Happy Holidays! Quick, Cheap E-cards Here to Stay

Dennis Faas's picture

The holiday dust is settling and industry observers are beginning to tally the season's winners and losers. One of the winners, it seems, are 'e-cards', the emailed greeting cards that your friends send you with those corny graphics, animations and music.

In previous years, e-cards might have been fun, sure, but you wouldn't really use them for important occasions. This year, however, it would seem that e-cards are becoming "OK" for traditional events like Christmas. According to American Greetings, one of the biggest e-card producers, e-card utilization has increased by 10% this year. (Source: nytimes.com)

Hallmark, on the other hand, estimates that 300 million e-cards are sent out every year, roughly one e-card for every man, woman, and child in the United States. These numbers differ from those provided by the Greeting Card Association, which claim that 500 million online greetings have been sent this year, part of a 23 per cent rise. (Source: csmonitor.com)

Whatever the actual number -- nevermind that it's only a small fraction of the 20 billion pieces of mail the U.S. Post Office handles every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas -- it's clear that there is substantial growth in the use of e-cards.

Of course, what is so compelling about e-cards is that they're easy to send, easy to personalize, and have dynamic content. They often contain videos, animations, sound effects and other attention-getting phenomena. It's these characteristics that are driving their use, particularly among business senders. Surprisingly, being free isn't the most compelling thing about them. While many sites do offer their e-cards for free, in the last few years the traditional greeting card manufacturers have been pleased to find that some consumers are willing to pay for them. (Source: technewsworld.com) Americangreetings.com charges consumers a membership fee of $13.99 to use their library of e-cards and while hallmark.com still offer their e-cards for free, they also provide "premium" e-cards costing as much as $1.99 each.

There's a dark side to e-cards. They can carry computer viruses, Trojans, harvest email addresses from recipients, and transmit spam.

The threat of malware doesn't seem to have slowed the acceptance of e-cards, however. Even etiquette experts are beginning to begrudgingly publish guidelines for when to use e-cards and when to use paper. That's a sure sign that they're here to stay.

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