As printing suppliers develop simpler and more intuitive ordering applications for mobile platforms, they’re also exploring creative new ideas for enticing customers to their services. The challenge is how to raise awareness of mobile printing apps so retailers can tap into this booming new photography market.
“Many smartphone photographers clearly want the ability to order photo products on occasion,” says Hans Hartman, president of Suite 48 Analytics, a leading mobile photography research and analysis firm. “However, for many these occasions aren’t frequent enough to warrant downloading and installing a dedicated app.” Hartman’s solution, which was addressed at the 2015 Mobile Photo Connect conference last September, is to combine photo printing services with the more widely used photo-editing and organizational apps.
Holysnap! is one such application—an augmented photography experience developed by Zebra Content Merchandising, headquartered in Venice Beach, California. Anton Pereiaslavtsev, the company’s founder and CEO, designs, develops and markets mobile applications. These include Rock Your Photos, a photo-editing and printing application that launched in 2013. Holysnap! offers themed content that can be used to create completely new images from the user’s photos.
“We call it ‘mobile photo entertainment,’” says Pereiaslavtsev. “We partner with the world’s top entertainment brands like The Three Stooges, and we’re in talks with Hollywood studios to bring in new content. And we want to get people excited about their photos by providing content that is relevant in their lives.”
Holysnap! allows users to apply masks, beards and animal features to their head shots, or drop themselves into classic Renaissance paintings, photos of historical figures and scenes from pop culture. The high-resolution content is carefully edited to blend with the subjects’ features. Once created, augmented photos can be printed from within the app to create a variety of photo products—from frameless prints to mahogany keepsake boxes. Or they can be printed at home using the HP Mobile Print SDK software development kit.
“I saw an immense opportunity in what new technologies were making available, namely, a very immediate augmented photography experience,” says Pereiaslavtsev. “We can publish new content to our app very quickly and make that content available immediately on people’s mobile devices. The key is to generate excitement in customers’ images so they’ll want to print them. I feel like we may have cracked that nut, and we’ve had an amazing response.”
Social Print Studio launched its own highly successful photo printing app, Print Studio, in 2013. Originally called “Prinstagram,” SPS was started in a college dorm room when founder Ben Lotan printed a collage of Facebook friends as an art project. So many people asked to buy their own posters, he recruited a small team of workers and set up shop in Berkeley. The company has since grown to 25 full-time employees and moved to a 6,000-square-foot studio in San Francisco’s SOMA district. They now offer studio rental space, creative services, event hosting and production/printing services.
SPS’s early product line was developed to accommodate images posted to social media. “Instagram photos are generally a small file size,” says SPS copyrighter Cat Sylvain, “so the maximum we print Instagram photos is 4×4 inches.” Even the original collage poster, which combines 54 square images on a white or black background, is designed for limited-resolution files.
Today, SPS offers a broad mix of innovative and retro-style products, with prints ranging in size from 2.3×2.2- to 20×30-inches (edged in 3mm white or Polaroid-style borders), as well as a few products unique to Print Studio, like 0.8-inch photo stickers, tearaway calendars and hardcover Tinybooks, measuring just 1.7×1.5 inches.
“Our new product ideas come from a combination of what our equipment is capable of printing and what we come up with after staring at our screens for too long and suddenly feeling nostalgic for the pre-screen days,” says Sylvain. “Our most popular products are square prints, square magnets and photo books, which are very competitively priced and the best books you can purchase at this price point.”
Print Studio 3.0 for iPhone, released in late January, now offers direct access to users’ iCloud accounts for printing.
Steam CC, a Tel Aviv, Israel-based company, introduced one of the most unique mobile printing apps at this year’s CES. The Coffee Ripples app allows users to send images from their connected mobile devices to a digital Ripple Maker. The device then outputs them as foam images (or Ripple) on cappuccino and latte coffee drinks.
The system was test marketed in New York City last year. Retailers lease the Ripple Maker, complete with Wi-Fi connectivity. It also comes with a supply of coffee extract Ripple pods to create the images. The app provides users with locations of venues in their area. At the venues, they can choose an image from the Ripples’ content library. They can also submit an image of their own, and have it printed in just 10 seconds.
“Reaction to the Ripple Maker from coffee shop owners, baristas and the general public has been as extraordinary as the coffee art they have collectively created,” said Yossi Meshulam, CEO of Steam CC. “With the addition of the extensive content library and robust consumer app, we look forward to offering the Ripples experience to many more countries and venues around the world.”
Image-hosting websites provide another essential service for smartphone camera users who want the convenience and security of online photo storage. Storage sites like Photobucket offer multiple features, like image management, file sharing and integrated printing services. The Photobucket Backup & Print Shop app lets users seamlessly access the Print Shop from within Photobucket’s smart gallery feature.
“Needing multiple photo apps has been a major barrier for consumers wanting to centrally manage all their photos from their mobile devices. This new app removes the barrier,” says Tom Munro, CEO of Photobucket. Photobucket is also the first storage and printing service to announce a mobile app made exclusively for Samsung Galaxy devices.
Omni-Channel and White-Label Mobile Apps
Omni-channel printing suppliers like MailPix and others are wooing customers with faster, more convenient services through their printing apps. While offered via separate applications, MailPix has introduced both same-day prints and same-day photo books. As a result, users can order prints and create photo books on their mobile devices. They can also pick up the finished jobs in about an hour at Walgreens retail locations. They also offer same-day shipping options.
Storefront.com, an OEM supplier of retail imaging infrastructure, recently updated its web-based printing technology with the NEO Mobile Photo app. The company’s latest app provides wireless, mobile image transfer with synced output to all existing print production devices. NEO also provides unlimited expansion and self-management tools. In addition, it synchs with the retailer’s website to automatically update content—including special offers and in-store coupons. The app’s store locator directs customers to providers. Storefront product offerings include everything from prints to apparel, home/office gifts, toys/games, ornaments and more.
Photo Finale, a multi-platform, brand-independent digital photofinishing solution developer, recently launched its APM Photo Kiosk Transfer app. The app eliminates the need for cables to connect users’ mobile devices to in-store kiosks. The wireless transfer app is fast as well as convenient, according to Rachel Van Tassel, vice president of Marketing. It removes the need for multiple connection wires to accommodate different platforms.