Digital printing is now mainstream for print production, and as such, print service providers and other companies are continuously looking for new opportunities to exploit the technology. A growing area where providers are looking to deliver differentiated offerings enabled through digital printing is photo publishing and, more broadly, photo merchandise.
InfoTrends actually has a service within our Consumer Imaging group that tracks trends within photo publishing and photo merchandise. Applications within photo publishing and photo merchandise (at least by InfoTrends’ definition) include photo cards, photo books, photo calendars, and specialty photo prints. These applications are typically sold in a physical or digital retail environment, targeted toward consumers. We expect that by 2014, the total U.S. market for photo merchandise will reach over $2 billion.
A number of service providers from small to large have gotten in the photo publishing and merchandise game over the past few years, creating a more competitive marketplace. Nonetheless, there are a number of areas that service providers can look at to find success and grab their piece of the billion-dollar photo publishing pie.
- Licensed Content: According to research firm EPM Communications, consumers worldwide spend over $100 billion annually on licensed merchandise. That’s a huge market, and fits well within many of the applications in photo publishing and merchandise. Some photo publishers are forging partnerships and deals with major brands, sports organizations, and other companies to blend personal photo content with licensed content. One great example is Josten’s OurHubBub photo book business unit, which has a relationship with NASCAR to create custom photo books that blend fans’ photos with official NASCAR imagery.
- Social Media Integration: Between Facebook and the variety of photo hosting sites like Flickr and Picasa, there are hundreds of millions of users and billions of photos that can be turned into valuable photo products. Many of these services have APIs and development kits to “plug in” or build applications to leverage users’ photos to flow them into photo publishing applications. Companies like MixBook and HotPrints can ingest photos from social networks to create high-quality photo merchandise.
- Focus on Ease-of-use: While price and quality are the top considerations when choosing a company to purchase photo merchandise from, ease of designing and ordering those products can make or break the user’s choice of completing their product and submitting their credit card info. In addition, InfoTrends research has found that once consumers buy a photo book for the first time, it is very likely they will buy another one in the next year. Making your process as easy-to-use as possible can set your offering apart from the rest.
Photo publishing and merchandise presents a tremendous opportunity for service providers to enter adjacent markets with significant revenue potential… if the offering is strong, well thought out, and differentiated. Licensed content, social media integration, and ease-of-use are three opportunities that service providers should be actively exploring.