AWS for Industries

Industry Innovators 2022: Making New Hallmark Moments with Digital Transformation

As a part of our “Engaging Shoppers & Consumers” track at this year’s Industry Innovators virtual event, we had the pleasure of welcoming Hallmark’s Chief Technology Officer Chai Pallapothula to discuss how the company is engaging shoppers and consumers with the help of digital transformation. In this post, we cover highlights from Pallapothula’s “How Hallmark is accelerating a digital transformation” presentation and dive into Hallmark’s push to create personalized customer experiences.

Working in the digital space for the last 15 years, Pallapothula has experience with retail giants like Walmart Labs, Expedia, and Levi’s where he was a part of several digital transformations – even leading a few. In this session, Pallapothula shares Hallmark’s digital transformation journey and how these changes are not only breaking down communication barriers, but reimagining the consumer experience.

According to Pallapothula, part of the reason why Hallmark is seeing success around engagement is because the company is always thinking about long-term strategy. But something Pallapothula says is even more important: Hallmark always invests in the future. As Pallapothula says, “even through the pandemic, we never stopped investing.”

Migrating everything to the cloud

When we talk about migrating to the cloud, the list of systems typically ends at customer-facing apps. Hallmark embarked on a journey to migrate not just customer-facing systems to the cloud, but its ERP, merchandising systems, retail systems (including point-of-sale), and its data warehouse all on AWS.

Not the shopper, but the recipient

Apart from investing in DevOps, advanced analytics, and data science, Hallmark chose to make its own recommendation engine. Why? Because for Hallmark, the recipient is more important than the shopper. The problem is that most personalization within standard recommendations engines is geared toward the shopper on the site – not the recipient. Finding information about who the recipient is, whether that be gender or location, is important for Hallmark to better personalize the consumer experience.

The new way to send a card (even if it’s last minute)

Greeting cards have existed since 1912, which is when Hallmark first invented the category. While the experience has remained relatively unchanged, a study from 2018 let Hallmark know the greeting card industry was in need of reinvention.

In the study, respondents noted several frustrations with the current process, such as the overwhelming nature of searching for a card, not having stamps, and forgetting about cards until it’s too late. With only 2% of greeting cards sales taking place online, Hallmark saw an opportunity to remove friction and boost online sales with its online card order strategy. Instead of trying to find and mail the card yourself, Hallmark now offers a way for consumers to find the right card online and let Hallmark handle the packaging (envelope and stamp) as well as mailing. Its Sign & Send mobile app also lets customers personalize their selected cards. The app even lets customers write a message in their own handwriting.

With an automated print line that can handle artifacts like wood frames, pop-ups, glitter, and more, Hallmark is able to produce custom cards for every recipient. The print line is automated and the error rate is less than 0.0001%.

In addition to these capabilities, Hallmark offers its customers seamless retail fulfillment capabilities like buy online, pick up in store, or even ship from store – where you can have your card packed and shipped for you, so you can get your message out without worrying about stamps.

The next big thing – “phigital” greeting cards

Hallmark video greeting cards combine a physical card with a digital experience, allowing anyone who buys the card to upload videos and images that can be shared with the recipient. Using a QR code to upload, the shopper can share the code with others to get involved and share wishes. This platform seamlessly stitches media together for a personalized experience that can be as short or long as the customer needs. During peak creation in February 2022, Hallmark saw hundreds of thousands of media uploads at a rate of nearing 1,000 videos per minute. Pallapothula shared an example of a birthday “phigital” greeting card where one sender was able to share their card close to 100 people across the globe to create a video that was over an hour long. This example demonstrates how limitless this application and the ability to connect and share special messages can truly be.

There’s no doubt Hallmark has seen its fair share of changes throughout its 110-year history. Hallmark is a company that brings people together, and with the world largely kept apart for more than two years now, Hallmark knows creating special moments together is more important now than ever before.

Interested in learning more about innovators in the world of AWS and what drives them to continue to redefine their industries? Register for the free, on-demand content from “Industry Innovators: Retail & CPG.” Or if you’ve already registered, access Pallapothula’s Hallmark session here.