The topic of electronic business cards (also called: digital, contactless, smart, QR or NFC business cards) is actively gaining momentum.

The global market for electronic business card services in 2019 was estimated[1] at 1057 million USD and is projected to reach 3065.8 million USD by 2027. It is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 14.7% through 2027.

Let’s break it down:

  • Why electronic digital business cards have become so popular;
  • What types of electronic business cards come in;
  • What are the differences between digital business cards for business and business cards for private use;
  • How digital business cards differ from each other, and what technologies are used for it;
  • Because of what, electronic digital business cards have suddenly become so sure to displace the usual paper business cards from the market.

What is an electronic business card?

Electronic business card, digital business card, QR-card, contactless business card, virtual business card, smart business card, NFC (RFID)-card – all these are different names of the new solutions (we can say technologies), which allow users to conveniently share contacts without passing a paper business card from hand to hand.

An electronic business card allows you to instantly get in touch with customers’ cell phone contacts and become a recognizable interlocutor, rather than a spammer calling from an unknown number.

So, here are examples of electronic business card services. They use similar technology, but have different functions, which we will talk about later.

Such digital business cards can be divided into two functional groups:

  • For personal use;
  • For corporate use.

Electronic business cards for personal use

An electronic business card for private use is, in fact, a web page optimized for display on a smartphone. The information in the business card can be filled in through your personal account. You can save such an electronic business card in your contacts in 2 clicks.

You can share your digital business card in different ways:

  • With a smartphone camera – the QR reader is built into the camera of modern smartphones;
  • With NFC-card – on a plastic card with an NFC-chip inside, there is a link to the electronic business card. Applying such a card to the smartphone, the user instantly transfers the contacts to the phone;
  • By sending a link to an electronic business card in a messenger, by mail or SMS.
  • Advantages of electronic business cards over paper ones:
  • Convenience of storing contact information. Data from the electronic business card is saved in a smartphone in a couple of clicks;
  • It is impossible to forget or lose an electronic business card;
  • Instant creation of additional business cards – a number of electronic business card services allow creating additional business cards directly from a mobile application (for example, a separate business card for a project, in a foreign language, or for a meeting);
  • The business card is saved in the contacts along with a photo, so the owner of the business card is guaranteed to be recognized when called;
  • Electronic business cards don’t run out;
  • It takes 1-2 minutes to issue a business card, unlike weeks of approvals and printing in a print shop;
  • Contactless data exchange with customers and partners around the world, the data in the electronic business card can be changed at any time. The QR code will remain the same, only the contact information will be updated.

Business cards for companies

Electronic business cards for organizations is not only an electronic format of the paper business card, but also a digital corporate identity and centralized management of digital business cards. Such services are an entire IT platform for managing business cards in companies, with many additional features that allow businesses to speed up and cheapen the usual process:

  • Reduce labor costs and save the cost of business card printing;
  • Organize the process of managing business cards of employees in a personnel office of the company;
  • Create an individual design in the corporate style;
  • To automate the process of creating and changing the data of business cards of employees when changing positions or personal data (phone, name, e-mail, etc.)
  • Unify the process of creating employees’ e-mail signatures;
  • Collect statistics on usage (the company can see how often each employee shares his business card);
  • To share contacts in one click around the world at offline and online events;
  • Standardize company information in employee business cards.

Technologies and types of electronic business cards

As I wrote above, by functionality, electronic business cards can be divided into business cards for personal and corporate use.

Electronic business cards use two technologies at their core:

  • File standard vCard;
  • QR-code (one of the two-dimensional barcode types).

Additionally, the information of the electronic business card can be placed on physical media (plastic cards, keychains or on QR-stickers), using for data transmission such technologies as NFC, RFID, QR-coding.

Depending on the technology used, digital business cards are divided into the following types:

Electronic vCard

The basis of the electronic business card is the vCard-file standard – a text format for electronic business cards. A vCard file consists of vCard records, each of which contains the information of one business card. A vCard record can contain name, address, phone numbers, URL, logo, video and audio fragments, etc. The standard is supported by all smartphone manufacturers. When saving such a file, the operating system of the smartphone recognizes it and offers to save the data in the contacts. The main disadvantage of such a business card is that a new file has to be generated for any change of personal data.

QR-card vCard

This is the second type of electronic business card. By adding a QR code, you can digitize your business card. The QR code can be easily scanned by a cell phone camera. Thus, the process of transferring the business card to your phone becomes outrageously simple. Just point the camera to the QR-card – and the contact details are in your phone’s address book. QR-cards are useful not only to “consumers” of business cards, but also to their issuers, i.e. distributors. For the first ones, it is an easy way to add data to a common base of contacts, and for the latter it means a larger number of potential contacts. The disadvantage – you can’t add a photo to the QR code. Also, if the contact information is changed, a new QR code for the business card will have to be generated.

WEB-card or electronic / digital business card

This is an advanced version of vCard and QR business cards together. There are a lot of additional handy features here. This type of business cards is already an IT system that allows you to create a business card and fill it with data from your personal account. Data from such business cards are stored through the same vCard file, but the developers of solutions add a lot of useful functionality to such business cards, and the system is able to form a vCard based on the data in the personal office, at the moment of saving business cards to the contacts.

Electronic business cards from different developers have different features. For example:

  • Additional data fields (photos, social networks, etc.);
  • Smart address field of the company (you can specify the official address of the office in the text box, but when you click on it, the system navigator will transmit the current coordinates of the object, rather than the official address. This is invaluable when, having gone to the official address, you will get absolutely to the wrong place. 

In addition, a number of extensions have powerful corporate versions that automate the process of issuing and managing business cards in large companies, as well as mobile applications that allow you to edit business card data and web office for the administration of business cards to employees. 

As an addition, the electronic business card can be supplemented with an NFC-card or a QR-sticker. The sticker can be stuck on a smartphone or a diary to conveniently share the business card without switching on the smartphone, while the NFC-card can be individually designed and contain a link to the WEB-card, when scanned it will open the WEB-card.

The growing popularity of electronic business cards

What is the reason for the current popularity of electronic business cards, and why more and more companies and individuals are switching to electronic contact exchange?

It’s probably time, but not only that. For companies, electronic business cards are an opportunity:

  • Significantly reducing the cost of issuing and managing business cards;
  • Digitalization of traditional business card service: users of electronic business cards set a new standard for their industries, digitizing the familiar service and impressing customers and partners;
  • Safety of employees and respect for customers. Electronic business cards enable the secure exchange of business cards, whether in a meeting or at a distance, when working remotely or in meetings at zoom around the world;
  • For the salesperson, it’s a unique opportunity to get into the customer’s smartphone. An electronic business card is the best way to do that! One click and your contact is saved!
  • For the corporate sector companies offer a centralized solution for business card management, I highlighted several interesting features: a personnel office of the company; a personnel manager; analytics; individual design, secure data storage, various tools for brand promotion.