BLACKSBURG — Card Isle’s decision to partner with florists and gift shops looked like a logical choice.
As customers bought flowers and gifts for their loved ones, why not include a card with the items? And why not save time by designing and ordering the card online?
Now, the Blacksburg-based company is moving its technology into another space where greeting cards are a common and often complementary staple: grocery stores.
Card Isle announced earlier this month its partnership with OPIE, a Mount Pleasant, South Carolina-based drive-through grocery startup.
The partnership will give OPIE customers the ability to choose and personalize one of Card Isle’s many greeting cards and have the item added to their drive-through grocery order.
“We are excited to add OPIE, a drive-through grocery store, to our stable of customers,” said Card Isle co-founder and CEO Adam Donato. “The … partnership is the perfect blend — two technology companies, disrupting and transforming their industries.”
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Tyler Sones, co-founder of OPIE Grocery Stations, spoke on the practicality of pairing the concepts.
“We often need a greeting card in a rush, on the way to a birthday or running behind to a party,” Sones said. “We’re excited to partner with Card Isle to offer customers the convenience of personalized greeting cards in minutes.”
Founded by a trio of Virginia Tech engineering students about a decade ago, Card Isle started out with a network of strategically placed kiosks that customers used to design and print their own cards. The company touted the early platform as a way to more conveniently sell greeting cards.
The other key feature of the business is giving buyers the option to personalize their cards by letting them choose from a gallery of independent artwork and print their own messages — a core aspect of the company’s model that remains in place today.
“That’s the beauty of the Card Isle approach,” Card Isle co-founder David Henry said. “We offer a whole bunch of digital designs that can be personalized however the customer wants and those cards are printed on demand, on location.”
The company eventually began phasing out the kiosks, with the founders pointing to challenges with logistics and hardware costs as among the reasons for the shift.
Card Isle turned to the local area for its next step and began providing its primary service at Gates Flowers & Gifts in Christiansburg. That activity then led the company to collaborate with 1-800-FLOWERS.COM Inc., which takes orders placed on its online platform and partners with florists to provide the greeting cards.
Card Isle now works with more than 400 retailers in the floral and gift shop space, Henry said.
“What we’ve learned, listening to customers, is the core of what we were doing at the kiosks was really valuable,” Henry said. “What we’ve done now is offer that experience through retailers’ websites and supporting the process of printing those cards on demand at that location. But it’s more integrated at that retailer’s infrastructure. It has let us scale very rapidly over the last 24 months.”
Although he said he can’t reveal names just yet, Henry said Card Isle is under contract with approximately 30 other grocery stores to provide a service similar to the one with OPIE.
The team is also “in final contract review with an additional 70 to 150 grocery stores … that we could be activating over the next couple months,” Henry said. “We’ll emerge as the solution for grocery stores, bridging physical greeting cards into their e-commerce environment.”
As far as OPIE, the business works by allowing customers to either place their order at the drive-through itself or online. The company touts its ability to provide groceries in minutes and the fact that it requires no fees or order minimums.
Card Isle’s products were among the offerings that recently received home page promotion on OPIE’s website.
Henry said the partnership also comes at an opportune time as increased the pandemic has led to an adoption of online grocery ordering. He said many shoppers have enjoyed the convenience of curbside pickup offerings.
“What I think is cool is we stay true to the spirit of customer discovery,” Henry said. “Through listening to customer feedback, we’ve continued to evolve and adapt to a rapidly changing landscape of needs in the retail space.”