As anyone in the photofinishing business knows the shift from analog to digital technology and resulting changes in consumer behavior led to significant market decline. However, a recent Fuji-conducted review of market trends provides an optimistic view of the emerging photofinishing landscape. Two important trends that initially hurt the business of photography are now shaping a positive future: demographics and technology.
During the past 7 years while consumers adapted to digital technology by changing their picture-taking and picture-making behavior, we also experienced a significant decline in the number of new mothers – historically, a proven core market for high volume printing. GenXers, currently ages 31 – 43, became our target market, a group much smaller than the Boomers we marketed to in the 1980’s and 1990‘s by more than 18 million people. This drop in population was coincident with the shift from analog to digital technology. So the industry was hit with a double whammy: declining new users, and changing behavior as consumers adapted to digital photography.
While this period of consolidation has been bad news for many, it is now showing good news for the future of the industry. Why? Digital technology has been adopted by the mass market, consumers have settled on print-at-retail as their preferred photo printing method, and the population is about to shift again – this time, favorably.
Moms on the rise
A study of Census data tells us that by 2013 there will be a 29 percent increase in the number of new mothers, the Millennial Mom. These moms share the same core values as all mothers: feeling responsible for her child, balancing her needs and her child’s needs, sharing by building a relationship between parent/grandparent and child, ensuring her child’s safety, focusing on wellness for her child and her family, and preserving her identity in the demands of mommydom. Importantly, two of these values – sharing and identity – support the culture of photography.
There is even more good news when we study the characteristics of this future customer. Raised and praised by Boomer parents, Millennials are generally happy, confident, secure…and memories are important to them. Millennials are also Tech Natives. Being connected online is intrinsic to their lifestyle – it provides them information and ideas, facilitates communication, and is how they like to spend their "me time."
Most important, they are very involved in photography.
Millennials document everything with photos, so they have lots of images to work with. Hard-copies make their virtual world real, and they value creativity and artisanship. We also know that these Millennials are printing now – many on portable photo printers – but we believe that as they enter the workforce, pay for their own ink, have children and their lives becomes more complex, they will print even more at retail. The signs are already there in this data from PMA, where the self-service kiosk has become the highest source for photo prints for Millennials.
All of this challenges us to create new technology tools and new photo products. Photo books, cards and calendars may have been the beginning…but new offerings such as photo retrieval tools like Xoopit and social compass tools like Loopt are important. And very large scale poster prints, collages, multi-dimensional cards and prints, timeline journals and keepsake products that are tied to their preferred social interaction sites may be just what this new customer craves.
There’s even more good news ahead when we take a look at the characteristics of Boomer Grandparents. Boomer Moms were the first generation of mothers to work full-time outside of the home. They learned technology productivity software on the job as it was invented…and suffered bumps along the way – from WordPerfect to Word, from Lotus 1, 2, 3 to Excel. Now they are shifting from productivity tools to lifestyle technology. With more time available and grand children to love and celebrate, they are embracing the fun of digital photography through photo and social networking sites.
These hip, sophisticated Grands and Grams are also inheriting the world’s largest treasure trove of one-of-a-kind hard copy photographs and documents. They will have the skills to convert these treasures into digital form. You can bet that they want to tell their story using technology tools, their favorite photos and the music that defined their own generation. This opens up more new product opportunities for photofinishers to reach the Boomer market, such as photo restoration services, scanning services, software, photo books for the baby books they didn’t have time to make, family history books, family recipe books and more.
So, Fujifilm is optimistic. Yes, there still will be technology changes as the industry struggles with how to handle increasing demands for storage, digital photo retrieval needs, new output products…but these changes are not as fundamental as the shift from analog to digital we experienced. The underlying demand for photo products will continue, and we are excited about the opportunities it brings.
*Sources: U.S. Census data; Iconoculture, an emerging cultural trends research service; The Center for Media Research; and industry sources including IDC, InfoTrends, Photofinishing News, and PMA
— Joellyn Gray is Director of Marketing at Fujifilm U.S.A., Inc. with responsibility for Customer Marketing and Market Research.