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Greeting Cards – Insights

Over the last decade, experts have been raising alarms that the digital age is causing a decline in the greeting card industry. While this is true, Millennials have recently begun to buy greeting cards at a higher rate than in the past. They are doing this because tactile cards make these occasions a bit more special. They are not shopping for cards like their parents and grandparents, however. A discussion as to why this is the case can be found below. Most of this information focuses on Millennials and Gen Z instead of the age group 18-34. More weight was placed on information about Gen Z and younger Millennials who would be under 34 to help make it more true and accurate to the 18-34 age group.

Greeting cards are usually generic with no personality

  • Millennials like cards with personality. They will opt for a message that is snarky and witty instead of something sentimental, such as “I love you”. This is why generic Hallmark and Papyrus cards don’t connect as well with younger consumers.
  • Social media succeeded where greeting cards fell short because social media is personable. The sender can customize and send a very personalized message to the recipient.
  • E-cards also provide a highly customizable experience for the gift-giving young person.
  • To meet the younger consumer’s needs, companies like Felt and Postable are allowing customers to upload a picture from their phone with an app and make a digital greeting card with a personalized message in their own handwriting. Photo-printing companies like Shutterfly and Vistaprint allow young consumers to upload personal pictures to make custom greeting cards.
  • There are also greeting card startups like Lovepop that make very artsy and personalized cards and have disrupted the industry in a big way.
  • Although younger consumers are more price-conscious, they have been shown to be willing to spend more on personalized messages via paper cards.
  • Also, younger consumers are shopping on Etsy and other craft sites for more personalized cards and gifts.

They are celebrating fewer times

  • Gen Z and Millennials are still keeping holidays traditionally but are buying fewer cards. Only 19% of Gen Z individuals (13-18) planned to buy holiday cards, compared to 32% of Millennials.
  • Older millennials, especially parents, are more likely to send holiday cards out compared to their younger counterparts. They are spending more on cards to commemorate special occasions like buying a home, having a baby, and getting married. These events are happening later in a person’s life today than in previous generations.
  • Hence, when they are not spending money on a card, younger consumers will mostly send a text or a message on social media for a birthday or another special day. Younger consumers see this as much more cost- and time-efficient.
  • Boomers on the other hand see cards as the ideal choice of communication for all special occasions. This is why the volume of cards that they buy far outnumber younger generations.
  • Even though younger consumers are buying fewer cards, they are paying more for them. Lauren Gryniewski, the owner of a major gift shop in Minneapolis, stated that because millennials grew up with so much technology, they are putting “more weight” on something handwritten than older generations.
  • Where older consumers are spending up to $4 per card, Millennials and younger consumers are spending $6. Greeting card companies will do well with selling fewer types and categories of cards, making them seem rarer and more special.

It’s Less Convenient

  • The reason why e-cards became so popular, especially among younger customers, is that they are easy to make and send. They are more customizable and cheaper than greeting cards bought from a store. In many cases, they are free to make and send.
  • Also, they are more popular because they can be sent via social media, which is often more accessible than a mailbox.
  • To solve this, companies are making it easy to use an app to customize, pay for, and ship a physical greeting card. This solves the issue of having to physically go to a store when younger generations like Gen Z prefer to shop online.

It’s Less Eco-Friendly

  • It is believed that the reason many young people are abstaining from sending traditional paper greeting cards is that it may not be good for the environment. Younger consumers are more environmentally conscious than their older counterparts.
  • Companies like Papyrus are making cards and gift wrap with recycled materials, but digital is seen as the greener option.
  • The problem with a lot of these paper cards is that a lot of them get thrown out, and even though paper is biodegradable, some materials take a long time to decompose. There may also be card additions, such as glitter and pieces of plastic, which are not biodegradable.
  • When gift-shopping 58% of young consumers want packaging that is environmentally-friendly, while 57% of young consumers are looking for more environmentally-friendly products.
  • To solve this, greeting card companies must adopt more environmentally-friendly policies, including their sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Lovepop is a disruptive and fast-growing greeting card startup that make their cards as sustainable and recyclable as possible while doing CSR initiatives like tree planting.

Greeting Cards – Younger vs. Older Consumers

There are many minor factors to explain why younger consumers are buying fewer greeting cards. However, nostalgia, life stage, and cost are a few large reasons why younger consumers are not choosing greeting cards at the same frequency that older generations did. These points are analyzed and discussed below. Most of this information focuses on Millennials and Gen Z instead of the age group 18-34. More weight was placed on information about Gen Z and younger Millennials who would be under 34 to help make it more true and accurate to the 18-34 age group. Also, a lot of information was taken from sources which denote an uptick in spending on cards by younger consumers, however, they all have information that explains the differences in taste and why the industry on a whole is declining.

Nostalgia

  • Older consumers will often send greeting cards as their first choice to send a message on a special occasion. Younger consumers, meanwhile, are used to a wider variety of choices to send a message. This is why they are a lot pickier when they do pick physical greeting cards.
  • According to a survey, the reason why 75% of consumers send holiday cards is that they know how it feels when they receive them. It can be inferred that if younger consumers are not used to receiving them, then they will be less likely to send holiday cards.
  • On occasions when they believe that a tangible gift is not necessary, they will stick to a method that they’ve been used to “all their life”, according to Peter Doherty, executive director of the Greeting Card Association. These methods include texts and social media posts.

Life Stage

  • Cards are usually bought to commemorate major events in life, including having a child, getting married, and purchasing a house. All of these are happening at later stages in life, especially with Millennials.
  • There is evidence to show that card-buying is rebounding with Millennials. They prefer cards for special occasions because in their minds the cards are more special than a text or social media post. However, this is happening more with older Millennials than younger ones.
  • In 1990, the share of married households with children where the parents were between the ages of 18 and 34 was 37%. In 2015, that number dropped to 25%.
  • Currently, most greeting card buyers are between the ages of 35 and 60. In this age range, consumers know the most people and are getting married, having children, and buying homes.
  • Hence, for younger consumers between the age of 18 and 34 who do not yet know enough people that are having children, marrying, and buying a home, they still prefer to send text messages and social media posts.

Cost

  • The reason why cost is a factor is not so much that younger consumers are spending less, but because of the types of cards younger consumers will buy compared to older consumers.
  • Baby Boomers are the generation that is most likely to send gifting cards on many occasions throughout the year. Boomers have been buying more units while younger consumers are spending more on individual and personalized cards.
  • Millennials like cards with personality. They will opt for a message that is snarky and witty instead of something safe like “I love you”. This is why generic Hallmark and Papyrus cards don’t connect as well with younger consumers.
  • With the high cost of personalized greeting cards and the time it may make to make them or find them, a digital solution is often chosen.
  • Apart from social media and texts, many young consumers choose e-cards when they want to send a meaningful message). When sending e-cards, costs like paper, postage, and traveling to the store are erased.

Greeting Cards Landscape

During a year when Hallmark revamped its business to cut costs from its shrinking card business, as well as Papyrus filing for bankruptcy protection, experts say that paper greeting cards are being replaced by social media and text messages. US greeting card sales have fallen by 13% over the past five years. The competitors below were chosen because almost all articles that speak on the decline of the industry mention them at least once as factors.

Text Messages

  • The very first text message was sent in 1992 on the Vodafone network. What makes text messages the perfect competitor to greeting cards is that the first text sent was “Merry Christmas.”
  • Since then, text messaging has evolved to the point where individuals can send multimedia via text, which copies and/or supersedes the charm of greeting cards. Today, about 23 billion text messages are sent every day via default apps and other apps like Whatsapp and Messenger.
  • A study by Ofcom in 2015 showed that under half of 35 to 54-year-olds have sent a greeting card or invitation in the previous month. The study showed that people are wishing their friends and family a happy birthday by text.
  • According to the study, only one-in-five individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 think that mailing a physical card is the best way to wish someone well.

Social media

  • Social media is an internet-based communication tool that allows people to share information as well as their thoughts and ideas to others in their network. Information can come in the form of photos, videos, documents, articles, posts, etc. The most popular social media websites are Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat.
  • Experts agree that Americans now prefer to send text messages and social media messages to commemorate special occasions.
  • Facebook, in particular, made sending commemorative messages easy due to its birthday reminder feature. People can post commemorative messages on someone’s page to celebrate an occasion.
  • The advantage of this is that it allows people that are not close to the recipient to send congratulations for special occasions when greeting cards would only be sent by close friends and family.
  • The growth of social media disrupted the greeting card industry. In the past five years, the greeting card industry fell by 13%. Coincidentally, when looking at the growth of social media in that period, it is about the same at 12.86% ((79% – 70%) / 70% * 100%).

E-Cards

  • E-cards are digital postcards that can be customized with graphics, animations, videos, fonts, and other multimedia and sent through the internet to another recipient. They were first invented in the MIT Media Lab in 1994.
  • The advantages to e-cards over their more traditional counterpart are that they can be customized, they are more environmentally friendly, and they are either cheap or free to make.
  • E-cards are traditionally sent via email, but can now be sent via people’s favorite social networks, like Facebook.
  • The popularity of e-cards continues to surge which is negatively impacting the sale of traditional paper greeting cards. With the shift to mobile, sending e-cards via smartphones is the most popular way to send e-cards. The largest greeting card manufacturer in the world, Hallmark, got disrupted by e-cards.
  • Younger people are growing up in an all-digital world, which is why many don’t feel the nostalgia that older people get when they get a greeting card as a gift. This may change in the future if the trend of millennials adopting greeting cards continues.
  • Traditional greeting card companies have been reacting to this disruption by offering their own e-cards to compete. American Greetings, for instance, launched their mobile greetings platform nearly ten years ago, however, they still lag behind the competition. Someecards.com, for instance, ranks 9,092 in the US while hallmarkecards.com ranks 26,338.

Leading Greeting Cards Companies

American Greetings, Papyrus, and Minted specialize in electronic greeting cards and physical paper cards. Below are further details about each retailer.

American Greetings

  • American Greetings produces e-cards or printable cards and physical paper cards under renowned brand names such as Paper Rebel, justWink, Present Company, Kathy Davis, SmashUps, Talking SmashUps, Selfie SmashUps, Warm Fuzzy, and Creatacard.
  • In addition to paper and e-cards, American Greetings carries a range of party goods, gift wraps, and boxed cards for anniversaries, holidays, birthdays, and everyday occasions.
  • The brand maintains a clearly defined brand positioning (make the world a more thoughtful and caring place) online, allowing consumers to know that cards still matter “in sharing a powerful message.”
  • American Greetings uses social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube, to share, raise awareness, and hold meaningful conversations with people. It has used Facebook Live to broadcast product launch.
  • The company also uses social media influencers like Nick Offerman and Randi Zuckerberg, who have large social media audiences, to tell their own experiences with cards and why they are essential in life.
  • American Greetings employs the official website to market its products; for example, “all digital online and printable greeting cards are customizable and even free with your no-risk trial!”
  • The retailer’s annual revenue is roughly $1.9 million. American Greetings does not disclose details about its online sales.

Papyrus

  • Papyrus specializes in a range of e-cards and paper products, including greeting cards, boxed cards, stationery, and gift packaging for every occasion and holiday.
  • The brand has partnered with various social media influencers in the past to create awareness and drive sales. Papyrus influencers share personal experiences online across blogs and social networks.
  • Papyrus uses Pinterest to inspire, as well as key social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram, to engage with the target market and give voice to the brand.
  • Papyrus is a subsidiary of the Schurman Retail Group. The parent company does not disclose Papyrus financials to the public. However, industry experts estimate the annual revenue was $200 million in 2012.
  • The retailer recently filed for bankruptcy and will soon “close all its stores in the U.S. and Canada.”

Minted LLC

  • Minted specializes in personalized gifts, Christmas cards, wedding stationery, holiday photo cards, fine arts, and more created by independent artists.
  • The brand uses email marketing to send discounts and promotions, as well as engage customers online.
  • Minted uses a personal blog written by Mariam Naficy, the Founder and CEO, to tell meaningful stories about the brand and spread awareness of its products.
  • It also uses the official website and key social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to announce discounts, promotional offers, engage with the target market, as well as organize online contests.
  • Minted is privately-held and does not disclose its financials to the public. However, industry experts estimated the annual revenue at $1.22 billion.

Lovepop

Shutterfly

GLENN TREVOR
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at The Digital Momentum with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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