Web Clicks: Keeping Pace with the Online Consumer

Web Clicks: Keeping Pace with the Online Consumer

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As an imaging retailer, if you haven’t figured out an online photo service strategy by now, you’ve undoubtedly moved on to a new career path or perhaps retired to that backyard hammock and are currently swinging gently between two palm trees with a pina colada in your hand.

However, assuming you’re still plugging away and feel as though the online service part of your retail equation is all well and good, you may want to read on a bit more.

Statistics and research reports from the various organizations that dedicate their time to this sort of thing are always a worthwhile perusal, and our friends at InfoTrends are always a good place to start. According to a recent survey they did on the subject of online photo services, individuals under the age of 35 reported devoting a substantially greater share of their online time to photo-related activities than their older counterparts.

While nearly three quarters of respondents ages 18–35 reported uploading photos to an Internet site within the previous 12 months, the same was true for only 34% of respondents ages 35–79.

Okay, so while this should come as no surprise to any of you, as the under-35 crowd is comprised mainly of those who have grown up with the Internet, it’s worth noting for a few reasons. Outside of the fact that younger consumers are obviously more photo-active than their older counterparts, they are also taking more pictures than any generation in history, and they are beginning to show signs of wanting to do more with their memories than simply posting them to social networks.

“It’s a change in the way consumers in general are feeling about their photos,” explained Jim Cummins, a New York-based professional photographer who has spent a good deal of time in the last few years studying consumer behavior with regard to their imaging habits. “It is becoming less about simply shooting and posting to Facebook and a bit more about wanting to do more with the images they are really excited about.”

The InfoTrends study appears to back that observation up, as it reveals that the share of respondents who did not regularly use any social networking sites for their images increased significantly over the last year and was also in direct relation to age; the under-35 demographic saw the largest decrease here. This is certainly encouraging news for the online photo industry as it confirms that photos represent an increasingly important component of younger respondents’ online activities beyond simply posting their memories to social networks.

Thus, it stands to reason that it’s not a bad idea to direct a good chunk of your online photo service marketing efforts to this core crowd . . . right? While the InfoTrends report actually encourages this endeavor, referring to that 18–35 demographic as more “tech-savvy” and increasingly more photo-active, your older customers haven’t exactly turned their backs on creating and capturing memories.

Graying & Online

We’re seeing plenty of research reports that are indicating more and more seniors are online, and a recent Woodhaven Group study claimed well over 50% of senior Americans over 65 are now using the Internet on a regular basis, adding that percentage will only continue to increase.

While marketing your online services to this age group has some similarities to marketing to the younger population, you may want to take a slightly different approach from time to time to achieve the desired results. 

Connecticut-based retail analyst Martha Refik suggests using pictures of seniors on your products or services in your online marketing materials and in-store signage. “This is really just commonsense marketing,” she began. “They’ll simply identify better with your service if the promos feature consumers their age using and/or enjoying them.”

She also added that making sure your customers are aware of the breadth of your online services is an oftentimes-overlooked part of the mix. Seniors are more likely to need a nudge to visit your site, and it’s prudent to make sure you are constantly making them aware that your online services can uniquely serve them better than the competition.

Moving Target

The online photo services market has been around for over a decade now, and the landscape is constantly changing, so here’s a few general tips to keep in mind as this market continues to evolve:
• Consumers are indicating they enjoy a choice of paper types for their prints as well as a choice of finishes; offering print options such as glossy or matte at no extra charge is now an expected perk.
• Light editing features are a must as consumers now enjoy the ability to crop, retouch and perhaps experiment with a few creative filters before ordering the final product. Don’t overdo this service, as many users will become intimidated or frustrated with too much complication or too many choices here.
• It’s important that the comfort level with your interface and site design is quick and easy; as with many of your competitors today, the differences between services, quality and price points is often negligible. Don’t take this part of the equation for granted.
• Offer the capability to link to social networking sites like Facebook. Believe it or not, there are quite a few online photo services that don’t.
• The option for in-store pickup is essential; consumers like this option for same-day results and it gets them into your location for the potential of additional sales.

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