Is the Era of the Business Card Over?
Business cards have been a ubiquitous component of the corporate world for more than 100 years, but according to the Los Angeles Times, the days of trading cards are coming to an end.
In an article published Friday, L.A.Times writer Matt Stevens said, "to many young and Web-savvy people who are accustomed to connecting digitally, the cards are irrelevant, wasteful—and just plain lame."
The article cites a study from market researcher IBISWorld Inc. claiming that the business card market has stumbled 13 percent in the last five years, which the firm attributed to an overall print industry decline. According to IBISWorld Inc., U.S. business card sales were approximately $211.1 million for 2011.
The L.A. Times identifies a generational shift as the main culprit. "Many under-30 tech entrepreneurs see the paper rectangles as an anachronism," Stevens said, and points to the proliferation of social media and other electronic resources as reasons why business cards are failing.
It's not hard to see how the humble card is an endangered species being outcompeted by more evolved predators. Business networking sites and apps like LinkedIn and Bump have skyrocketed over the past few years, boasting 85 million and 77 million users respectively, and the increase in smart phones allows people to store and transport the information from thousands of business cards in one device.
Yet the rise of electronic solutions only tells one part of the story. Business cards are a staple product for many printers and promotional products suppliers, and remain popular with large segments of the business world—just ask any lawyer or real estate agent if they still carry cards.
According to Bridget O'Brien, vice president of marketing communication for Vistaprint, The L.A. Times' death knell for the popular product may be premature. "Business Cards are alive and well, particularly in the micro business industry, which Vistaprint serves," she said. "What speaks to the continued popularity of business cards is the number of companies now offering them and still entering the space. At one point in time Vistaprint was one of the few online options for business cards, today there are dozens of companies that offer them."
Kyle A. Richardson is the editorial director of Promo Marketing. He joined the company in 2006 brings more than a decade of publishing, marketing and media experience to the magazine. If you see him, buy him a drink.