Remember when your email inbox was full of e-cards, back in the mid-1990s? (Remember what an email inbox is?) In case your memory doesn’t go back that far, here’s a bit of history: The first e-card was created in 1994, and by the spring of 1996, some 1.7 million had been dispatched, often from someone like your Aunt Judy. If it has been a while since you received one of these missives, the pandemic may have changed that. In addition to the physical distancing and social isolation that COVID-19 required, the U.S. Postal Service suffered draconian cuts that hindered its service provision. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar card stores had been closing at rapid rates for years. Thus, e-cards grew popular again, though the extent of this popularity is a bit of an open question. American Greetings, the card industry behemoth, declined to give exact figures but noted that its digital division experienced record growth during the pandemic. According to a report by the market research company IBISWorld, revenue from e-card sales and online sales of paper cards increased by 23.9 percent from 2019 to 2020. But one of the company’s analysts also predicted that this boom in bad times would not last. Seemingly in agreement with that prediction, Hallmark, another industry behemoth, pulled the plug on its e-card division but also launched a new service, called Sign & Send. It attempts to bridge the old and the new, by allowing customers to take pictures of their own handwritten messages, then upload them to the Hallmark website. The company prints the design onto a paper card, chosen by the consumer, and then takes care of sending it to the intended recipient through the mail.
Source: Anna Schaverien. “E-Cards Are Back, Thanks to the Pandemic,” The New York Times, June 19, 2021; Rebecca J. Rosen, “The Early Days of E-Cards,” The Atlantic, December 25, 2011; Lenise Ligon, “The Reinvented Greeting Card,” Fox 10 News, June 28, 2021