Nearly a technology after the digital postcard was launched, demand for digital greeting playing cards surged final yr as the pandemic remoted individuals from their social circles.
With in-person interactions diminished and shops closed, individuals searching for to join with household, associates and associates embraced e-cards, a gimmick that had a heyday in an earlier web period however had largely light away.
Alexandra Suazo, a digital advertising skilled in Madison, Wis., mentioned she began utilizing e-cards in March final yr to add a private contact at a time when distant working and so many different elements of life felt impersonal.
“It was one of the easiest ways to keep up team morale,” she mentioned. “I’ll sometimes send them as one-offs, especially if they’re cute and will make someone’s day.”
American Greetings, one in every of the behemoths of the greeting card world, wouldn’t disclose precise gross sales figures. But Rob Matousek, the government director for the firm’s digital enterprise, mentioned it had seen file progress since the starting of coronavirus restrictions, with demand round Easter final yr reaching shut to what the writer would often anticipate for a Christmas vacation.
“If they weren’t physically getting together with friends and loved ones, people wanted to do something that was personal,” mentioned Kelly Ricker, chief inventive officer at American Greetings, which owns the Blue Mountain e-card web site. “It was a nice way to let them know you’re thinking about them.”
With many shops closed for lengthy intervals of 2020, the greeting card business’s income from gross sales of paper merchandise in the United States declined by 13 % final yr, in accordance to IBISWorld, an business analysis firm.
It was a unique story for e-cards and on-line orders of paper playing cards, IBISWorld mentioned in a report.
Revenue elevated 23.9 % from 2019 to 2020, virtually doubling the earlier yr’s income progress. Some firms working in the $1.three billion on-line card market even reported triple-digit progress, the analysis agency mentioned.
The surge in a need to join with others by way of sending playing cards made sense to Simeon Yates, a professor of digital culture at the University of Liverpool in England. “It reflects the fact that people are wanting to show that they care, with that extra piece of effort of producing a written artifact to send, even if it’s a digital one,” Professor Yates said.
As 2021 progresses and more brick-and-mortar stores reopen, the days of the surprise renaissance for e-cards could be numbered.
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Though a spokeswoman for American Greetings said recent holidays like Mother’s Day turned out strong performances for both paper and e-cards, Jack Daly, an industry research analyst at IBISWorld, said he expected the revived interest in e-cards to be temporary.
“The boom in growth will taper off,” Mr. Daly said. The research firm estimates the online card market’s revenue growth will drop sharply from 2020’s peak to around 1.6 percent growth in 2021.
Confidence in the e-card market also suffered a blow when the greeting card giant Hallmark ended its 24-year run in the e-card market in April. A spokeswoman said the company had discontinued the online service as part of an ongoing business transformation, not because of declining interest.
For some consumers who use both formats, paper will always hold a special place. “There is still a cultural significance around receiving cards in the mail,” Mr. Daly said.
Jessica Filzen, who runs a marketing agency in Monterey, Calif., has been sending e-cards and printed cards to her family for years. She said she proudly displays the intricately cut paper anniversary card her husband gave her two years ago on her desk, admitting that for all the convenience of e-cards, she still treasures the art of the printed format more.
While some might think e-cards are a blast from the past, industry professionals predict that it’s paper cards that younger generations will covet for their sense of nostalgia.
As people enter what Ms. Ricker at American Greetings called their “card-sending years” — their 20s and 30s, when friends start getting engaged and having children — she said “the paper card really stands out as something special to them,” in part because it’s a bit of a novelty for generations who spend so much time on their cellphones. “It’s a sort of retro feeling to it.”