News about greeting cards sales is often negative. But while certain reports – such as Walmart’s decision to cut back on greeting cards – seem to paint a picture of an industry that’s dying on its feet, the broader outlook is more positive than you might expect.
According to the National Retail Federation, for example, card sales on Valentine’s Day in 2019 amounted to approximately $933 million, a nearly $40 million increase compared to the previous year.
A mix of factors, from high millennial demand to innovative new products like cards with LED lights and personalised images, have come together to breathe new life into a global billion-dollar industry.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at five key trends currently shaping the way that people buy and send greeting cards.
What does the greetings card industry look like in 2020?
In its 2020 report, the Greeting Card Association outlined that Americans purchase approximately 6.5 billion greeting cards annually, representing up to $8 billion in total sales. Another noteworthy trend is that greeting card mail has increased for the fourth year in a row according to stats from USPS.
Birthday cards represent the biggest segment, making up more than half of all cards sold. Interestingly, about two-thirds of birthday cards are mailed rather than passed from person to person. High-end cards, which may be handmade, highly personalised, or include technology like sound chips or LED lights, constitute the fastest-growing part of the market.
The report also pointed out that millennials now outspend boomers, and have done for the previous five years. Finally, eight out of ten people believe that greeting cards cannot be replaced entirely by social media.
1. Continued growth of eCards
eCards, which digitally recreate the experience of receiving a physical card, have continued to grow in popularity. Social media platforms like Facebook now let users send personalised eCards, which provides an alternative to the traditional method of sharing via email.
Online solutions for free eCards also abound, meaning that it’s possible to send personal, meaningful messages en masse without having to worry about the cost. But this doesn’t mean that traditional paper cards have become redundant. If anything, it has reinforced the habit of sending cheerful greetings. Ron Miller, the owner and CEO of card company Village Lighthouse, said, “You’re gonna go into a store and buy them a card and you’re gonna write that personal sentiment in addition to the way that they’re doing it on Facebook.”
2. Use of technology in greeting cards
A range of innovations in the greeting cards industry have helped fuel popular demand. And nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to the inclusion of technology, such as audio chips, LED lights, and even virtual reality. It will be interesting to see how tech can be used to create more exciting and immersive experiences going forward.
Many companies, for example, now offer “augmented experiences”. Hallmark created a special father’s day card that could be converted into a VR headset. Recipients could then access an online video that matches the theme of the card (like skydiving or car racing) and use the headset to view it. One innovative tech company, iGreet, focuses exclusively on these types of cards.
3. Customisation and personalisation options
Personalised greeting cards are becoming more and more common. This trend has been bolstered in significant part by the emergence of new companies that allow buyers to quickly and easily create customised cards and post them without the hassle of having to package and label them.
Individuals can use mobile apps and websites like Postable and Moonpig to upload photographs, write personal messages, and then send the card with the click of a button. It would seem that many younger buyers are opting to spend their money on a smaller number of personal but more expensive cards rather than a larger amount of cheap generic ones.
4. Cheeky and rude greeting cards
One trend that is driving demand for greetings cards, particularly among millennials and younger consumers, is the increasing availability of products that contain more relatable and often cheeky messages. Companies like Redbubble and Funky Pigeon, for example, offer cards adorned with text like, “You should probably start lying about your age now – happy birthday,” and, “In dog years you’re basically dead.”
These cards cater to the need for a more comedic, informal way of communicating with friends. Many smaller businesses are responsible for creating these types of cards, and industry experts expect that sales will continue to grow.
5. Compatibility of social media with traditional cards
The rise of social media, which has allowed people to exchange greetings and keep in touch with ease, would seem at first glance to be detrimental to the greeting cards industry. But it has, in many cases, had the opposite effect. Users of social media platforms like Facebook, for instance, tend to be more aware of significant events like birthdays, graduations, marriages, and so on. And they’re sending more cards as a result.
This trend has also opened up marketing opportunities for greeting cards retailers. Social media advertising, which provides access to a young market that is aware of important dates that warrant purchases of cards, is by far the most popular promotional channel among sellers. A study by Inside Retail concluded that 88% of greeting card businesses use social media to promote their products.
A number of factors, including increased millennial demand, innovative products, and the positive impact of social media, have combined to breathe new life into the greeting cards industry. How it evolves and shifts over the coming months and years will be the subject of much discussion and speculation.