speedgreetings farms out its print jobs to UPS subsidiary Mail2000, which has print fulfillment houses in Dallas; Hartford, CT; Minneapolis; Santa Ana, CA; and Washington. Mail2000, Bethesda, MD, will use the Xerox 2060 print-on-demand machine for the Web orders.


The print-on-demand machines complete orders the same day they are received. Speedgreetings sends the pieces via First-Class mail and promises they will be received within three days anywhere in the United States.


Companies can pay by credit card or establish an account, which includes a password-protected Web site that shows purchasing history. Corporate discounts are available based on monthly order volumes.


Online meal delivery company Greatmeals.com, Bethesda, MD, has been using a temporary version of the site since January as a testing mechanism on its target audience of middle-class Internet users. The 6-month-old firm sent more than 2,000 cards to existing customers for Super Bowl week and Valentine's Day promotions.


The results were varied. While 1.2 percent of the recipients for the Super Bowl promos placed orders, the Valentine's Day promotions had an order rate of better than 15 percent.


"We're completely happy with the results and the return [on investment]," said Kathy Turley, director of marketing at Greatmeals. "It's been great. We just give them the artwork and they go with it."


Speedgreetings will leverage its sales team of 15 to promote the site. A large direct mail campaign targeted at small businesses is also expected.


In addition, the firm plans to offer postcard and flier production at the site in the coming months.


Baynes predicted that his privately held firm would turn its first profit during the second half of this year.


The online print services sector has been dogged by a poor stock market and rumors that nearly every major player is strapped for cash. Most industry sources say that not enough print buyers are using the Web to justify vendor models similar to Speedgreetings.com.


Baynes said he thinks his sales team can educate print buyers to use his site. He said small businesses will see how the Web cuts communication costs and how print-on-demand machines diminish setup expenses.


"Our offline business focus on traditional direct marketing will help drive the Web site and help us reach profitability," Baynes said.


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