Jennifer Struts Her Stuff (Once Again) in Vegas

Jennifer Struts Her Stuff (Once Again) in Vegas


It was standing room only for Bill McCurry’s March 10, noon presentation at PMA’s Complete Picture Inspiration Center. And it wasn’t because they were handing out chocolate bars with McCurry’s photo on them, though that certainly didn’t hurt (he was delicious!). McCurry’s talk, which focused on “Jennifer” (the Gen-X mom), the Inspiration Center’s target market, was interspersed with snippets of video shot at a variety of photo specialty retailer stores such as Wolf’s Camera and Dan’s Camera City.

In the videos, McCurry spoke with numerous “Jennifers” (the most profitable of the amateur photo enthusiasts, so PMA insists) about their photo buying habits and what they did and didn’t like about some of the new products and services on the market. Turns out, the industry has quite a few misconceptions when it comes to understanding “Jennifer the customer.” For one, retailers have to stop marketing photo products as “gifts,” states McCurry, who believes retailers limit customers’ expectations (and imaginations) by defining how and when a photo should be used.

Technology vs. Sentimentality

Speaking of technology, photo kiosks are, not surprisingly, a big hit with this market segment, especially with those who are not technically savvy. They found the new kiosks (regardless of brand, though at the Center, HP ruled) extremely easy to use when it came to creating everything from cards to CDs to calendars to books—and fast—which was even more important. “With young children, time is my biggest issue,” the women stated over and over again.

Amazingly, they could find time during the day to stop by a photo retailer and crank out a book or two, but not at night after the kids went to bed. At that point, fatigue and apathy kicked in. Turns out, Jennifer isn’t head-over-heels about printing at home or online. She wants professional quality images and she wants someone else to do the work. Who can’t relate to that (a recent survey states consumers are more comfortable in a retail environment)? Additionally, many of the women felt online services were too complicated. They also liked the instant gratification they got from in-store kiosks (it does the work and they go home with the product); there was no waiting for prints, etc., to arrive in the mail. Also, with items delivered via the post office, there was no recourse if they made a mistake. They were stuck with what they got. For Jennifer, the personal attention and help received in-store is greatly appreciated and well worth the time and money.

What’s it Worth?

As for new product, Jennifer really likes the two-sided cards, calendars, posters and photo books. She likes photo cards because they’re more personal than a store-bought card. And even though posters cost more, Jennifer felt they were a better value than 4×6-inch prints because a poster was more likely to be displayed and wouldn’t get shoved in a drawer somewhere (perhaps never to be seen again). For those women who’ve spent years sticking photos in albums, the new photo books are a minor miracle. They’re much easier to put together; they don’t make a mess in the house; and they take up less space.

Plus, the price is right, which is not to say it’s inexpensive. However, Jennifer is more than willing to fork over the bucks if she thinks a product and/or service is worth it. In fact, retailers may be shocked to learn they might be undercharging for some of their services/products. Women in several focus groups were willing to pay $10 to $15 for a CD with thumbnail prints. They thought it was a fabulous product. This might come as a surprise to some retailers, but the fact is, most people don’t know these products exist, so when they finally see them, they’re pretty amazed.

Retailers Court

Since the Inspiration Center’s debut last year, many retailers have added some of the ideas, products and services that appeal to Jennifer to their store’s mix. Joe Gogal of Clear Image Inc., Marysville, Wash., stopped by the Inspiration Center again this year. “Marketing to Jennifer is specific, planned, and targeted and I have begun to change my retail space to attract her, but with more of a ‘retail experience’ in mind.”

Patrick Kriner, owner of Castle Photo in Sylvania, Ohio, enjoyed McCurry’s presentation noting that, “Bill is pretty straightforward and blunt; and he puts it to you so you can understand it.” Kriner was impressed enough by what he saw to consider some changes at his store. “We’re definitely thinking of bringing in a color laser printer,” says Kriner. “Whether it’s HP’s or someone else’s, we haven’t decided yet. But we’ll be making a purchase before the end of the month.” The laser printer will allow Castle Photo to produce Jennifer’s favorite products—books, calendars, and two-sided cards. Concludes Kriner, “That whole process comes with the laser printer and really opens the door for a lot of opportunity for us.”

This year, the goal for PMA’s Inspiration Center was to be more explicit when it came to showing retailers how to sell certain kinds of products in this “new environment.” And it appears they have succeeded. We’ll be curious to see what Jennifer will be up to next year. Stay tuned! yy