Amazing metamorphosis of the greeting card
Posted on December 22nd, 2010

By Philip Fernando, former Deputy Editor, Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka

 The greeting card conveyed a heart-felt personal note, charming and creatively wrapped. Internet has turned it into to a high tech spectacle honing on a captivating message meant to dazzle. In an information age, what’s more informational than saying “I want you to know that I remembered you!” But email messages convey much more. The flood of seasonal greetings, birthday cards, memoranda conveying condolences, get well soon – we miss you, have a great vacation and so on had exploded with a “brilliance.”

 It is a valiant effort to grind in a message to suit both customer and occasion as thousands of mock-ups are offered on the e-rack. The web has made greeting card business a multi-dimensional adventure. Of course, there are birthday cards making every conceivable crack about getting old to Mother’s Day greetings meant to spruce up even the most docile of recipients. Messages are well-designed – all sporting hundreds of variations on flowers and lace, drawings, even cartoons that poke fun. Derisive sarcasm has not been left out either.

High touch and high tech merged

Suddenly, the greeting card is trying to adapt the high-tech world of e-mail for the high-touch world of empathy. Everyone is at work reproducing, as closely as possible the complex experience of shopping to pick out an expression with inner feelings in just a few lines.

Greeting card sales in the US are growing only about 3 percent a year, barely above the rate of inflation. The typical buyer used to be a 35 to 45-year and about 80 percent female senders. The Internet has captured not only younger (25 to 35 years old) but slightly more male (30 percent) market. The race is on to capture the new base of Internet users, and all the major players who dominated the card business are solidly in the running to take over the virtual market.

“ƒ”¹…”Wow’ them graphics

Though print cards had become more sophisticated, they’re no match for the Internet’s wow-’em graphics with sound, animation and interactive capacity to boot. The do-it-yourself technology and lots of gadgetry can excite even the most jaded online user: all meant to grab consumers with short attention spans and itchy mouse fingers.

Electronic greeting contenders also are luring customers with various sales incentives and greeting gimmicks. E-cards.com, for example, contributes a small amount to the World Wildlife Fund. Internet has taken over the technology of print.

 The proliferation of personal expression is beyond control – with its diverseness and sometimes in all its frequently vulgar, ephemeral, crazy and menacing variety.

Latest research estimates predict that online greeting-card sales will skyrocket almost fivefold in the years ahead, from $68 million in 1999 to $ 400 million in 2011.

 This is still a third of the humongous print card sales that flood the market.

Though Internet sales are still nickel-and-dime compared to what the largest of traditional greeting card combines made. The industry’s titans-online revenue, for instance, accounted for less than 1 percent of Hallmark’s $3.8 billion in 1998 sales-the possibilities for retail synergy are written in large letters.

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