[ Review ] Paperless Post

Paperless Post is a digital-only invitations platform. But is it any good? For this blogger, the answer is an unfortunate no.

Recently I was approached by a marketer for Paperless Post to give their service a whirl in exchange for a review and a link. The only reason I agreed is because I’m an avid letter-writer. The proposition up-front was ‘invitations’ but there was a section that said ‘greetings’.

Even though I am not interested in pretend letters, I saw something on their site that said ‘greetings’ and had a subcategory, ‘personalised stationery’, so I thought, you bewdy and said yes.

Paperless Post do ‘greetings’ badly. And because I didn’t have anything to invite people to, to test that function, I can’t comment on that functionality.

My disappointment at discovering that the personalised stationery was not stationery, but just their existing templates with your own name on it, is impossible to convey to you. It was actually deflating. I thought it might have been a physical option. (Yeah, I know.)

Now, you can buy the stationery if you love it! They give you that option.

However, you must be willing to click away and go off to another site, and then do the work to find it all over again. As a user, that was totally unsatisfactory to me. Once I do all the work to find something I like on one site, I am not going to waste another half an hour to do it all over again somewhere else. Why don’t the links go to the items in question? Seems like lazy linking to me.

But, you know, I’m just one user.

So, I sent one of these things to a friend overseas, asking for her input. It’s very likely that my own biases made me dissatisfied, I figured.

Her response?

‘Yeah. It’s really clunky.’

She couldn’t see the value in it either.

Now, if you know me, and if you go to visit the website, you might be struck immediately by the fact that neither of us is in their target market. Taking a stab in the dark here, Paperless Post seems to be aiming for the very girly, very young, planning-a-wedding market. You know, think of the girls who are 22, get their nails done every week, and probably sit on Facebook in women’s groups all day. They will have those pseudo-calligraphy “pictures” on their walls, with motivational sayings on them.

Those people are the market for this.

Ok, so sending letters is out. How else might I use this platform?

There was a section titled professional, which I considered could be useful for my company. But, again, I didn’t have any events to which to invite people, so can’t comment. The greetings part of the site definitely won’t be satisfactory though.

Here’s why:

You must include a reply card with every single thing you send.

Even a standard greeting.

Even a ‘thank you’ card.

It’s completely unnecessary, and it caused me to have a moment of panic: What would people reply? What expectations am I conveying to them when they receive it? What is the receiver’s experience even like?

So I backed away.

In terms of the actual experience, Claire‘s comment that the Paperless Post interface is clunky only scratches the surface.

Firstly, the interface made me think when I wanted to put text into the template. I had to work out how to do it. I had to work out the formatting.

As someone who was an early adopter on Canva—which totally nails the input experience—it was an immediate turn-off. That’s a user experience no-no in and of itself. Having to think about how to put text into the interface is the one thing that these guys need to make 100% seamless if it’s going to be valuable. Everything else—the pretty website, the nice artwork, the links to suppliers—doesn’t matter, if you have to think about completing and formatting the item.

Secondly, everything you send must include a ‘reply card’; there is no getting around it. This applies even if you don’t select an ‘invitation’ template, and simply select a ‘stationery’ template.

It hasn’t been well-enough considered, when a thank-card includes a default reply card. What is the recipient going to say? Thanks? That’s an awkward situation nobody wants to be in.

Thirdly, the gamification just adds complexity. Paperless Post tries to gamify the experience, by turning your actual money into coins, and you then use the coins on the site.

As a concept for giveaways it is an absolute winner: You can just throw people some coins and bombs away.

But for purchasers? I’m not sure that’s a winner. When you are buying, the coins system simply obscures how much you are actually paying for something, which is an unnecessary layer of complexity.

So, thumbs up for the coins on the sharing side; thumbs down for the buying side. Maybe they will resolve that as the platform matures.

In any case, my initial experience with the platform was so poor that I haven’t been back since sending the first card. Maybe my perception will change if I ever have occasion to send invitations to something. But I doubt it; I’ll just send an email, and for invitations, I would prefer to use the real post.

Closing thoughts

Invitations become keepsakes, markers of significant events. Paperless Post is aiming for the graduations, weddings, birthdays market. It’s a huge market, but take a moment to consider what sending a digital-only invitation means for these major moments in your life.

It means you won’t have the invitations to reflect on later in your life. These kinds of mementos are actually fundamental for ageing well, and being happy. One of the things that helps you to reminisce in a beneficial way are things like invitations that you sent.

I love the fact that I still have my (amazing) wedding invitations, for example. If I had sent them digitally, being able to handle them and remember the experience would be totally lost to me.

Here’s what it was:

Wedding Invitation
Our Wedding Invitation. Illustrated by Damian Snelgrove. Printed by Andrew Storer.

Live and learn, eh?

Anyway, if you want to go and check this out for yourself, and see whether I’m just mumbling into my Too Old For Her Own Sake soup, you can do it at https://paperlesspost.com.