Many of the old, comfortable ways of doing things in the photo retail industry have lost their luster. But the most adventurous and courageous among us are inventing new paradigms or creating new brands with no legacy thinking attached. Demand for creative photo products has never been greater. Attracting, enticing and retaining the consumer have never been more challenging.
I’ve gathered some information from InfoTrends and trendwatching.com to help communicate what’s happening in the marketplace today. It’s clear that amidst all the change, the opportunities have never been more promising.
Threats & Opportunities
In the InfoTrends 2009 Photo Printing End-User Survey, respondents said they printed around 22% of the digital camera photos they saved (without deleting immediately after taking them). By the 2012 survey, that percentage had dropped to 17%. The survey shows that retailers who embrace photo merchandise products wholeheartedly are positioning themselves for success.
Statistics also indicate that retailers are wise to have a mobile strategy in place to take advantage of the growth of smartphones as a primary camera. Retailers who have maintained print volume report that the key to their success is going above and beyond to educate customers on the value of print relative to other electronic photo storage methods.
In the U.S. Online Photo Services Forecast: 2010–2015, InfoTrends projects that the photo merchandise market will grow substantially over the forecast period, reaching $2.2 billion in revenues by 2015, with “custom photo gifts and merchandise accounting for more than 80% of total net-to-mail photofinishing revenue” in this timeframe.
The reality of traditional printing becoming a fraction of its former self is no longer whispered in hushed tones in closed-door meetings. It was the topic of many scheduled and ad hoc discussions at this year’s PMA@CES event. There is no denying it anymore. The minilab model does not work.
A clear indication of how consumer views have changed is reflected in the April 2013 Trend Briefing at Trendwatching.com. It states: “The future belongs to Clean Slate Brands.” Consumers are now attracted to unproven brands the way they once were attracted to established brands. “Newer, better, faster, cleaner, more open and responsive—consumers are rushing to Clean Slate Brands and are now lavishing love, attention and trust on brands without heritage and history.” This trend carries a serious message to an industry full of legacy businesses.
Traditionally, online photofinishers have offered basic products such as photo cards, books and calendars. New products such as home décor items (e.g., canvas and fine art prints, posters, photo panels, children’s wall decorations) provide opportunities for online providers because many retail outlets do not have the required equipment and operator training to create them.
Even so, continued innovation is essential to offer customers new ways to enjoy and share their photos. But all new options won’t create easy transitions for retailers. Aside from limited financial and staff resources, sustaining a creative mind and optimistic perspective when unpaid bills pile up can be next to impossible.
For vendors to remain relevant in today’s marketplace, they must: have attractive and competitive photo merchandise offerings; employ marketing efforts that clearly show the benefits of these products to their customers; constantly look ahead to determine what products their customers will want or what types of design or product features will appeal to them; and find ways to streamline the process involved with creating and ordering photo merchandise items to make it simpler for customers.
DIY Begins with Us
Committed to the idea that “It’s Up to Us” to determine our own survival, a few adventurous souls faced with inevitable closure have found viable alternatives. One path generating renewed interest and revenue is the do-it-yourself trend.
—Fullerton Photo hosted its first DIY metal art event in the fall of 2012. Participation was tremendous. The evening was so well received that this spring we are hosting a series of three DIY nights with various jewelry and wall art as the products to be created. Engaging the consumer in the “magic of the process” is a wonderful way to build brand loyalty and generate more of the all important word-of-mouth endorsement.
—Always seeking ways to communicate our message, FP decided it was time to step out into the community and participate in our local Thursday night Farmers Market. This has turned into a fabulous way to show off what we do while reaching many in our community who have passed our store hundreds of times yet who haven’t been enticed to enter. One unexpected benefit has come from meeting other business owners with whom collaboration on several new projects and products is now in the works. We look forward to participating on a biweekly basis. This is another twist of direction necessary to engage the consumer today. Another way to “Do It Yourself.”
—My good friend and business partner David Guidry has talked a great deal lately about the $200 jpeg. If you haven’t heard his most recent talk, you can view it at http://vimeo.com/57973431. His message is incredibly relevant and full of possibilities for all of us.
Today, it is all about attraction and discovery. People want to create beautiful things with their images. It is our job to show them what’s possible, and in the process, create products that people are glad to pay large sums for—sometimes with tears of joy flowing!
The trend toward DIY classes for your customers may revitalize your business, at least temporarily. But a deep revamping and recovery requires a fair amount of DIY for yourself and your company.
Before recovery/turnaround is no longer viable, ask yourself:
- Where do I need to be?
- What’s required for embracing change?
- How do I inspire my staff and stay inspired myself?
- Who can help me?
- What tools can I use to help me?
- How should I revamp my store displays to focus on what I want to sell?
“If you want something done well, do it yourself.” We hear this old saw all the time. Well, it just may be the lifeline you’ve been searching for in the current economic slouch.