Paper Greetings are America’s Calling Card

In the age of digital dominance, a surprising and heartwarming trend defies the wave—millennials’ and Gen Z’s preference for physical greeting cards. Even though these generations are digital natives, recent studies and surveys reveal that many prefer the tangible charm and personalization of paper greeting cards over their e-counterparts.

According to a recent poll from online card and gift giant Shutterfly1, more than half (54%) of Americans say they still mail their greeting cards versus sending via digital and social platforms.

The new survey of 2,000 U.S. adults split evenly by generation revealed that two out of three prefer to receive physical cards as opposed to digital ones, including younger respondents who are millennials (62%) or are part of Gen Z (59%). Personalization was a big deal to survey respondents, preferring to include family, vacation, or pet photos with cards.

So, what exactly is driving this preference?

One of the key factors contributing to the sustained popularity of paper greeting cards is the emotional resonance they carry. Recent industry research has shown that about 80% of people keep cards that represent a life or relationship milestone. And over the years–especially since the pandemic–young people have taken the reins on greeting card messaging, launching independent lines that have found their way into retailers large and small. Many prefer cards that speak to their specific problems and joyful moments that haven’t been largely seen in traditional greeting cards. 

Retail insights on consumer habits2 support the idea that there is demand for traditional greeting cards, and demand for personalization, digital integration, and representation. To that end, Hallmark Video Greetings launched in early 2022. Card buyers can scan a QR code in the physical card, and once they’re online, they can add videos or photos and invite others to join via email or text. Once everyone’s content is submitted, Hallmark stitches it together into one video, which the recipient can view by scanning the QR code. The big two–Hallmark and American Greetings–are also meeting the demand for representation by diversifying their offerings to reflect North America’s modern demographics.

A year into the pandemic, the industry found millennials and Gen Zs not only wanting to connect with people they couldn’t see in person but also experiencing screen fatigue and activity looking for ways to describe their unique experiences in the world. And this generation is more likely to send a card just because it fits the recipient, letting go of pressure around card-centered holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Like previous generations without digital options, people today appreciate the effort and intentionality required to select, customize, and send a paper card. It becomes a tangible representation of the relationship between the sender and the recipient, making the experience more meaningful and enduring.

Small businesses use cards to build relationships

Small businesses also continue to send an enormous number of holiday cards each year. A 2022 report from the Greeting Card Association3 shows that one-third of companies send a holiday greeting, and 87% of them are physical, not e-cards. This adds up to an estimated 150 million greeting cards mailed by small businesses during the winter holiday season, and those rates are likely to remain constant or slightly grow. 

The vast majority of small businesses that send physical holiday cards send them to current customers to show gratitude and build relationships. Given that direct mail is much more likely to get a meaningful response than email or other digital outreach, building relationships with greeting cards during the holidays is a sound business decision.

The preference for paper greeting cards among consumers and businesses is a testament to the timeless appeal of tangible expressions. In a fast-paced digital world, the intentional act of sending and receiving physical cards has become a powerful and cherished tradition.

 

Shutterfly Report, Nov. 2023 https://nypost.com/2023/11/09/lifestyle/millennials-gen-z-still-prefer-physical-greeting-cards-over-digital-ones/

Canadian Grocer Report, Feb. 2023 https://canadiangrocer.com/digital-driving-consumer-habits-there-still-value-traditional-greeting-cards

Small Business Use of Greeting Cards, Greeting Card Association 2022 White Paper https://omsgca.wpenginepowered.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Lind_WhitePaper-GreetingCards-2022-v1d-1.pdf

 

Paper or Digital Communication: New Two Sides Survey Shows U.S. Consumers Want the Right to Choose

DAYTON, OHIO – August 16, 2023 –  In an attempt to reduce costs, many banks, utilities, insurers and other service providers are switching consumers from paper to electronic bills and statements, often without their consent, and some are now charging fees to receive paper statements. Others are urging their customers to switch from paper to digital communication because it’s “green” or “better for the environment.” But a recent survey commissioned by Two Sides North America and conducted by international research firm Toluna found that consumers want the freedom to choose how they receive important communications from the companies they do business with.

The Right to Choose

The Two Sides survey showed that 81% of U.S. consumers believe they should have the right to choose how they receive important communications from their service providers, on paper or electronically, and 73% believe they should not be charged more for choosing a paper bill or statement.  These percentages increased from 2021 by 78% and 67%, respectively.

While using the internet can be a quick and convenient way to transact business, companies that default customers to electronic communication put at risk many Americans who do not have broadband access, cannot afford it or have difficulty using the internet. Particularly at risk are people in rural areas, older people and those living on low incomes. According to a 2021 study by data technology company BroadbandNow, some 42 million Americans do not have broadband internet access. The Pew Research Center reports that 25% of people over age 65 never go online. A 2023 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), states that nearly a third of Americans who don’t have broadband say the reason is because they can’t afford it.

Companies that force consumers to go paperless also face risks of their own. Nearly 46% of consumers said they would consider switching to an alternate provider if their current one forced them to go paperless, up from 41% in 2021.

Digital Communication is Not Always Preferred

The survey showed that 65% of consumers are increasingly concerned that their personal information held electronically is at risk of being hacked, stolen, lost or damaged, up from 64% in 2021. Those over age 65 are most concerned (74%), but 46% of those aged 18 to 24 have the same worry.

Internet use is practical and convenient for many, but electronic communication also comes with undeniable challenges, including issues associated with overuse. The survey revealed that American consumers believe “switching off” is more important than ever, with 59% saying they spend too much time on digital devices, up from 51% in 2021. 53% of consumers are concerned that the overuse of electronic devices could be damaging to their health, causing issues such as eye strain, headaches and sleep deprivation, up from 51% in 2021.

Which is better, Print on Paper or Digital Communication?

“The simple answer is that both print and digital communication have important uses and benefits that consumers value,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “The question should not be which one is better, but which is best suited for each individual’s needs. It’s vitally important that all consumers have the right to choose how they receive important communications from their service providers – free of charge – to assure that those who are unwilling or unable to access the internet are not disadvantaged.”

The Facts About Greenwashing

It has become commonplace for companies to encourage their customers to switch to from paper to electronic bills and statements with misleading claims that going paperless is “green.” These types of broad, unsubstantiated environmental claims, known as greenwashing, are not only misleading, but also fail to comply with established environmental marketing standards such as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Guides for Environmental Marketing Claims and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14021 standard.

“Statements like ‘Go Green, Go Paperless’ are not backed by sound science and fail to recognize the vast and growing negative environmental impacts of electronic communication,” Rowzie says. “These misleading claims damage consumers’ perceptions of paper and put at risk the livelihoods of more than 7 million people in the U.S. print, paper and mail sector.”

Two Sides continues to successfully challenge major corporations and other large organizations to eliminate misleading environmental claims about paper products from their customer communications. For more information about the Two Sides Anti-Greenwashing Campaign, visit www.twosidesna.org/anti-greenwash-campaign/.

 The 2023 Two Sides Trend Tracker Survey queried 1,000 respondents over age 18 across the United States. It is the second of Two Sides’ biennial trend tracker studies designed to explore and better understand consumer perceptions, behaviors and preferences related to the sustainability of paper products.

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About Two Sides North America

Two Sides North America (www.twosidesna.org) is part of the non-profit Two Sides global network which includes more than 600 member companies across North America, South America, Latin America, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Our mission is to dispel common environmental misconceptions and to inspire and inform businesses and consumers with engaging, factual information about the inherent environmental sustainability and enduring value of print, paper and paper-based packaging.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President, Two Sides North America

P:  937-999-7729

E:  info@twosidesna.org

Most Americans and Canadians want a clear choice to retain paper bills and statements over digital ones

A recent article by Keep Me Posted North America outlines the results of a recent consumer survey commissioned by Two Sides. The results of the survey demonstrate the concerns and reasons why consumers want the option to receive paper documents vs. electronic documents for important financial information.

Some of the key reasons include:

Personal preference – Consumers want the right to choose how they receive personal, important financial information, whether it is on paper or electronically.

Limited access to broadband or online services – Those who are most vulnerable such as the elderly, people with disabilities, or lower education and socioeconomic status all have less access to online services. Limiting access to paper documents for these groups may mean no access at all.

Concerns for Data Privacy – In the first 6 months of 2018, more than 25 million data records were compromised or exposed every day around the world. Consumers want to control their information and keeping paper documents at home is one way to manage personal data.

Companies are looking to use implied consent instead of permission to switch people over to digital or are charging extra for requesting paper documents.

Click here to learn more about the survey and the data to support consumer choice.

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