e-Cards have benefits, but printed cards are more meaningful

David Haueter
Apr 26, 2013

Most of us at one time or another have received an “e-card” from a friend or relative, perhaps for a birthday or as an invitation to a party or event. Electronic cards have some key advantages over printed cards. For example, e-cards cost less, as many are available at no charge and there’s no postage cost for sending them. Many of us spend a lot of time sitting in front of our computers, so it’s often easier to just pick an e-card and send it off instead of taking the time to go to a store and search for the right card, or order a card online and wait for it to come in the mail before sending it back out in the mail to its recipient. E-cards also make a lot of sense as announcements and invitations, as you know the person will get it as soon as they check their e-mail and some vendors allow the sender to keep tabs on who has RSVP’d to the event.

InfoTrends 2012 Next Generation of Personalized Printed Products study posed a series of survey questions to respondents who had purchased various types of personalized printed products in the last year (such as greeting cards, invitations/announcements and thank you cards).  In that survey, we asked respondents about how they’re using e-cards and the impact they’re having on printed cards. Many respondents have sent e-cards in the last year, with 45% telling us they sent electronic greeting cards and 37% saying they sent invitations. Thank you cards were sent by 33% of respondents, and 26% sent electronic announcements (multiple responses were allowed).

Birthdays and holidays were far and away the most popular occasions for sending out e-cards, but valentines/romance, parties, and graduations were also popular occasions. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when respondents sent out e-cards, they took the place of printed cards. With electronic greeting cards and invitations, over 60% of respondents said they took the place of printed cards, and over 55% of respondents that sent announcements and thank you cards said they took the place of printed cards. The primary reasons they were chosen instead of printed cards was that they were “less expensive,” had “no postage costs” and they “like that the person will get it sooner than my mailing a printed card.”

What’s more discomforting for those that are stakeholders in the print side of the market is that many respondents in this study expect to eventually send only electronic cards. When asked if they thought the time would come when they send out all cards electronically rather than printed, 23% said “yes” and over 9% said they already have. Another 37% said “maybe” so there are still many that are undecided about what they will do in the future.

I don’t think I would ever give up sending printed cards and rely strictly on e-cards, though there are times when e-cards are the best option. For more significant occasions like birthdays, weddings, graduations and anniversaries, it’s still a lot more meaningful to give a printed card with your own handwriting in it rather than an electronic card. Even though a person is obviously thinking about you when they send an electronic card, it doesn’t feel as special as getting a printed card. Unfortunately, these intangible benefits of printed cards are not something easily conveyed to consumers that are increasingly relying on their electronic devices for anything and everything, though Hallmark for one does a nice job of getting that message across in its television ads.

For more information on the use of e-cards, as well as detailed research on the use of printed products like personalized stationery, home décor and greeting cards, check out the InfoTrends study Next-Generation Personalized Printed Products: A Market Opportunity Assessment, which is available online in the InfoTrends report store: http://store.infotrendsresearch.com/product_p/129035.htm


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