Exactly who are millennials? While exact dates vary depending on the source, millennials are the children of baby boomers born between 1980 and 1996. They account for approximately 83 million (or one quarter) of the U.S. population. Moreover, they are one of the first generations to grow up with regular access to cell phones and the Internet.
According to Digital Imaging Reporter writers Don Franz and Ron Leach, millennials also represent the most active group of photo print buyers (age 25 to 34) in America, with 63% of the buyers being under the age of 35.*
Millennials are also an increasingly powerful market segment. A study conducted by Accenture Plc, a multinational business and technology consulting company, examined shopping behaviors of 6,000 consumers across eight countries; 1,707 were millennials. The study determined that in the U.S. alone, millennials are projected to spend $1.4 trillion annually by the year 2020; this represents 30% of total retail sales in the U.S.
Understanding Millennial Buying Habits
To reach this dynamic market segment, it helps to understand millennial buying habits. While they typically depend on computers, tablets and smartphones to research and identify products they wish to purchase, they also like to visit brick-and-mortar establishments to examine the items up close.
This is a positive trend for photo retailers catering to younger buyers. However, in order to reach these tech-savvy users, it’s important to adapt to all aspects of mobile shopping technology.
According to Accenture, “68% of all millennials demand an integrated, seamless experience regardless of the (shopping) channel. That means being able to transition effortlessly from smartphone to personal computer to physical store in their quest for the best products and services.”
Moreover, businesses catering to millennials should have representation in all areas of the online community. That means hosting a website and Facebook page, as well as Twitter and Instagram accounts. Instagram is the most popular social media platform for millennials to share photographs.
Twenty- and thirty-somethings are also bargain hunters, frequently looking for online coupons and special offers that afford the best possible deals. Just make sure your retail location provides mobile coupon scanning capabilities, because millennials don’t want to print coupons.
Millennial Case Study
While some photo retailers have written off the cell phone generation as a limited sales opportunity, studies show millennials have a very high interest in printing photos.
Futuresource Consulting explored consumer interest in preserving memories as prints. “The findings of the report have disproved a theory that the younger generation are not interested in photo printing. In fact, the millennials were the most likely age group to be printing photos, with 61% either printing at home or using third-party printing services,” said Ruben Baveld, Futuresource research analyst.
A 25-year-old sales manager and full-time student in the Atlanta metropolitan area, Stefany Zarate is the perfect example of a young consumer who loves to see her images in print. “Photography was an important part of our family experience while I was growing up,” she says. “My father and older siblings were always taking pictures of me when I was young. It makes me happy that moments I don’t remember as a child were captured on film.”
Zarate inherited her family’s penchant for shutterbugging, documenting her experiences as she got older and using a variety of film and digital cameras. Today, she has access to a DSLR but takes most of her impromptu photos with an iPhone X. In addition, she enjoys printing images of special moments with her family, friends and fiancé for display at home. Her most recent print order was 76 4×6- and 5×7-inch images.
“Twenty percent of those photos are hanging on my office wall,” she says. “Others are framed and placed around the house. I love to display prints in frames and photo collages so I can see them daily as well as remember the good times I’ve had.”
Catering to the Millennial Lifestyle
Zarate hangs her prints on strings of mini lights with clips. This popular display product allows users to simply change out their prints as they make new memories. Like many of her peers, Zarate also turns to an unlikely resource to view photo display ideas and buy products—the popular clothing store, Urban Outfitters.
Known for its popularity with millennials, UO advertises itself as a “lifestyle retailer dedicated to inspiring customers through a unique combination of product, creativity and cultural understanding.” That inspiration includes men’s and women’s clothing, affordable home décor, gifts and a complete line of photo products sold through its UO Photography Shop (urbanoutfitters.com/cameras-film).
UO reaches out to customers with mobile options and brick-and-mortar shopping locations, including its mobile app. The UO Photography Shop features the latest in instant print cameras, popular with millennials. They include a complete line of Polaroid instant cameras; Fujifilm SQ6 Instax Square and Mini 9 cameras; as well as Kodak Smile instant cameras. It also sells one-time-use film cameras, digital cameras, themed Instax film, studio gadgets, camera bags, portable printers, Instax square-format display products, and 35mm film and photo processing services.
Zarate says a lot of her friends share an interest in printing digital images. Some have young children, while others dote on their pets, family, hobbies and friends. Most look for photo products that let them relive special occasions like weddings, holidays and birthdays. Products include photo books, collages and unique tabletop display items that give them an opportunity to celebrate their family and friends in a way that reflects their interests and personalities.
Popular among Millennials
Several companies sell wall hangings to display photographic prints—both LED style and other more organic versions similar to macramé. Love-KANKEI is a small company listed on Amazon that specializes in unique home décor. Among their popular items are wood shelving and photo display items like rustic wood shadow boxes and clip-on print hangers.
The 26×29-inch Love-KANKEI wall hanging picture frame ihas six rustic twine cords suspended from solid wood slats. Carved wooden cubes that spell out the word “family” finish it off. Moreover, the frame comes with 30 wooden clips to hang photos or greeting cards.
Colossus Canvas, a two-year old Etsy shop, offers photo collage prints that incorporate from 20 to 50 of their customers’ favorite photos. The personalized heart collage, printed on canvas with a distressed dark wood design, measures 16×20 inches. Other heart-shaped collages are displayed on backgrounds of different colors and textures up to 30×40 inches.
PersonalCreations.com also introduced a collection of backlit photo displays called TwinkleBright LED canvases. Each canvas is accented from the back with a scattering of LED lights. The pinpoints of light make the image stand out—especially in low-light environments. Due to the random placement of lights, this effect works best with photo collage layouts like Personal Creations’ Favorite Faces. In addition, it works well with photographs of objects, such as the TwinkleBright Take My Hand photo canvas.
*Printing Press: “The State of the U.S. Photo Printing Market,” January 23, 2019, by Don Franz and Ron Leach.