Web Clicks: Is Print in the Mix for Younger Consumers?

Web Clicks: Is Print in the Mix for Younger Consumers?


For a demographic that was essentially given up on by the photo industry years ago as one that was “never going to be interested in printing their images,” a funny thing happened on the way to “never.”

The typical teenager has roughly 3,000–4,000 images living on their smartphone today. And while most of those kids would undoubtedly admit that only a small percentage might be worthy of turning into something more tangible, we’re beginning to eye studies that are suggesting this demographic is getting the itch to print from their mobile devices.

According to a recent IDC survey, the continued surge of smartphone and tablet adoption will create ripple effects that will encompass printing, scanning, document management and print volumes in “surprising ways over the next five years.”

One of those “surprises” may be found in the increasing number of YouTube How To videos that are being posted by users who are making a nice living off of the popularity of their videos. One trend social network guru and retail consultant Martha Refik has spotted is the number of crafting How To’s that are using consumer photos as part of the project.

“I’m seeing a lot of YouTube videos that are focusing on creating personal crafting projects that are aimed at teens and even preteens that involve, in part, the printing out of smartphone images,” Refik began. “One of the YouTube sensations in this regard has been Bethany Mota, and a number of her wildly popular videos involve personal projects that center around printing photos.”

It appears this younger demographic may finally be realizing the fleeting nature of how they are currently sharing their memories and discovering ways they can make these moments more lasting.

This demographic has taken to Instagram in a big way. The app has quickly gone from a trendy iOS-only app to an insanely popular social network that now includes an Android and web presence. And Instagram shows no sign of slowing down—and with Facebook’s financial backing, the sky would appear to be the limit.

Why should you care? How about these numbers . . .
• 150 million active monthly users.
• Total number of images shared as of last month: 16 billion.
• Average number of Instagram images posted daily: 55 million.
• Percentage of retailers on Instagram: more than 50% of all U.S. retailers by the end of 2013.

Perhaps what’s most interesting here is what’s happening beyond all the photo posting. Instagram users get creative with their images using a wide range of filters to add a personal touch to the photos they upload. While it may have taken a few years, it appears they have now developed a desire to do more than just share those images with their Instagram community.

The site has essentially created a legion of young photo enthusiasts who not only love taking pictures but are emotionally involved with the process to a point no one predicted. And they are realizing they want to do more than just capture these pieces of their lives. They seem to be indicating they want their photos off their mobile devices and into their lives.

“It’s interesting because here is a demographic everyone wrote off as one that is so screen obsessed they would never be interested in printing these billions of images they are capturing,” Refik added. “And, as unpredictable as they are in their everyday lives, it seems as though they are turning out to be just as unpredictable as a consumer demographic.”

Fourteen-year-old Genna Boyle admits to her obsession with taking smartphone pics and posting them to Instagram, but she is also quick to mention how excited a recent Mota YouTube video got her over printing some of those images.

“I watch her all the time,” Boyle said. “And she recently posted a video on how to make a heart-shaped photo collage using your smartphone pictures for your bedroom. I had my mom print out a bunch of my photos and now the project is hanging on my wall in my room, and I love it. It’s all pictures of my friends and family I’ve taken in the last year, and I can swap out the images whenever I want.”
We’re seeing more and more websites geared toward teens and tweens that are encouraging them to print their smartphone pictures with articles like “8 Awesome Ways to Easily Print Your Instagram Pictures for Super-Cool Results,” or “10 Products You Can Make from Your Instagram Snapshots.”

Products like Fujifilm’s Instax Share smartphone printer, released earlier this year, and other products like it released in the last year should only fan these flames, as a market for portable smartphone printers is apparently developing rapidly.

Along with the Fujifilm Instax announcement, Polaroid, HP, VuPoint, Yanko Design, LifePrint and the Impossible Project are just a few of the companies that have introduced product into this category in the last year or so. 

Soon perhaps you can add a company called Flag into the smartphone photo printing mix, as this Kickstarter start-up is proposing a way for users to get free monthly prints of their iPhone photos, subsidized by placing advertisements on the back of each print.

Founder Samuel Agboola admits the proverbial “chicken and egg” problem may exist here. In order to get advertisers he first needs users, but to get the free prints to users he needs advertisers. Thus he entered Kickstarter in the hopes of building up an audience that’s engaged enough to pay for the product before it launches.

We’ll see what happens with Agboola’s Flag idea, but suffice it to say, the worm is seemingly beginning to turn with regard to today’s smartphone snapping youngsters. Apparently we were wrong all along.