We are living in a time of photo abundance! More than a trillion images will be captured worldwide this year, most of them captured by smartphones. Monetizing those images, however, continues to be an industry challenge. Even with an increasing number of cloud photo services – Google Photos, Amazon Drive Photos, etc. – providing easy app access to photos, there are still inhibitors preventing consumers from printing all the images they should.
In a recent InfoTrends blog post, analyst David Haueter expands on this point: “I think it’s safe to say that many consumers don’t use anywhere near the full capabilities of their smartphones, and this is especially true when it comes to photo printing.”
Most consumers have settled on the smartphone as their primary camera, according to InfoTrends 2015 U.S. Photo Printing Study: 63% of survey respondents said they use a smartphone most often as their primary camera, compared to 20% who use a digital point-and-shoot camera most often. And why not? Smartphone camera quality is at least as good as any entry-level compact camera, and has the added capability of being both wireless and more convenient.
With the greater convenience of cameras, why hasn’t there been a big increase in printing? Certainly digital technology means more opportunity for the creative output we have all been excited about for so long. Haueter notes the smartphone essentially puts the power of a photo kiosk in the palm of the consumer’s hand.
“The problem is, even though most of the leading retailers and online photo service providers have apps available for photo printing and output, many consumers don’t really know how to go about ordering prints from their smartphone, or even making quality photo prints on their own home printer from the device,” he explains. “When respondents to the U.S. Photo Printing Study who have not printed smartphone photos were asked why not, the leading response [at more than 34%] was, ‘I don’t know how.’”
Even more telling: 15 percent said the process was “too difficult” and another 12 percent said their phone “didn’t support printing.” As photo industry software designers, this is a very frustrating revelation. We’ve made tremendous strides in making the photo personalization process not only easy, but fun.
Certainly some of those who didn’t know how to print from their phones were senior citizens, right? Today’s high-tech Millennials have it all figured out, right?
No, according to Haueter.
“Although the percentage that said they didn’t know how to print from their mobile phones was highest among 55- to 64-year old respondents, 45% of 18- to 24-year olds and 29% of 25- to 34-year olds also said that they didn’t know how,” he notes. “The lack of knowledge from these younger age groups is especially worrisome for the print market, as these are the segments that take the most photos and tend to have young children in the household, both of which are primary drivers for photo output and printing.”
As an industry, we need to continue to promote and to educate to consumers printing from their phones is normal behavior, not just for special occasions. There should be on-going messaging from all segments of the industry – from brick-and-mortar retailers to online service providers – about this topic. There is usually a great deal of emphasis on “photo gifts”, but perhaps a better tactic would be to stress the every day usefulness of photo printing. For example, Walgreens makes photo printing part of the function of its main app. The company really sells this idea with this TV spot, where a mom transporting her daughter’s dance team needs to stop at Walgreens for some last-minute items … and print some photos for the team.
“Getting consumers better educated on how to print from smartphones doesn’t guarantee that they’ll print more photos, but the lack of education on how to do it is clearly having a negative effect on the print market,” write Haueter, adding retailers are in the best position to educate consumers about smartphone printing. “With the impact that smartphones are having on the photo printing and output market, it’s surprising that there haven’t been more creative initiatives from within the industry on teaching consumers how to print from mobile devices. There should be a sense of urgency in doing so, as the longer a consumer goes without printing from their mobile devices, the less likely it is that they’ll ever do it.”
We agree, noting once the consumer is engaged in regular printing, our visual merchandising technology provides a nice opportunity for cross- and up-selling.