The total volume of printed mail in the United States has been falling steadily over the past decade. However, in the age of e-cards and holiday Facebook posts, the printed holiday card tradition is alive and well--and, some would argue, more meaningful than ever. One eco-friendly paper company, Paper Culture, reports that over the past five years, the average number of holiday cards and  Christmas cards that each customer purchases has actually increased by 38 percent.

Their explanation: As the holiday card market shifts from a majority Gen X to a majority Millennial, those Millennials are seeking traditional channels for connecting with the people they care about.

"The demographic has really shifted," says Sarah Turk, a stationery analyst at research firm IBISWorld. "Instead of it being older consumers that value paper cards, we're seeing a lot of Millennials who wish to purchase paper products now."

Still, companies that want to fulfill this younger generation's print desires need to change with the times. "Millennials want to provide an authentic experience for their recipients, but they also want to do it easily and efficiently. In a Paper Culture customer survey, we found that customers spent an average of two hours addressing their envelopes. Almost half our customers now request personalization on their envelopes because it saves them time," Turk notes.

At the same time that digital communications have pushed consumers to appreciate print media again, digital still greatly influences design, photos, and copy on contemporary holiday cards. "When Paper Culture first launched in 2009, the majority of cards featured professionally staged photos. Now we are seeing a lot more humor, as well as social-media filters, hashtags, and memes on the cards. It makes it really fun to design these cards where we are integrating pop culture into the designs. We have also seen our square format card become the fastest growing size, mostly attributable to Instagram," says Turk.

Paper Culture is convinced that consumers are not just thinking about design and convenience. "At Paper Culture, we've personally seen increase in holiday card market share, where Millennials choose to purchase from a sustainable company rather than simply a nice-to-have. While it's always been our mission to provide products that left the planet a better place, we are finding sustainability has become an important criteria for our customers," Turk says. In a Nielson study entitled Global Corporate Sustainability Report, 66 percent of global consumers are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand. Millennials gave this consideration an impressive showing of 73 percent "important or very important." 

Paper holiday cards are alive and well, but if you want to appeal to the new Millennial market, you need to consider their values as well as their tastes.