A bot to help you choose the perfect Christmas card 

The British Heart Foundation has over a hundred Christmas cards in this year’s range. That’s a lot to choose from.

So, what people need, what they really really need, is a bot that can choose the perfect Christmas card for them. So, that’s what I did. I made my Interniser bot with a simple conversational flow that would select from the range of British Heart Foundation Christmas cards and suggest them to people chatting to the bot.

To make the bot do a bit more than just choose from a list of Christmas cards and to get a bit more engagement, the first few interactions are the bot asking some Christmas -related questions as a kind of personality test to help it determine the perfect Christmas card for the user. The bot then suggests a Christmas card and asks the human if they’d like to see another (just in case the suggestion wasn’t perfect).

From idea to implementation took less than three hours. One of my testers suggested that the questions could be used to select a persons choice of Christmas cards based upon useful questions that match the product filters on the website, such as “Do you want Christmas cards with glitter?”. Maybe that could be the next iteration.

To give the bot a try, just click Get started on Messenger or go to the Interniser Facebook page and start messaging from there.

Why you should buy your Christmas cards from a charity

According to the Institute of Fundraising, two billion Christmas cards are sent every year, and 30% of those cards are charity Christmas cards. That’s 600,000,000 cards. To make the maths easier let’s say that Christmas cards are sold in packs of ten, which means 60,000,000 packs are sold each year, and that a pack costs £3, which makes charity Christmas cards a £120 million a year business. Sounds like buying charity Christmas cards is a great way to support charities. But interestingly, of that £120m spent on charity Christmas cards only a small percentage of cards are actually bought from charities.

The majority of ‘charity’ Christmas cards are sold by commercial retailers, not charities. Retailers know that many people are predisposed to buy charity Christmas cards and want to leverage people’s feelings to sell their Christmas cards. Retailers form agreements with charities where a percentage of income from the sales of their Christmas cards are contributed to the charity. This percentage is often as low as 10% of the Ex VAT sale price, meaning that for every pack of Christmas cards you buy for £2.99, the charity receives just 25p.

If retailers really wanted to support a charity they could sell the charity’s Christmas cards on behalf of the charity, but of course they are a commercial operation that exists to make money so instead they sell their own range of cards and make a donation of a percentage of the sale to the charity. Of course the charity still benefits, and in some cases benefit quite a bit as even a small percentage from the large volume of Christmas cards that a retailer sells can generate considerable income. But of course, these kinds of agreements excludes any of the smaller charities as they don’t have the resources to work with retailers in this way. I don’t blame the retailers for this, it’s just business, but there is a better way for you to buy charity Christmas cards. Have you guessed what it is yet?

Christmas cards

Why do people buy charity Christmas cards?

People buy and send Christmas cards to their friends and family to wish them a happy Christmas and let them know that they are thinking of them at a time of year when being part of a family or social group is important. But charity Christmas cards add another layer to this, a deep and often emotional layer.

People buy charity Christmas cards to raise money for a charity, show support for the cause, show their friends and family that they care about the work of the charity, and for reasons far more emotionally complex than just wishing friends they haven’t spoken to for a while a merry Christmas. As many as they are personal reasons for people buying charity Christmas cards, one thing they’ll all have in common is the expectation that a charity will benefit from their purchase.

So, why do people buy charity Christmas cards from retailers instead of charities?

Probably because it’s convenient to add a pack to their weekly shop as they walk around the supermarket, and most likely because they don’t even know that the charity they want to support is even selling Christmas cards.

Christmas cards sales, for retailers and for charities, is a rush to get there first. They are all competing to be front of mind with potential customers because Christmas cards are the kind of product you only buy once a year, and once you’ve bought them you don’t buy again until next year. But charities don’t have the marketing budgets to compete with the retailers, so you may never know that your favourite charity sells Christmas cards that are just well made, and have equally beautiful/amusing/interesting designs, and contribute far more income to the charity.

Why you should buy your Christmas cards from a charity

Charities sell their Christmas in their shops and online, so before you buy your Christmas cards from your usual retailer, try googling the name of your favourite charity and ‘Christmas cards’. With a bit of persistence you’ll find some wonderful Christmas cards that your friends and family will appreciate. And if you don’t have a favourite charity, maybe now is the time to think about what causes are important to you and what charity you could support. The charity will get far more of the profits from the sale going directly to their cause and you’ll feel better about yourself knowing that at Christmas, you’ve done something good.

This is a better way for you to buy charity Christmas cards.

In case you didn’t know, I work for the British Heart Foundation where 100% of the profits from our Christmas cards fund life saving research. If you or someone you know has been affected by a heart condition you can show your support for the work of the British Heart Foundation by buying our Christmas cards and sending them to your friends and family.