Are Electronic Holiday Cards a Replacement for Real Cards?

This time of year, you want to send holiday greetings to all your clients and business contacts, but it’s time-consuming to handwrite notes, stuff them in envelopes, address them and mail them. Not to mention the fact that it’s a waste of natural resources.

But are electronic cards (“ecards”) yet to the point of replacing the snail mail version of the holiday card? Are they as good? Let’s see what folks are saying on Twitter.

Does an Ecard Really Show You Care?

When I asked my Twitter followers, “Ecards are eco friendly. But do they have the same message as a physical card?” @KyEkinci said no. Many feel that sending ecards is disingenuous and lazy. Putting in the extra effort to mail a card via the postal service shows you’re really thinking about the recipient. And to Ky’s point, an ecard is just one more thing clogging up your inbox.

ecard tweet kyecinki
Customization: Can It Make Ecards More Personal?

Ecards have gotten much more customizable in the last few years. Look at Elf Yourself as a great example. Or Weschler Ross, which custom designs holiday ecards for clients, such as this one for U.S. Trust (autoplay music alert!). These days, you can add your staff’s images or your company logo to tie it in to your business branding. Ivana Taylor  (@DIYMarketers) says that the customizability of ecards is a selling point, and that you can use them in addition to paper cards.

diymarketers tweet

Have We Gone Completely Digital?

We’re becoming a digital society. We have “friends” online we’ve never met. Some of us never speak to our clients on the phone or in person, but instead opt for email and social media interactions. That being said, are we really accustomed to digital cards in place of more traditional ones? @RobbinsInt thinks so. Like anything, it’s a slow progression toward ecards becoming more mainstream.

Ecards as Marketing

Many companies are finding ways to get others to send cards with their branding on them (see Office Max’s  Elf Yourself example again). @Scope, a U.K.-based charity that supports people with disabilities, has a collection of ecards that are free to send. Each time an ecard is sent, Scope’s network of awareness grows.


Lego, too, is getting in on the action of ecard marketing. Its current campaign says the company will donate one toy to Toys for Tots for every free ecard sent. So far, more than 380,000 toys have been donated.

toys for tots tweet

Conclusion, at Least in Canada

What do you prefer? An ecard that doesn’t cost money or trees to send, or a traditional paper card that shows the sender cares? @DATopTalent seems to think that paper cards are here to stay. At least for now.

DATopTalent tweet


Susan Payton Susan Payton is the Communications Manager for the Small Business Trends Awards programs. She is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in content marketing, social media management and press releases. She is also the Founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners who want to generate their own PR.

17 Reactions
  1. Susan,

    Not only do the ecards not work as a replacement for the real thing, they are also more likely to be ignored.

    Nowadays, truly “connecting” with your customers, business associates and others has become a lost art. Technology is NOT the answer but we’re so overloaded that we see it as a way to accomplish more with less time.

    The opposite approach is likely to be more effective — since TIME is the only irreplaceable resource, show that your clients and others are worth your personal time and attention. Send not only a regular card, but hand-address it or handwrite a personalized sentiment (beyond “Happy Holidays.”) It shows that your recipients’ matter. Taking note of an accomplishment (like enclosing a relevant news clipping of their success or something about their business progress) also shows that you are paying attention to THEM.

    There are many small and large ways we can improve our connection skills, from networking to communciation and more. This is just one of the many things I share with my readers in my latest book (“It’s Not Who You Know, It’s How You Treat Them”) Thanks for sharing this important question with us — I’ve enjoyed reading the answers!

    – Corinne Gregory

  2. Susan, I rather like ecards myself — the best ones fascinate me. But I like paper cards, too. Both work equally well for me.

    – Anita

  3. Susan,

    Thanks for bringing up this important topic. Each and all of the ways we select to communicate with our customers and potential customers sends out an important message about our business. What message do we want to send?

    While some might throw out a traditional card after viewing, there is still a tradition in many homes and business of leaving a card out, taping it up, placing it on the mantel or otherwise hanging it during the holiday season. Emails, on the other hand, are quick to delete and therefore are likely not to be hung by the stockings with care to be remembered for a few days or weeks.

    Traditional cards are often done with more of a mind towards the recipient so that the recipient receives something viewed as being of value. Isn’t that why one looks at a traditional card and reviews before selecting whether it is right for the recipient? Will the recipient be offended or pleased if it has a religious tone? What type of humor is acceptable and what type is offensive? By contrast, emails are often done with the sender in mind as a form of quick and inexpensive communication.

    When we select which form to send, we should always be keeping our eyes on the customer and make sure we are sending a gift, not a burden. So be heroic – keep the customer at the center!

    K. Olson, author of Cape or Cloak: How To Do Better In The Business Of Business

  4. @Corinne-
    I’m with you. Many of us are inundated with emails and social media updates all day, what truly stands out is a handwritten card. I send them. But honestly, I don’t get many back!

    I like a good, amusing one. I wanted to do Elf Yourself again with my staff, but it’s crashing for me this year. 🙁


  5. @K.–
    Excellent points! Thanks for sharing.


  6. As a family, we still send out snail mail, but as a business, I have sent out an e-card and made a donation to charity in the amount that I would otherwise have spent on a mailing. This benefits me in terms of time spent, benefits the charity financially, and also means that more people will receive the card, as I have more email addresses for people than I do actual home addresses. Hopefully, recipients of my card recognize that Christmas is all about charity and don’t feel cheated out of a piece of cardboard!

  7. Great idea Jill! I am old fashion. I miss the days of beautifully written letters without acronyms. I guess sending out traditional cards is a way to hold on to that. However, I still send out eCards for a little extra humor and more pics 🙂

  8. Ifdy Perez (@ifdyperez)

    Interesting take. I think it just boils down to preference; Internet-savvy people may be more welcoming to receiving e-cards and those who don’t spend much time online feel traditional cards are better… and there’s cross-over between. Thanks for writing this!

  9. @Jim–
    That’s wonderful! And you’re right: it’s easier to hunt out an email address than physical.

    So you’re a hybrid!

    Good point: so many of us have a mix of business contacts that it’s impossible to hit the mark for everyone (traditional vs Internet-savvy).


  10. I personally think that physical cards show that you care more, and also depict the fact that you made an effort. Although e-cards can be customized to be the fanciest, the warmth does not go across, comparatively. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Although a small sample, the comments above are a good example of illustrating that varying levels among people for their appreciation for traditional cards and ecards. I handle marketing at the company I work for and am tasked with the holiday greetings each year.

    Ecards will never be the same as traditional cards, but they can be used as a substitute and although some people will ignore them, not everyone will. Also, not to forget that some people ignore traditional cards too.

    Although we send ecards, we still love getting print cards in the mail. We do put them on display each season.

    When you only have ever communicated with someone via email, social, text, etc, the medium of communication commonly used it a suitable for delivering a greeting. I don’t think this is cheap, but some may.

    I don’t think traditional cards show that you care more. I’ve gotten many that have a nice, pre-printed greeting inside along with just a signature. I always picture that sender at a desk with a stack of cards and signing their name one after another, over and over. That really says they care to me! If the greeting was longer, hand-written, and actually personalized to reflect on the experience I had with that person, then yes, that card definitely shows they care.

    There are a few really good companies out there who do very nice ecards for businesses. There are also many, many, many horrible ones too. I think the style of the ecard will really help out as to how your e-card is perceived and appreciated. For the last few years, we’ve sent e-cards. The first year, we made our own – then never did that again. We now use a canadian company for our corporate holiday e-cards.

    Sometimes locating a physical address is time consuming at crunch time – which most of us experience – so, an e-mail address is easier. I believe it’s better to extend some sort of holiday greeting than nothing at all. Anyone who does print, usually is aware that they need to keep schedule and get their cards started early as to not leave it to the last minute. Unfortunately, often, pressing items can easily affect that schedule.

    Sorry for the book, but I’m on a roll….I hope :)…..There are so many age groups, types of groups, varying interests, communication methods, preferences, etc, etc to consider and there will never be a clear right answer as to which is better – traditional card or ecard. There are situations where one will be better than the other and vice versa. For business that are concerned about perception of each type, it’s really up to marketers to segment clients into groups and determine which groups should get traditional and which should be an ecard. I imagine with some business, a fruit basket might be an option for some groups too 🙂

    I hope this helps some of the fellow marketers out there.

  12. Where do all those beautifully written and so thoughtful cards end up?
    right.i rather save a the rainforest.

    • I guess if we can’t send traditional cards due to environmental issues, trees, we’d better find a way to quit building houses, do away with hardwood floors, wooden cabinetry, cladding, etc; wooden pallets, composite materials for decking, remodeling, and all the other things we use wood for. Despite all the hype about going “paperless”, much paper is still used. If our whole computer system were to become defunct nationwide, we’d be in trouble because all that information would be lost. At hospitals everyone is in a panic when the computer system goes down for even a few hours because access is lost to all patient records. In the grand scheme of all things paper, greeting cards & Christmas cards, are but a drop in the bucket.

  13. I own an ecard company that focuses on customization, affordability and my ecards are animated, require no plugins and will play on smartphones, tablets, desktops and even in texts! We have no limits to how many you can send and we offer free web hosting of your ecard through Feb. 2014. Our pricing is right on the site, unlike other companies and there are no up charges.

  14. Nothing is more personal than a hand-written note on an actual card. The sentiment, time and tactile delivery trump an inbox greeting, regardless of customization. It would be a terrible idea, especially for a corporation, to abandon actual greeting cards.

  15. Hi Susan,
    For a unique, animated Ecard or Evite, please visit The cards are hand painted in Hawaii. These might supplement or replace your hard copy card. Thanks!