The 2011 holiday season is almost over, and I have to say that I received many less paper cards this year than ever before. My informal survey of displayed paper cards in offices at my law firm, and in offices that I visited in December, confirmed to me that more and more businesses have stopped sending paper holiday cards. Maybe (probably) it is a cost-cutting measure. Indeed, trimming expenses has been a major focus of many businesses in 2011. But it is also a sustainability measure.
Personally, my decision to stop sending paper cards was not necessarily due to the cost. I have sent my own personal holiday cards for years, mostly at my own expense. I always felt that signed cards with a handwritten note offered a more personal greeting. But this year, after writing a blog on sustainability topics, reading about green practices, and trying to reduce my own imprint on the environment, I was convicted that paper cards were not a sustainable activity that is consistent with my beliefs. I therefore sent out our firm’s electronic holiday card via email, something that I have avoided for the last five years as an impersonal act. I did add my own personal message to the email, and sent out about the same number of email “electronic cards” that I typically send out as paper cards.
Again from my informal survey, I noticed that I received a much higher number of “electronic cards” this year than ever before, from clients, engineers, surveyors, other lawyers, my eye physician, and many others. The electronic cards are as varied as the businesses that sent them. Some were static images, others contained music and/or video. While these electronic cards probably cost a fortune to design just a few years ago, there now are a number of companies (such as VideoHive) that offer online templates which can be customized by an in-house marketing department. For much less than the cost of designing and sending out a paper card, businesses can create a professional quality electronic card which can link to a website, contain a video greeting, etc. Sustainable and cost-effective!
What I didn’t realize about sending out electronic cards is that it became very easy for recipients to respond back to me, to send a thank you, to let me know what they are doing, etc. I received a significant number of positive responses, both via email and in person. That was a welcome surprise for a sustainable activity. Another unexpected benefit were the “returned: undeliverable” emails that let me know I need to update my contact list.
So while I believe the days for paper business holiday card days are numbered, I see a whole new growth area in the electronic holiday greetings business. I expect that the electronic greeting business is going to thrive and may well dominate next year. Whether because of cost savings or sustainable practices, the death of paper cards appears inevitable.