The Social Media Age: Is the Greeting Card Industry Near Death?
Written by Jean-Paul Michael
Not so long ago, upon reaching adulthood, people across the globe would communicate with their friends and family members by sending or hand-delivering greeting cards bought from brick and mortar stores. Sending printed birthday cards, Valentines and Christmas greetings was like a rite of passage, something most adults did and would continue to do for many years to come, and often for multiple types of occasions throughout the year. But in the digital age, where many people now communicate via social media sites and send emails, e-greetings and text greetings by phone, is this still the case? As a publisher of greeting cards myself, I am happy to report that the answer is a resounding yes.
While the invention of the Internet could well have meant the downfall of the greeting card business, in fact, the opposite happened, according to Hallmark Cards' Creative Vice President, Darren Abbott: "Sometimes you hear things like ‘with the rise of the Internet, sure, people are sending fewer Christmas cards and millennials don’t care as much about that'. Actually the opposite is true. They see greeting cards as one more tool, they kind of complement what they have on Facebook and Instagram and other forms of social media."
Physical cards vs intangible ones
Today, many of us do use social media to network and stay in contact with our loved ones and it makes it easier for us to do so but it can often take away the personal touch. For example, seeing upcoming birthdays on Facebook can serve as a great reminder but it doesn't necessarily mean that people will only post a greeting on your homepage; often, of course, people you're connected to on social media but who are more acquaintances than close friends will do just that, whereas the people close to you will still send a card bought from a store or online, in order to express feelings using something that the recipient can touch, read again and again and even keep for their lifetime as a keepsake. A physical card is still a wonderful way to make someone feel special, cared for and thought of, and not in a fleeting way like with electronic communication or social media.
As I explained in my recent blog, How to Get Your Greeting Card Published, we often hear from our customers and from card recipients that our products have brightened their day or warmed their heart and that's not something you will hear from someone who received a digital notification of a birthday message. While e-cards have grown in popularity over the years, they are mostly looked at just the once and then discarded forever, unlike an actual card that you can hold in your hand.
Digital communication may make our lives easier in many ways but physical products are still very much in demand. As stated by experts, younger people and millennials especially are said to be keeping the greeting card industry alive by purchasing physical cards either in-store or online. Reports suggest that the industry has been steadily growing rather than declining because of this continued interest, which may come as a surprise to many people who thought that technology would ultimately mean the death of it.
New greeting card trends
While billions of cards are still bought every single year around the world, nowadays, young people in particular are often looking for speciality cards. From fancy handmade 3D pop-up ones that tend to cost a lot more than usual to ones that can be designed and customized online and then posted directly to the recipient, these trends are helping to keep the greeting card industry alive and also prompting some to start their own businesses. I mentioned in my blog, My Ultimate Guide to Canadian Greeting Card Publishers, that there is a growing online trend for self-publishers to start selling on e-commerce sites such as Etsy, though many still go down the normal route of selling at art galleries and exhibitions or in independent shops or market stalls too. Either way, these new self-publishers are creating cards that are personal, relatable and are ultimately contributing to the longevity of the greeting card business.
Nowadays, there are constant changes being made in the industry and trends being introduced that reflect our cultures, social needs and demographics, so we now see cards for the LGBTQI community, for Hispanic customers, blended families, and single-parent households, and much more, all to mark special occasions and holidays. There are cards with technological features, niche cards and cards exploding with confetti. These are all helping to drive the industry forward just like traditional greeting cards are doing, and there's no doubt that these trends will continue to evolve and change over the years.
Regardless of the digital age, one thing that is clear is that many people today are now eco-conscious and they want products that don't contribute to harming Mother Earth. While some people prefer to send e-cards, emails and texts because of this, many will only purchase recycled paper card greeting cards, which we understand and also agree with. At Northern Cards, each card is printed with the environment in mind, on recycled and recyclable paper, and is an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) product, which means it is made from responsible sources and has been verified to meet FSC’s strict environmental and social standards.
One thing that hasn't changed in the digital age, however, is the fact that it's a female-driven market, with women still being the primary card purchasers. In terms of occasions, birthdays, Valentines and Christmas account for most of the cards bought and nine out of ten of every household in the US buys greeting cards each year, with the vast majority still purchased in brick and mortar stores, rather than online.
These days, the greeting card business is still incredibly healthy and still offers something that electronic communication and social media sites can't - the real personal touch on a real tangible product.
Jean-Paul Michael has spent his entire adult life in the greeting card industry. He co-founded Northern Cards when he was 18 years old and over the last 3 decades, he has held many varying positions in the company. Today, he is proud to be Northern Cards' Publisher and a lifelong greeting card geek.
@ Ej: We loved reading your comment and completely agree with you.
I absolutely love both giving and receiving cards. The cards my husband, sons, daughter, and family friends send me are always worth viewing from time to time. From handwriting maturing, and messages filled with love, reading the cards again is quite often the soul food I need to smile.